The New York Giants received offensive guard Ben Bredeson back to their lineup in Week 15 against the Washington Commanders, a game the Giants would win 20-12. Bredeson missed eight weeks with a knee injury that landed him on the Injured Reserve. Since his return, he has split snaps with Nick Gates at left guard.
Similar to the previous coaching staff, Brian Daboll and Bobby Johnson have rotated Gates and Bredeson at left guard. Since Bredeson’s return, the 24-year-old has played on 76 snaps and Gates 56. Both have their high points and look solid on tape; here’s a critical block thrown by Nick Gates (65) that helped spring Saquon Barkley’s fourth-quarter touchdown against Minnesota:
Barkley's ability to hit the crease and redirect his path with that type of burst is one of the many things that make him special— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) December 25, 2022
Great block by Nick Gates and good COMBO from Feliciano & Glowinski to help spring this 4th & 2 TD run pic.twitter.com/ymMMfSgefs
Both players have earned the right to play football, so the rotation makes sense. The overall blocking has improved over the last two weeks. The blocks are more cohesive in nature, and the double teams are more effective.
Bredeson’s return is the logical conclusion as to the reason why, and there’s some validity to that fact. However, the Giants have changed their rushing approach since their Week 13 tie against Washington.
The Giants have faced teams that employ an EVEN-OVER front through the last four games. An EVEN-OVER front is a four-down front with a three-technique (outside shoulder of guard) to the strong side and a one-technique (outside shade on center) to the weak side. Washington, Philadelphia, and Minnesota aren’t exclusively EVEN-OVER fronts, but that’s their predominant alignment over the 3-4 or 4-3 UNDER.
(Courtesy of Bleacher Report)
Through much of the season, the Giants used power-gap concepts like GH-counter, GT-counter, G-Lead, and some one-back power with a backside pulling guard. New York used 12 personnel to incorporate sniffers as pullers from the back side while also running to the double-Y set frequently; if the defense overloaded the double-Y side, the Giants wouldn’t hesitate to run weak side and fold the center around the guard.
Throughout the entire season, the Giants have relied on these power-gap concepts, but the offense is starting to transition over the last few weeks. On the season, Saquon Barkley is second in power-gap runs behind Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs. Barkley already has the most power-gap run calls in his career, with 160 on the year; his previous high was 86 in 2019.
Over the last three games, the Giants have more inside zone and DUO runs (no pullers) than power-gap. New York didn’t employ one power-gap run against Minnesota. The offense shifted to a different approach, and that helped the Giants' rushing game, as Barkley has averaged 4.8 and 6.0 yards per carry in each of the last two games.
Furthermore, after a dismal second half in Week 13 against the Commanders, Mike Kafka went to the drawing board. After using 12 personnel 33.8 percent of the time against Washington, the Giants used it only 11.1 percent against Philadelphia, and then 8.1 percent against Washington, and 4.5 percent against Minnesota. On the season, the Giants employ 12 personnel at a 14.8 percent rate.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, because the dissipation of reliance on 12 personnel has led to a more pass-heavy approach, specifically out of quick game and not just the play-action passing attack, where 11 personnel (3 wide receivers) is much more commonly used.
In Week 13, the Giants used 11 personnel 49.2 percent of the time; that spiked to 87.3 percent of the time against Philadelphia (a game where the Giants trailed, typically resulting in lighter packages), but 11 personnel remained high in Week 15 against Washington at 79 percent and Week 16 against Minnesota at an 86.4 percent clip.
New York attempted a heavy 12 personnel approach against Washington in Week 13, but the success was minimal. The Giants had eight rushes out of 12 personnel and only averaged 1.5 yards per carry, with an EPA (expected points added) of -1.037.
However, the Giants' offense has found recent success running the football out of 11 personnel. According to @Doug_Analytics on Twitter - a must-follow for any football or Giant fans - the Giants had nineteen 11 personnel runs in Week 15; they averaged 5.32 YPC with an EPA of 0.185. In Week 16, they ran the football thirteen times in 11 personnel; they averaged 5.84 YPC with an EPA of 0.334.
There’s a much higher chance of having positive EPA when passing the football. There are only seven teams in the NFL with positive (non-QB) rushing EPA, and that includes heavier personnel packages.
