If there is one strength to the New York Giants defense, it is their defensive line. Their three defensive tackles are big, powerful, and athletic, and can give fits to any interior offensive line they face.
B.J. Hill generated excitement last year, and Dexter Lawrence II has made waves in recent weeks, nobody really talks about the play of Dalvin Tomlinson. Tomlinson generally plays the nose tackle and doesn’t rack up stats or splash plays, and doesn’t get noticed much in the chaos of the interior.
But while his play has gone largely unnoticed, Tomlinson has been the Giants’ most consistent, defensive player. The Giants’ defense played far better against the New England Patriots than the 35-14 score would suggest, and Tomlinson was in the middle of many of those plays.
It’s high time to shine a light on Tomlinson’s play and make sure he gets some of the credit he is due.
1st quarter, 12:05
Third-and-1, NYG 19
We’ll start with one of the biggest plays of the game for the Giants, the 3rd and 1 stop which set up their fourth-and-1 stand to end the Patriots’ opening drive.
The Giants come out in their base defense, essentially playing a 5-3 front with both of their EDGE players on the line of scrimmage, both inside linebackers close to the line of scrimmage, and Jabrill Peppers playing in the tackle box.
Tomlinson is playing the 1-technique in the (offensive) right A-gap. The Patriots run a combo block on him, with the center and right guard initially double teaming him before the center works to the second level to block linebacker David Mayo. Tomlinson keeps his hips low and wide base to keep his balance, allowing him to withstand the double-team without being moved backward or out of his gap.
Tomlinson works through the double-team, and once the the center moves on to the second level he extends his arms to create separation. As Alec Ogletree comes down to defeat the lead block from the fullback, Tomlinson works his hips over into the B-gap. By putting his hips in that position, Tomlinson is able to use his leverage, and strength to shed the guard’s block an make the tackle and prevent New England from getting the first down.
This isn’t an easy play, and few defensive tackles could defeat the double team and shed the guard in time to create the tackle. But even though it’s tough, Tomlinson’s execution is simply textbook.
1st quarter, 5:18
Second-and-10, NE 12
The first play was well-executed and important, but fairly standard play for an interior defensive lineman. We spin the clock forward a few minutes and come to a play where a missed tackle cranks up the degree of difficulty for Tomlinson.
Here we see the GIants line up in their 4-2-5 nickel package, with Tomlinson lined up as the 1-technique. Since the Giants are in an “over” front, Tomlinson is in the (offensive) right A-gap, which is the weak side of the formation. His job is to occupy that gap and stop the center from creating movement, both of which he does very well.
Tomlinson gets a good jump off the snap and wins immediately by getting his hands on the center first, at the center of his chest plate, defeating the reach block and establishing control. As usual, Tomlinson’s hips are low and base wide to give him plenty of leverage and a foundation to control his blocker. He also does a great job of keeping his arms extended, creating separation which is vital at the end of the play and preventing the center from tying him up. Tomlinson’s hips are in a fantastic position in the A-gap, as in the previous play, and he is in a great position to shed the blocker and make the tackle for a loss if the running back comes his way.
The Giants’ defensive front does its job, occupying blockers and creating an opening for S Jabrill Peppers to come downhill and bring down the ball carrier. Peppers does a good job of coming down to fill the gap, but he fails to wrap up in the hole, instead just bringing a shoulder check which the back bounces off of.
Fortunately, Tomlinson has his eyes in the backfield and has that separation from the blocker. With his strength, leverage, and balance, he is able to discard the block and come over to make the tackle for a one-yard gain. Tomlinson makes it look easy, but playing through a blocker and into a different gap is definitely not easy. The Patriots had blockers in place at the second level, and had Tomlinson not been able to so easily neutralize the center’s block, that one-yard play could have gone for five or more. That definitely would have made the following third-and-9 into a much different situation.
1st quarter, 4:03
Second-and-7, NE 36
Dalvin Tomlinson doesn’t get too many opportunities to rush the passer. Typically he is the defensive lineman taken off the field when the Giants go to their nickel packages. And even when Tomlinson is on the field in pass rushing situations, his job is usually to occupy blockers when other players make the plays.
That doesn’t mean that he is incapable of rushing the passer. Here he gets pressure on Brady despite the Giants running just a three-man rush.
Things happened very quickly on this play, so let’s slow it down and see just what Tomlinson did.
The Giants line up in an aggressive 3-man front, with B.J. Hill and Olsen Pierre lining up as 4i-techniques over the inside shoulder of the offensive tackles and Tomlinson lined up as the 0-technique, shaded to the strong side of the offensive formation.
Tomlinson has a great get-off and is the first defensive lineman moving. He takes a quick step to his right, pairing it with a light club, faking a move through the (offensive) left A-gap. This gets the center moving to that side, which Tomlinson exploits by jumping back to his left and into the gap over which he was originally shaded. He is able to clear the center and penetrate into the backfield. Tomlinson is known for his power, balance, and use of leverage as a defender, and his short-area quickness seldom gets mentioned as a strength but it is fully on display here. He isn’t quite able to get the sack, as Brady is just able to slide away and quickly find Edelman in a void in the Giants’ zone coverage.
The pass ultimately goes down as an incompletion after it knocked loose before Edelman had the chance to complete the catch. However, this is a really nice rush from a player not normally known for his pass rush prowess.