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Matt Peart: 5 plays to be excited about, and 2 that show why he still has work to do

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The Giants are hoping Peart can develop and unlock his potential as an offensive tackle.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 01 Navy at UConn Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants surprised fans and analysts when they selected UConn offensive tackle Matt Peart at the end of the third round in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy famously compared Peart to All-Pro offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Personally, I see the potential for Peart to resemble another UConn Husky turned Giant, Will Beatty. The Giants drafted Beatty out of UConn in the second round of the 2009 draft as a long and athletic blocker in need of play strength to be a full-time starter at the NFL level.

That is what the Giants seem to have in mind with Peart as a potential developmental piece at right tackle. Let’s go to the film to see what Peart does well right now, and why he will need to work on to get on the field.

What Peart does well

Play 1) UConn vs. USF (First quarter, 11:13, Third-and-11)

We’ll start with the bread and butter of an offensive tackle’s job — pass protection. Nothing an offensive lineman can do is quite so important as keeping his quarterback upright, and Peart does a really nice job of it here.

He starts the play by getting off the ball quickly and smoothly, not giving the rush linebacker the benefit of a jump. Peart’s kick-slide is smooth and controlled, keeping a wide base for power while keeping a good knee bend and low hips to maximize his leverage. Peart’s movement is smooth enough that his upper body almost looks detached from his lower body. He waits as long as possible to fully turn his hips, and doesn’t go perpendicular to the line of scrimmage until they are past the quarterback.

He extends his hands with a solid punch to the defender’s chest plate at the apex of the slid, just as their two paths meet. The defender is able to get a bit of depth on Peart, but Peart doesn’t panic and is able to make it up and keep his hips and upper body in front of the defender as he ushers him around the pocket.

Peart does rise up a bit toward the end of the rep, but still keeps enough leverage to control the rusher as he tries to slip the block at the very end of the play.

This isn’t a particularly flashy play, but it shows Peart has a solid grounding in the fundamentals of pass protection.

Play 2) UConn vs. Wagner (Fourth quarter, 13:05, First-and-10)

With pass protection out of the way, we’ll take a look at Peart’s strength as a run blocker. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Peart is as his best using his athleticism and playing in space.

UConn calls a power run up the middle with the left guard and tackle both pulling to provide blocking on that side. To make room, Peart helps the right guard with a double team while he works up to the second level. Once there, Peart engages with the middle linebacker to keep him from coming downhill and filling the gap.

Peart does a great job of getting in space and meeting the linebacker before he can gain position. He takes a beat to square up, drop his hips and uncoil into the linebacker to get him moving backward. Peart also does a good job of striking the linebacker’s chest plate and latching on, letting him control his man throughout the rep.

He should be able to overpower a linebacker, but he does a good job of making sure his man can’t impact the play.

Play 3) UConn vs. Wagner (First quarter, 15:00, First-and-10)

If there’s one thing that leaps off the scouting report with Peart it is his length. At 6-foot-7, with 36 5/8 inch arms, he is in the upper 90th percentile among offensive tackles as far as sheer length is concerned. But like any other trait, length is just a tool in the belt and it doesn’t matter how great it is if you can’t use it.

Here we see UConn start the game off with a power run to the left. Peart is blocking the back side while the right guard pulls to help block the play side. While Peart isn’t involved in creating the initial push, he is responsible for making sure there isn’t any pursuit from the rear to bring down the back from behind.

Peart helps fill the hole created by the pulling guard with one long arm, shoving the 3-technique over to the center before quickly pivoting to engage with the 5-technque. This is not an easy play to pull off, but Peart is able to prevent quick disruption up the middle as well as prevent the 5-technique from getting into the backfield.

This isn’t to say that a player with shorter, or “marginal” arm length couldn’t do this, but the extra reach afforded Peart certainly helps.

Play 4) UConn vs. Central Florida (First quarter, 9:28, Second-and-8)

When it comes to evaluating offensive linemen, we always talk about things like footwork, knee bend, hip and pad level, or hand placement. But competitive toughness is one of the primary traits of a good lineman — the sheer bloodymindedness to block a defensive lineman who is some combination of bigger, stronger, or more athletic and who often has the initiative.

