For the last several years one of the prime directives for the New York Giants front office has been to improve (or outright rebuild) their offensive line.
But after years of trying, pouring high draft picks and big free agent signings into the unit, it never seems to come together. With another year in the books, it’s time to take a look back and see how close the Giants came to that elusive goal in 2019. There will be plenty of time to dive into the tape for a more nuanced look into how and why things turned out as they did, but for now let’s just see what the numbers have to say. The final grades from Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and ESPN’s pass block win rate are all out, so let’s see how the Giants compared to the rest of the NFL.
Pro Football Focus
17. NEW YORK GIANTS
Kevin Zeitler provided the steady play at guard the Giants expected when they traded for him, grading above 70.0 as both a pass blocker and a run blocker this year. The tackle duo of Nate Solder and Mike Remmers hasn’t provided that same steady performance, however. Solder’s 57 pressures allowed this season are seven more than any other player, and the 97 combined pressures allowed for the duo is the most in the NFL.
This season ESPN has been tracking teams Pass Block Win Rate (PBWR) and Pass Rush Win Rate (PRWR) using player tracking data from NextGenStats.
For those who don’t know, a pass block “win” is charted when an offensive lineman holds his block for 2.5 seconds. Conversely, a pass rush “win” occurs when a pass rusher beats his blocker in less than 2.5 seconds.
ESPN ranks the Giants’ offensive line 12th in the League with a PBWR of 61 percent. That means the Giants linemen are holding their blocks for at least 2.5 seconds on 61 percent of dropbacks.
It should be understood that this metric is somewhat limited in that 2.5 seconds is the cut-off. So a team can have a good PBWR while still giving up a lot of sacks if those sacks come longer than 2.5 seconds into the snap.
Football Outsiders grades offensive line play “Adjusted Sack Rate” for pass protection and “Adjusted Line Yards” for run blocking.
Explaining their metrics, Football Outsiders says:
Adjusted Line Yards (ALY): Statistic that attempts to, even to a small extent, separate the ability of a running back from the ability of the offensive line. Adjusted Line Yards begin as a measure of average rushing yards per play by running backs only, adjusted in the following way:
0-4 yards: 100% strength
5-10 yards: 50% strength
11+ yards: not included
runs for a loss: 120% strength
Each play is also adjusted based on game situation as well as quality of opponents faced. Adjusted Line Yards can be listed as total or broken down by direction to attempt to isolate ability of specific linemen.
Adjusted Sack Rate (ASR)/Sack Rate: Sack Rate represents sacks divided by pass plays, which include passes, sacks, and aborted snaps. It is a better measure of pass blocking than total sacks because it takes into account how often an offense passes the ball. Adjusted Sack Rate adds adjustments for opponent quality, as well as down and distance (sacks are more common on third down, especially third-and-long).
Football Outsiders ranked the Giants 25th in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards with 3.95 line yards per carry. (FO also charts Open Field yards, which they attribute to the running back. The Giants came in 8th with .99 open field yards per carry)
The Giants ranked 18th with an Adjusted sack rate of 7.1 percent (43 sacks allowed on the season).
So, was the Giants’ offensive line good enough? The pass protection was adequate, provided the quarterback released the ball quick enough. The Giants’ 43 sacks allowed tied them for 19th most in the league — again, not an egregious number, and slightly better than the 47 they surrendered last year. But it is still many more than the 27.7 per year they averaged prior to 2018 (40 sacks in 2013 was their previous high water mark).
Giants’ fans — and the Giants themselves — will have to decide whether what amounts to a “C” grade is a good return on investment for the magnitude of the trade in which Zeitler was acquired and the size of his contract (3 years, $32 million), but at least that is one position the Giants don’t have to worry at the moment.
The play of Solder is much more concerning. Solder was brought in to solidify the left tackle position and has not played up to his contract. We can’t be too hard on him given what he has endured off the field, but giving up 13.5 sacks (Washington Post lists him with 12.5 coming into week 17 and he was blocking Derek Barnett when he came up with the Philadelphia Eagles’ second sack) and 57 pressures are just too much for a player paid as highly as Solder.
For the second year in a row Football Outsiders charts the Giants as being a poor run blocking unit, which is balanced by Saquon Barkley ‘s absurd explosiveness in the open field (rated 28th in Line Yards and 1st in Open Field Yards). If the Giants want to be a running team going forward, they will need to become a more consistent run blocking team first.
So, while the Giants’ offensive line has improved over the last year, have they improved enough?