Daniel Jones’ recent rhythm with the quick passing attack, combined with the Giants' recent success running the football in 11 personnel, could allow for a balanced approach as the team prepares for the playoffs. In order for that to happen, the Giants need to prove they can pass the football efficiently against opponents who are stiffer than Minnesota.
Regardless, the rotation of Bredeson and Gates at left guard is not harming the coordination of combo and double-team blocks up front. Both are holding up in pass protection. The run game is experiencing recent success after a mid-season lull; some of it is due to coaching adjustments, but the Giants are in a solid position with a healthy Bredeson active.
Ben Bredeson is No. 68
Both Bredeson and Gates can move and kick into space for interior offensive linemen, which is important for this Mike Kafka-coached offense.
New York used a wildcat G-Lead with Bredeson and Jon Feliciano pulling to the strong side against Washington in a BEAR-Front on the goal line. The play resulted in the Giants' only touchdown of the night, and it was Bredeson executing the kick-out block on Casey Toohill (98). Bredeson did well to frame his target, explode low to high, and pave a path for Barkley by churning his legs through contact to secure the touchdown. A very good block by Bredeson in his first game back from his knee injury.
Two similar blocking concepts that we’re starting to see a bit more of is WHAM/TRAP. Wham is when a tight end off the line of scrimmage (a sniffer, H-Back) blocks a defensive lineman that is deliberately avoided by the covering offensive lineman. A TRAP is essentially the same thing, only with an offensive lineman handling the responsibility.
In the play above, Mark Glowinski (64) is the trapping OL, and Jonathan Allen (93) is the defender that is trapped. Linemen like Glowinski, Bredeson, Gates, and especially rookie Joshua Ezeudu are fleet of foot and can cover ground; give them free releases up to the second level, and they typically execute their blocks well.
That’s a big advantage for the Giants when they decide to run TRAP/WHAM. The front is diagnosed by the Giants, and both Bredeson and Andrew Thomas (78) avoid the three-technique; this allows them to locate each second-level defender, which sprung a big Barkley run. Bredeson also does well to eliminate the MIKE from the play side.
In 21 personnel with double-wingbacks (Breida 31 and Bellinger 82), the Giants run zone-read with a lot of eye candy at the snap. Minnesota is in their NICKEL 2-4-5 front, and Bredeson is tasked to scoop the 2i-shade, who did a good job initiating contact on Bredeson. Thomas helps a bit with a chip before climbing, but Bredeson is able to swing his hips around the defender to create a gigantic hole on second and four, which allowed Barkley to explode for a 7-yard gain.
New York used jet motion at the snap on this single back split-zone run. Bredeson and Feliciano do an excellent job exchanging Khyiris Tonga (95) with the Vikings in an ODD Front. Bredeson swiveled his hips around Tonga just long enough to allow Barkley to hit the crease and pick up a few yards.
Bredeson and Thomas have done well in COMBO situations. Inside zone and DUO are very similar-looking blocking concepts. It’s a common debate on Twitter. I venture to say that this is a DUO run with the double teams vertically displacing the defensive line up-front, with Evan Neal (73) handling the kick-out block. Thomas and Feliciano are both playing back side gaps, a common teaching point to the DUO blocking scheme. The offensive linemen displace with COMBO blocks until a defender presents themselves in the gap away from the run, which is when the offensive linemen come off the double team and locate the second-level defender.
However, DUO is traditionally run toward the closed side (tight end side); but on this first and ten play, right before the snap, Daniel Jones moved Barkley to his left, giving him easier access to run toward the field side. The front was favorable, and this allowed Feliciano and Glowinski to double team Dalvin Tomlinson (94), and Barkley could cleanly read the play side linebacker Eric Kendricks (54). Barkley pressed the line of scrimmage, and Kendricks put himself into the back side A-Gap, allowing Barkley to find the B-Gap off Glowinski and Feliciano’s double team. The alley defender filled, but it was a six-yard gain.
Two plays later, on a first-and-10 out of the two-minute warning in the second quarter, the Giants come out in the same look and run the same exact play, aligned to the boundary side. Bredeson and Thomas drove Harrison Phillips (97) into the lap of Kendricks, who Barkley turned his attention toward after Brian Asamoah II (33) stayed patient and remained in the B-Gap. Bredeson did a solid overall job stopping Phillips from halting Barkley as he crossed the line of scrimmage.
