The New York Giants on Wednesday signed their first offensive linemen under the new regime led by general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll. Twenty-five-year-old Matt Gono, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, is now a Giant.
Gono was born in Liberia and attended Cinnaminson High School in Burlington County, N.J. He played college football at Wesley College in Delaware. The Falcons signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2018, where he earned a spot on the 53-man roster.
He was only active for the Falcons’ season finale in 2018, but he played 40 total offensive line snaps in 2019 - 36 at right guard four at left guard. Gono played 336 offensive snaps in 2020. He played 232 snaps at right tackle, 68 at left guard, and nine at left tackle while playing 27 as a big tight end.
In those 336 2020 offensive snaps, Gono played 206 pass-blocking snaps and allowed only 16 pressures and a sack (against Kansas City DL Chris Jones). Gono spent the entire 2021 season on the PUP list after the Falcons slapped a second-round tender on him during the 2021 offseason. The injury was undisclosed and required surgery. Gono was released by the Falcons in late January.
Gono has traits to appreciate. He is an excellent athlete with quick feet to reach desired landmarks, and he possesses good mobility in his hips. He does well in combo and climb situations (Ace or Deuce), and he has enough functional strength to hold up at tackle.
He gets a bit too eager with his punches - his chest dips over his knees and toes, and he bends at the waist too much. His block framing is undisciplined and his hips open way too early, providing an easier angle around his outside shoulder.
Strength at the point of attack as a guard was marginal. Overall, the addition is smart and adds a versatile depth piece to an offensive line that desperately needs help. Let’s get into the film to find some of those reasons to like Gono.
(Matt Gono is No. 73)
Reasons for excitement
Athletic traits as a pass protector
Gono is at right tackle against Khalil Mack (52). He vertical sets a wide Mack, and his feet are just very smooth. He executes a kick-slide that’s easy on the eyes. His hips open a bit early with the impending doom of a pass-rushing Khalil Mack heading in his direction, but he’s able to get enough of Mack not to allow him to bend the edge. Ideally, the position at contact shouldn’t provide the alley that Gono almost allows.
Losing the half-man relationship was something I did not like in Gono’s film, but his foot-quickness and ability to cover ground were something that I certainly appreciated.
Gono’s overall punch timing gets him in trouble at times - it’s a bit too aggressive - but he times this punch well and gets into his set with ease. The feet are quick, efficient, and very elegant. He’s assisted by the running back chip outside and then handles the rep well to provide a clean pocket for Matt Ryan (2).
This is a third-and-17 against Joey Bosa (97), who can pin his ears back. Gono is smooth once again in his set, and he’s more disciplined with committing his hips to Bosa, who was chipped by tight end Hayden Hurst (81). Gono punches and hits Bosa as he attempts to attack outside; he makes contact as Bosa has a ton of weight on his own inside leg. Gono has a split-second to locate the inside shoulder of Bosa and use his power to assist the pass-rusher further outside. In doing this, Bosa loses his balance and slips while Gono finishes the block by falling on Bosa.
Gono sets at 45 degrees to cut off the angle of the Chargers’ pass-rusher. Again, it’s easy to see the feet: smooth, quick, no wasted movements, has a purpose, etc. Gono gives the pass-rusher an alley through his outside shoulder (something that’s too frequent on his tape), but the former Falcon gets the outer arm on the breastplate and just mirrors the pass-rushers movements to provide enough space for Ryan to throw the football.
Bosa uses an inside spin move to catch the overly eager Gono off-guard. We see how Gono leans into his punch - chest well in front of his knees and toes. However, Gono does a good job getting his outside leg in a position to pivot his hips back inside to combat Bosa’s counter move.
Gono shows very good bend and ability to flip his hips as the left guard against the Chiefs on this stunt. Gono struggled with Chris Jones (95) all game, so he stuck onto the defender as he attempted to penetrate the B-gap to distract Gono for the looping defender in the A-gap or the blitzing linebacker in that same location. Gono is late to recognize the stunt; once he does, he pivots impressively off his outside foot and gets his hips oriented towards the looper. His bend is excellent in his lower half; if you freeze the GIF at four seconds, we see his knee is almost parallel to the ground with his ankle joint almost flat. He’s able to generate enough force from the awkward position to allow Ryan to throw the football.
Gono’s punch can get him in trouble if it’s not timed correctly, but I do respect the zealous nature of dictating the point of attack. Up against Demarcus Lawrence (90), he opens his hips a bit too early (again, a problem on his tape), but he just constantly adjusts his punches and keeps his feet and hands active to render Lawrence obsolete in the pass-rush.
Gono has enough foot quickness and hip fluidity to be a good player in the NFL; unfortunately, it takes more than those two traits to be successful.
Athletic ability assists in run blocking, specifically in space and when tasked to reach or scoop in zone blocking schemes.
Gono is the backside tackle who is supposed to get to the outside shoulder of the 2-technique directly over the top of the guard. The two combo to the second level, but Gono has to cover a lot of ground to get himself in position to execute this block. Gono has the range and lateral agility to position himself against the defender, despite the play flowing away from his original position.
