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Film Review: Chad Wheeler’s Rough Night

Let’s look back at the rookie left tackle’s play vs. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Giants Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

It’s no secret the offensive line for the New York Giants is still a concern. During the team’s first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the line’s play was rough. Ereck Flowers wasn’t solely responsible for the two early sacks from T.J. Watt, but he also wasn’t perfect. On top of that, he’s had an up and down camp and that comes off the heels of two inconsistent seasons at best.

That leaves a lot of Giants fans hoping there could be a replacement on the roster. There was really no movement on that front in the offseason, but last week during practices undrafted rookie Chad Wheeler got some reps as the first-team left tackle. His brief placement there got many interested in how the coaching staff might view Wheeler and what his role could be going forward.

On Friday night, Wheeler was the second-team left tackle and played for a good portion of the game. For those who think he could push Flowers as early as this season, his performance against the Steelers should give some pause. All of this does come with a caveat of this is the first game work for an undrafted free agent, but there is clearly some work that needs to be done before Wheeler is considered a legitimate threat for the position.

Let’s check the film.

His first play looked a lot like the setup for the first T.J. Watt sack, but this play saw Wheeler hold a block just a bit longer. On this play, Wheeler was lined up against Cam Heyward (97). As a play-action pass, Wheeler stepped up to initiate contact with Heyward. As he shuffled back, he kept Heyward in front of him long enough that when Josh Johnson ran to scramble, there was just enough of an opening that Heyward couldn’t get his hand on the quarterback.

Two plays later, the Giants had the ball at Pittsburgh’s 5-yard line. The play is broken because of a bad snap that Johnson had to fall on top of, but on the left side Wheeler was again matched up against Heyward and did little to impede the defender to the quarterback. Wheeler is pushed back right off the snap and whether this play had been a fumble or not, Heyward would have gotten to Johnson quickly.

On the next play, Wheeler is up against Arthur Moats (55). Moats beat Wheeler off the line and got around the corner to force a pressure on Johnson that caused the quarterback to attempt a jump pass while in the arms of Watt.

Late in the second quarter and early in the third, Wheeler settled down for a stretch. He kept his body between the defender and quarterback and did what a good offensive lineman is supposed to do. On one of the last plays in the second half, Wheeler was again opposite Moats. Wheeler dropped back, but was the one to initiate contact with his hands on Moats. He stayed with the defender the whole time and knocked him to the ground when Moats tried a spin move the other way.

Early in the third quarter, Wheeler went against Johnny Maxey (95), a 2016 undrafted free agent. This was a quick play-action pass from shotgun, but Wheeler does a good job at stepping up and initiating strong contact off the line.

It got rough for Wheeler after that, though. Early in the fourth quarter, he allowed his first sack against Moats. At the snap, Moats delayed his rush while Wheeler dropped back in his set. When Moats started his rush, it gave him at least three yards to pick up speed before contact with Wheeler was made. This will almost always give the defender the advantage and it’s one reason why some coaches oppose the vertical set -- a lineman backing up for pass protection -- and conceding ground. Moats was able to push Wheeler and gain an advantage inside which led to the takedown of Geno Smith.

Later in the quarter Wheeler went up against Farrington Huguenin (41), another 2016 undrafted free agent, and just got beat around the edge. The pressure caused Smith to step up in the pocket and luckily there was enough open space for a scramble and a first down.

Two plays later Wheeler got beat again around the edge, this time by Moats. On this play, Moats was the one to initiate contact with his inside hand and Wheeler was never able to get his base in front of the defender. Moats easily closed in on Smith and came away with a sack.

It was a rough game for Wheeler, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent from the potential he’s shown in camp thus far. While this might put the brakes on the idea he could take over as the starting left tackle sooner rather than later, his play to get to be considered the second-team tackle already at this point should not be ignored. The first preseason game was a bit of a disappointment, but there’s still time for development.