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Film study: Was Giants’ Shane Lemieux as bad Monday as PFF said he was?

NFL: SEP 20 Giants at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Will Hernandez contracted COVID-19 in the week leading up to the Monday Night Football contest against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This confirmed case gave an opportunity to the fifth-round rookie out of Oregon, Shane Lemieux. Yes, he has a popular hockey last name and plays with the grit of a fourth-line winger, which I do appreciate. However, he played 74 snaps in the 25-23 loss this week, and the Pro Football Focus grades for Lemieux were not encouraging.

Our very own Ed Valentine indicated the shocking grade in a previous article, which prompted me to either substantiate this PFF grade, or find ways to disagree with one of the lowest pass blocking grades I’ve seen on 49 pass blocking reps. This was Lemieux’s first start against a talented Todd Bowles’ led defense. Before we get into his pass rushing reps, let’s look at what Lemieux did as a run blocker, something that many believed he would excel at coming into the league.

Shane Lemieux is the left guard, No. 66

Good run blocking

Lemieux is good in a phone booth. He has very good lower leg drive, a strong punch, and carries himself with tons of competitive toughness. Against a 4-4 front, backed up by their own goal line, the Giants keep their offensive line splits tight and come out in 13 personnel. Lemieux’s job is to aggressively block down on the 1-Technique while not allowing upfield pressure to affect the mesh point. Lemieux gets to the defender’s side and just pushes him down the line of scrimmage, creating a large hole at the line of scrimmage. A very nice rep from Lemieux.

This is a nice combo block from Lemieux with center Nick Gates. Both players make contact with the 1-Technique, and Gates transitions to pick up the blitzing linebacker in the opposite A-Gap. Lemieux does a solid job gaining the side of the defender, and just driving him down and away from the play.

Here’s another nice combo block and transition with Gates and Lemieux. The 1-Technique goes right into the chest of Gates, and Lemieux gets hip to hip with the defender before getting his inside arm to the outside shoulder, gaining control, and driving through to clear a hole, as Gates transitions to a linebacker.

Lemieux does a good job chipping William Gholston (92) to assist Thomas, before he drove the opposite side 1-Technique out of the play, who was previously, and still, engaged with Nick Gates. In regards to the rushing game, his strength, ability to transition in a timely manner, and positioning on combo blocks were good traits for Lemieux in the game against Tampa Bay.

A solid heady play by Lemieux above; he makes hard contact on the chip to help Andrew Thomas, and that is displayed by the 4i-Technique’s momentum going outside. While that’s going on, Lemieux shoots his eyes back towards the developing hole, locates Devin White #45 who is trying to fill, and then quickly transitions off the 4i-Technique, picks up White, and seals him away from the B-Gap. Mentally, it’s a good rep. I wish he brought his feet with his hips and eyes on the transition more, which would have provided Alfred Morris with a bit more space on the ground, but he still did a solid job locating and executing.

Not so good run blocking

Lemieux struggled to handle Gholston all game, which we’ll see a little later, but this play is evidence of the struggle in the run game with Gholston as the 3-Technique. In order to maximize his strength in the run game, Lemieux must make initial contact. Gholston shocks Lemieux with a strong punch, and gets the young guard into a disadvantageous position; he then extends his reach, gets his eyes on the football, and collapses inside to make the tackle. Lemieux must be quicker to the point of attack and be ready to combat strength by lowering his center of gravity and winning the pad level battle.

This is a very tough block to make against a linebacker with the processing and quickness of Lavonte David (54). If Lemieux was a half-Step quicker, he may have been able to get enough of David to impede his path.

Good pass protection

In an obvious passing situation, Lemieux does a solid job fighting through the swat of Nelson, anchoring down when he tries to engage power, and resetting his feet after initial contact. Nelson does a solid job swatting Lemieux’s hands away from his chest, but the guard establishes his hands anyway with solid grip and quickness.

Gholston attacks the half man in an obvious pass situation; he establishes his presence on Lemieux’s inside shoulder and attempts a long arm to create space. Lemieux combats this by getting his outside hand underneath the outside arm of Gholston, while readjusting his inside hand to get underneath the long arm. Once Lemieux is in a good position, Gholston tries to snatch and rip through the outside portion of the guard, but Lemieux just positions himself in the way of Gholston, effectively eliminating him from the pocket.

Lemieux lost to this move by Suh earlier in the game, which you’ll see later, so it’s good to see him learn and combat the move here. The guard punches, receives the club to the outside arm and the swim overtop combination, but doesn’t lose balance. He just opens his hips, gets his inside arm on the inside portion of Suh and allows the pass rushers’ momentum to carry him up the field and away from the pocket. It’s a solid recovery from the former Duck.

Terrible end result to the play, but Lemieux does a good job seeing the stunting defender and transitioning his assignment mid-play; he did this well for most the game, with the exception of one bad miss. Lemieux sees Jason Pierre-Paul loop into his gap and he just pins him up against the center, who then temporarily assists Lemieux with the block. Lemieux’s grip is strong and he continuously fights to establish himself throughout the rep, until Daniel Jones flows to his right.

