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Film review: Is Matt Skura the Giants’ answer at left guard?

Let’s look at how Skura performed against the new Orleans Saints

Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Through four games, the New York Giants have had a rotating door at their left guard position. Incumbent starter Shane Lemieux attempted to play through a partially torn patellar tendon in Week 1. After the severity of Lemieux’s injury was revealed, the notion of him starting seemed unreasonable. Somehow he managed to play 17 snaps.

Nick Gates was moved from his center position to left guard, which allowed newly-acquired Billy Price to start in the middle of the line. Gates suffered a devastating broken leg in the second drive of the Washington 30-29 loss. Ben Bredeson, another trade acquisition towards the end of preseason, started against the Atlanta Falcons. He suffered a hand injury and was ruled inactive for Week 4.

For the fourth time in four games, the Giants had to start someone different at left guard. Matt Skura earned the start. Skura is a 28-year-old who was cut by the Miami Dolphins earlier in preseason. He spent four years with Baltimore, and he was an undrafted free agent out of Duke in 2017.

Skura has played 3,438 career snaps. He was a solid offensive lineman for the Ravens, and he only surrendered more than a sack once in a season - he allowed two sacks in 2018. He has a good anchor in pass protection, is aggressive yet disciplined when leaning into contact, and he’s a lot longer than Bredeson and Lemieux.

The film substantiates the testing when it comes to a lack of overall athletic upside. However, I like his temperament, processing, and his ability to anchor his weight against power rush moves. Let’s get into some clips from the Giants’ 27-21 overtime win over the Saints.

Skura is No. 67

Recognition

The Saints aren’t an easy task for an offensive line with new players. Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen employs a lot of T/E Stunts to bring A-Gap pressure.

This play isn’t fully on Skura - it’s a well-designed play by Allen, and it happens in the first quarter. New Orleans ran this play a few times. The nose slants left, taking the center away from the opposite A-Gap while Cameron Jordan (94) loops in that direction. Price (69) has to go with the nose and the backside guard - Skura - has to pick up the looping player, but he’s occupied by Demario Davis (56). Davis initially acts as if he’s blitzing, but his assignment is Saquon Barkley (26). Skura has to give Davis his attention as Davis enters his space and occupies Skura. Davis’ positioning forces Skura to be late in picking up the A-gap pressure coming from the opposite side of the field. Skura is in a tough spot here, and it’s by design. Allen was coming after Skura and Price all afternoon with exotic twists like this one.

I didn’t fully blame Skura for the earlier play, but this one is the same defensive play, only in overtime. Second-and-10, nose slants inside, Jordan loops towards vacated A-gap, and Skura doesn’t pick up the play fast enough. Davis’ positioning on the earlier play made Skura’s ineffectiveness understandable, but the veteran guard has now seen that play design. He is way too slow coming off Davis, who flows outside with Barkley just after the snap. Skura waits more than a full second before coming off Davis, who, at this point, was obviously in coverage. Skura has to recognize the look and protect that A-gap from the looping Jordan.

Good plays

Skura’s hands get a bit too wide on this play, and he allows Shy Tuttle (99) into his chest. From a technique standpoint, it’s not great. However, I love his ability to anchor down against power and refit his hands to regain control of Tuttle. Skura sinks his hips low, fully uncoiling all his might through his core while readjusting his right hand to break Tuttle’s contact and then refitting his left hand to establish a strong point of contact and hold Tuttle’s bullrush in place. He brings both of his hands over the top and underneath the breastplate of Tuttle. An excellent rep with a shaky start from Skura.

Skura holds up well on this play, staying in front of the defender and not allowing him to establish the half-man relationship. Skura doesn’t seem to have anchoring problems, but his technique here could have been exposed against a more opportunistic defender. Skura leans a bit too much on this play; he’s bent at the waist, and his knees are fully extended. He was very susceptible to a pull move, but he had his hands inside using his solid grip strength.

New York loves pulling its lineman and running power/gap concepts while tagging it with a zone/read component. Skura is the backside guard who pulls to block the free rusher who happened to be safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). He’s a smaller defender, but Skura gets to the location promptly to allow Devontae Booker (28) to run off his backside. A solid run blocking play from Skura.

A very good DEUCE (tackle/guard combination) block here from Andrew Thomas (78) and Skura. Thomas just mows through the defender’s outside shoulder while Skura does a good job maintaining contact to allow Thomas to transition off the block. Skura finishes the play as Thomas looks for someone else to block. This is a very difficult position for the defender to hold his ground. I do like how Skura shoots his hands low to high and continues to play with aggressiveness through the block.

I’m not sure if I should classify this as a “good rep,” but Skura gets himself back into position after being beaten at the snap. The defensive lineman goes inside at the snap. Skura doesn’t do a good job with his initial footwork and gets caught too far outside of the slanting 3-technique. Again, not a good start at all to the play. However, I do like the subtle grab just above the hip to limit the space between the defender and himself. The play-action held the defender long enough to allow Skura to reposition himself. This is a hold, but it’s subtle enough to go undetected.

Good stunts

The Saints kept throwing stunts and twists at the Giants protection package, and Skura was adequate. He did very well in some respects and missed a few, too.

Skura easily diagnoses the slant inside and anticipates the transition from center Billy Price. When the defender puts all of his weight on the outside foot, Skura is already paying attention to the backside 2i-technique. He then does a good job getting in the defender’s way and allowing Daniel Jones to get rid of the football.

This stunt is a bit more aggressive but handled well by Skura. He ensures the penetrator is in the grasp of Price before taking Price’s original assignment on the twist. He concedes some space to the defender’s power move but does enough to mitigate his overall risk.

Andrew Thomas looks smooth with this transition to Skura, who does an adequate job handling the defender. Price assists him with Carl Granderson (90), but Skura knew where to look right off the snap once he realized the linebacker wasn’t a threat to the protection.

Negative plays

This is a stunt that Skura could have handled in a better manner. Kaden Elliss (55) does a good job attacking Skura’s inside shoulder and hooking the armpit of the new Giants’ left guard. Elliss rips through the inside shoulder and essentially disallows Skura from disengaging from the block. Skura allows Elliss to penetrate and plow into Price hard, which creates the space for the loop. It’s a good quick pass-rushing move from Elliss, who does an excellent job as the penetrator. With more time playing together, this should be communicated and handled better by Skura and Price.

Skura oversets Demario Davis as the veteran linebacker does a great job selling an outside rush with a convincing outside jab foot. Skura gets himself out of position here and has to be more precise and disciplined with his footwork. Skura had to hold Davis to allow Jones to throw the football.

Christian Ringo (70) pulls Skura down to the ground and takes advantage of the veteran as he allows his center of gravity to rise. Luckily, Price was in the vicinity to block Ringo.

Final thoughts

Skura had good moments against the Saints and some instances where he could use improvement. Overall, he wasn’t beaten as frequently as Ben Bredeson has been thus far. When healthy, the debate between Skura and Bredeson is interesting. I don’t think either has fully separated themselves. After being with the Giants for one month and a day, I thought Skura’s first start was solid. There were encouraging signs in both the run and pass game, and some of the stunt issues can be corrected with a more developed rapport. He doesn’t have a high ceiling, but he performed solidly in a tough matchup on the road. If he continues to progress in this offense, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him start over Bredeson.