We aren’t going to get too deep in the weeds on Peart’s technique here, though he does a good job of keeping his pads down and taking inside leverage. But that allows him to take and maintain control of his man throughout the play. And that’s important here because Peart keeping control and playing through the whistle is the biggest reason why this play went for positive yardage.

The play is supposed to go to the complete opposite side of the offensive formation, but early penetration forces the running back to bounce the run back to the right. He ultimately finds a running lane behind Peart, who has been blocking his man despite several “second effort” attempts to get free. The play only winds up going for a couple yards, but it could well have been a loss if it weren’t for Peart’s toughness.

Play 5) UConn vs. South Florida (Third quarter, 4:51, Second-and-10)

Finally we come to a trait that shows why Peart’s ceiling could be so high.

In years past, the right tackle position was something of a throwaway position. Teams would put the failed left tackles out there, guys who were either not athletic enough or on the downside of their career, there and call it a day. Fairly often you would hear the justification that your right tackle had to be a run blocker, while the left tackle was your pass protector, but that just makes things entirely too easy for defenses.

Now teams and fans are coming to the realization that the right tackle has to be an athletic pass protector too, not just a run blocker.

And here we see Peart’s athleticism in action.

This is a nifty misdirection play from UConn, which looks like a power run to the right, with blocking from the bunch formation. Instead it is quick sweep play back to the offensive left, but we see Peart pulling around the bunch formation to give credence to the run fake. He does a really nice job of opening his hips to the right and getting out, and hitting his landmarks. He gets out in space well, and squares up to block the only defender in front of him. Had the run actually been to that side, Peart would have been in good position to spring it for a nice gain.

This kind of agility, lower-body flexibility, and mobility in space translate well to other areas of Peart’s game. It’s easy to see him getting out in space for an actual run or getting in front of a screen pass.

Things to work on

Play 1) UConn vs. Central Florida (First quarter, 13:38, Third-and-10)

I talked before about the importance of competitive toughness for an offensive lineman, but mental processing and awareness are important as well. In fact, one of the subtle things that made Quentin Nelson such a good prospect coming out of Notre Dame was his almost supernatural awareness of everything on the football field.

Here we see what appears to be a breakdown in that awareness by Peart.

Without knowing the play call we can’t know if there was a communication breakdown along the offensive line, if the quarterback went off script, or precisely what happened. But we see the UConn offensive line appear to be sliding protection to the left while the quarterback rolls out to the right.

UCF calls a stunt along the defensive line, with the two defensive tackles changing gaps. The left defensive end (on the offensive right) rushes straight upfield and is unblocked — it’s unclear whether the running back was supposed to pick him up or if he was the quarterback’s responsibility — while the right (offensive left) defensive tackle loops over to the right B-gap. Peart initially picks the defensive tackle up as he passes in front of him, but then passes him off. Perhaps he was counting on the running back to pick him up, but all told this is an ugly play all around. Peart has to recognize that once the defensive tackle loops there are two defenders in on the same side of the field as his quarterback and only a running back to account for them.

Play 2) UConn vs. South Florida (First quarter, 0:37, Third-and-7)

Finally we come to one of the main criticisms of Peart and why he is believed to be more of a developmental prospect than some of his peers: His play strength.

It isn’t uncommon for rookie offensive linemen to need a year or two in an NFL strength and conditioning program to match up with the strength level of professional defensive linemen.

Here we see Peart do a good job of getting off the ball and squaring up with the defensive end. Unfortunately, he doesn’t use those long arms to strike the defensive end and seize inside leverage. Instead the DE is both the low man and takes inside leverage, putting Peart at a disadvantage. The defensive end in question is a sophomore and listed at 254 pounds, a good 60 pounds lighter than Peart. But despite Peart’s size advantage he is still pressed and pushed into the backfield, where the defensive end sheds him.

The play had already been blown up when the right guard missed his block and the pulling left guard wasn’t able to make it either. That defender was able to stop the play in the backfield, but Peart’s defender was well positioned to make the play at or behind the line of scrimmage himself.

All told, this isn’t a deal-breaker. Will Beatty turned into a good tackle for the Giants with a similar profile. But fans (and coaches) should also be patient as it can take time to build the necessary strength base.