Here’s another COMBO situation that I would guess is inside zone out of the shotgun. The footwork is different, and the blocking is more horizontal than vertical. I’m guessing Barkley’s aiming point is the inside leg of Bredeson; as the linebacker play side LB committed to the A-Gap, Barkley exploded through the narrow hole and easily accessed the second level for a chunk gain. Bredeson did very well to control Allen at the point of attack; the guard fit his hands inside and held on enough to not allow Allen to have an impact while also avoiding the holding penalty.
Bredeson does an excellent job assisting Feliciano on the double team while also being cognizant of the scrape force LB assumed contain, which allowed James Smith-Williams (96) to shoot the B-Gap. Bredeson recognized and stopped the slant, which helped Barkley get to the second level. If you look closely at Bredeson’s helmet line, you see how he followed Jon Bostic (59) right before the snap, which tipped him off as to the scrape force. Excellent awareness and play from Bredeson.
Backed up on their own goalline, the Giants use 13 personnel to get some movement up front. Bredeson COMBOs with Feliciano up to the Jamin Davis (52), but David Mayo (51) does a good job penetrating the back side A-Gap to stop Barkley for a short gain.
On run blocking play earlier in the article, Bredeson displayed awareness protecting the B-Gap; he did the same thing against Minnesota on this twist from Za’Darius Smith (55), who was originally aligned as a WIDE-9 technique.
This should be a prerequisite for starting offensive linemen in the NFL - the understanding of defensive intentions and threats on any given play. Bredeson does a great job flashing his eyes outward to the slanting Smith, and the transition between Thomas and Bredeson went smoothly to allow Jones to find Daniel Bellinger (82). Not only did Bredeson handle the transition well, but he got his hands inside and stopped Smith in his tracks.
Bredeson is active in pass protection with his feet and his hands. On the play above, he shows a solid overall anchor, albeit against a blitzing linebacker; the linebacker engaged Bredeson and looked for an opening to either side, but the young guard hand fought and reset his anchor, while staying center to the pass rushing threat.
The activeness of Bredeson’s feet, and how he is able to stay in front of his target with a coiled - attacking - approach is an element of his game that I appreciate. Allen attempted tow in through Bredeson’s outside shoulder, but the guard matched him and stayed in front the entire rep.
Here’s an even better indication of Bredeson’s anchor. Phillips attempted a bull rush before transitioning to a long arm; his intentions were to win inside when he failed to overpower the guard with force, but Bredeson sat back on his hips, walked back with a low center of gravity, and held forced Phillips to stay in front of him until Jones vacated the pocket.
Solid recovery by Bredeson after struggling with Tomlinson’s power in the initial phase of the play. Bredeson gets pushed back; his pad-level is high, and Tomlinson effectively landed the long-arm. Still, Bredeson was able to resink himself, get his hands on cloth, and shove Tomlinson outside to allow Jones to step up and rush the ball.
Bredeson concedes some ground to Jonathan Allen, who missed his initial pass swipe rush move. Bredeson pounced on the miss and got hands on Allen, but failed to get low. Bredeson’s hand placement was also high and above the shoulder pads, allowing Allen into his chest to control the rep. Allen pushed Bredeson back into the pocket and forced a throw away.
There was a Bredeson clip above where he handled a Za’Darius Smith twist very well against the Vikings. Generally speaking, Bredeson’s recognition in this area is solid.
He noticed Phillips inward slant toward Feliciano, and anticipated Tomlinson’s loop from the opposite side. Bredeson passed Phillips to the center with good power in his hands, while angling his body well to handle Tomlinson on the loop.
redeson’s handling of this twist wasn’t as good as the previous two shown. Bredeson got his eyes on Smith as the pass rusher started to come inside; Bredeson contacted Smith, but Smith was able to break the contact, and tilt his body into the pocket to pressure Jones. You can’t win them all.
Ben Bredeson is still a young football player who has displayed quality baseline athletic traits with solid overall technique. He’s played well since returning from his knee injury, and he’s a plus asset for the Giants. Mike Kafka evolving the offense has helped the Giants rekindle their previously struggling rushing attack. Bredeson certainly helps them in that regard, but Nick Gates is no liability. The Giants currently have a good “problem” with two solid options rotating at left guard. Continue the rotation until one clearly rises above the other.