This is another smart play from Lemieux to position himself early on the 2i-Technique that was engaged with Gates. Lemieux sees the stunt materialize and quickly gets into position so that Gates can transition to the looper and Jones can have the protection he needs to throw the football. However, Cam Fleming (75) is beaten badly around the edge, so Jones is “sacked” as he attempts to flee from the pocket up the middle. Gates is also a bit late to get off his block, which didn’t allow Alfred Morris (41) to be the checkdown option for Jones.

Gholston releases outward from his nose spot and catches Lemieux a bit off guard. Despite losing the pad level battle by a large margin, Gholston still backs up the guard into the face of Daniel Jones. The thing I do love about this rep is Lemieux’s recovery. Yes, he was caught off balance and not ready, but he readjusts his feet, hips and hands, anchors his body, and doesn’t allow Gholston to finish the once promising rep. A very nice recovery from Lemieux.

Bad pass protection

Suh dominates Lemieux with strength and quickness. In the play mentioned earlier in the article, Lemieux was able to beat the power rush club and make initial contact, but Lemieux failed to do that in this play. As he goes to punch, Suh clubs his outside arm and stuns him, creating so much separation for Suh to sprint at Jones. This leads to the poor placement by Jones, albeit the quarterback should have thrown the football way earlier on this play. There were several reps in pass protection where Lemieux could have individually done a much better job.

Suh also beats Lemieux clearly in the clip above; Suh easily gets the half man relationship, knocks the inside arm of the guard down, snatches the outside arm down with his free hand, and then rips through the outside portion of Lemieux to come free in the pocket and force a pressure. Luckily on this play, Jones was able to find Engram accurately.

From a 5-Technique position, with momentum, Lemieux really struggles to handle the raw power of Gholston. The pass rusher opens inside, lowers his pad level on contact, gets his inside arm on the breastplate of Lemieux, and then drives right through the guard, shoving him aside, and forcing Jones to dump the ball off. These power lapses by Lemieux are concerning, and some of them are a product of his 11th percentile arm length (32 ¼”). He must find ways to overcome his lack of length; he’ll have to rely more on his strength, balance, and ability to absorb contact, because these types of plays can’t happen consistently.

This is the missed stunt that I was referring to before. It’s not surprising that both rookies get attacked like this, but Lemieux has to do a better job on this play. First off, it’s an incredibly well executed stunt by Suh and Pierre-Paul; the timing, pre-snap alignment/post-snap movement, and the upfield release from Suh really put both Thomas and Lemieux into conflict. Lemieux doesn’t make contact on Suh until it’s entirely too late; by letting Suh upfield that far, Thomas has no angle to gain leverage on Suh, and Lemieux can’t come off Suh and take Peirre-Paul because that would essentially leave Suh unblocked. With Gates slightly slid to the other side, there’s no one to account for Pierre-Paul because Suh’s release is unimpeded by Lemiuex. He must be quicker with his initiation of contact and be more aware of the possibility of a stunt.

The Devin White sack that knocked the Giants out of field goal range was also a product of the young guard. At first, I thought Dion Lewis may have been culpable, but former Giants’ offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz does a solid job illustrating what actually went wrong on that play.

Final thoughts

I love Lemieux’s power in tight spaces, his competitive edge, and his attitude. The run blocking from Lemieux was solid. His athletic limitations may hinder him in some cases when it comes to locating at the second level, especially on stretch, wide, or outside zone plays when he’s shaded. According to PFF, Lemieux was the second-lowest graded offensive lineman in terms of run blocking on the Giants; the lowest was Cam Fleming, which I believe is fair.

As for pass blocking, Lemieux did a solid job recognizing stunts most of the time, but had an egregious mistake that led to an incompletion in that area. He also lost cleanly to both Suh and Gholston a few times; I do like how he was able to reestablish himself after poor technical starts to reps, but his lack of length and ability to make, and maintain, initial contact is a cause for concern. Positioning wasn’t terrible, but I do feel he has to do a better job handling initial power moves - he was stunned one too many times. There were reps where he overset and Pierre-Paul or Suh would violently club him in the direction that he overset and Gates would have to bail him out inside. That would be fine if he’s certain Gates was going to be there every rep, but it looked as if Gates’ eyes were looking for loopers coming from the right side initially. The sack of Jones that knocked New York out of field goal range is an awareness issue with the 6 man protection; he has to be better than that. His incredibly low pass blocking grade is a bit harsh, but Lemieux had some bad mental lapses and physical limitations that led to bad outcomes for the Giants. Lest not forget that this was against one of the top defenses in the NFL, that is important. Does this mean Lemieux can’t be anything in this league? Absolutely not. Improvement will come and he’ll find ways to compensate for his restrictions.