Gono shows strength as the play side tackle on this weakside run. The defender is aligned outside Gono’s outside shoulder, and Gono wastes no movement and restricting space and locating the EDGE. Gono drives the Cowboy backward until he trips over a Falcons’ blocker. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Gono is exceptionally strong at the point of attack, albeit his functional strength isn’t maximized due to less than ideal technique. He’s certainly not weak, either.
We witness the solid functional strength here on this combo down block against a 4i-shade. Gono is the big tight end who helped Jake Matthews (70) pave a path for Todd Gurley’s (21) touchdown that ultimately cost the Falcons the game. Gono generates solid power through his base and is strong enough to do well when blocking and washing defenders down the line of scrimmage.
We also see some pop with Gono when he has to seal an edge or create more space. Gono is aggressive, attacking the EDGE and shifting his weight to position himself between the defender and the four-hole (B-gap). Gono is initially in a good position, but it takes the running back some time to find the cut-back lane. The EDGE attempts to squeeze back into the B-gap, but Gono anchors down enough and uses his outside arm to break the long-arm attempt from the EDGE, providing just enough time for the running back to hit the hole.
Gono does a great job on this deuce combo block with the guard. He gets to the outside shoulder of the original 2i-shade quickly and then flashes his eyes to find the linebacker. He locates, pivots off his inside foot, and takes the SAM linebacker out of the play, opening a nice hole for the running back.
Here’s another successful chip and climb to the second level on a touchdown run by Devonta Freeman (24). Gono is the play side guard who initially attacks the 1-technique, allowing the center Alex Mack (51) to locate the defender’s outside shoulder. Gono then cuts the angle of the MIKE off from the running back’s path while sticking to the defender until Freeman is near the end zone.
Reasons for concern
Gono’s the left guard, and he initially frames this block well but gets too aggressive with his punch while his feet are stuck in the ground, possibly anticipating a power-rushing move. The defender stutters and works through the outside portion of Gono with a club move. The Falcons’ offensive linemen’s feet are stuck in the mud, and Ryan just gets the football to Calvin Ridley (18) before taking a hit. Gono was fooled by the stutter and punched too early; an early punch and hip framing were two of his most prominent issues in pass protection on tape.
Gono sets outside against Jones, anticipating no center help with Daniel Sorenson (49) mugging the A-gap. As Gono goes to punch, Jones double swipes his arms and brings his own outside arm over the top of the guard to gain easy access toward Ryan. Gono gets caught too often with these well-timed rush moves.
The 4i-shade, Frank Clark (55), penetrates the B-gap and quickly puts Gono in a tough spot. Matthews does little to alter the defender’s rush, but Gono’s initial step is relatively flat down the line of scrimmage, and his second step is almost a complete 180, which flips his hips and gives Clark a softer angle to the quarterback. There’s little Gono can do once he opens his hips in that manner. The miscalculation with hip discipline wasn’t just at guard.
Gono doesn’t gain enough depth in this vertical set to hinder Mack’s rush. His backside is facing the quarterback when there’s still space between him and Mack, who is heading right for his outside shoulder. Mack lands the rip move, and Gono swings his catch leg inside, providing Mack an alley like a matador allowing a bull to run right past him. Gono needs to get more depth in these situations, not commit his hips so early, and do a better overall job framing the block while absorbing contact.
At right tackle, Gono attempts to jump set Shaquil Barrett (58), aligned wide. Gono locates quickly but is leaning too much into the contact. Good defenders like Barrett will punish mistakes like that. Barrett gains access outside, and Gono can’t recollect his balance off the adjustment. With the contact from Barrett, and sub-optimal positioning, Gono falls, and Barrett hits Ryan, who somehow completes this pass downfield.
Gono has enough functional strength to play in the NFL, but his anchor was challenged more as a guard than a tackle, which is surprising because his technique on an island is suspect. The 3-technique gets his hands quickly inside and drives through the outside shoulder of Gono, who doesn’t always bring his feet with his upper body. The defender hurries Ryan, and the pass is incomplete.
Chris Jones makes many offensive linemen look silly, but he dominates Gono in this play. Jones attacks with power to put Gono on skates. Gono’s entire body is lifted off the ground, and he attempts to re-anchor himself by sinking his hips and reestablishing his hands, but Jones has complete control of his chest. Once Gono tries to push forward once setting the anchor, Jones forces his momentum towards the ground, discarding the blocking attempt and forcing Ryan to get rid of the football.
As a run blocker, he’s not the most powerful, but he’s functional. His angles of pursuit up to the second level off combo blocks are solid. However, plays like this are frustrating, and it substantiates the assertion that Gono is impatient. It’s an outside zone run where every lineman will step play side at the snap. Gono has a 4-technique over him as the play side tackle to the strength. Gono is aware of the help from the play side guard that will be coming, but he is too eager and initiates contact before positioning his hips outside of the 4-technique. This allows the defender to out-leverage Gono to the outside and make the tackle. Poor positioning, discipline, and an over-eager attitude hurt Gono’s effectiveness in plays like this.
I like the addition of Gono. He’s a young offensive lineman with a lot of versatility and good athletic traits that can’t be taught. His deficiencies with punch timing, a lack of overall patience, and block framing can be corrected. I would not want Gono to start, but he has potential as a swing offensive lineman with upside.
A combination of Gono and Peart (when healthy) as swing tackles would be a good situation if New York can find a way to upgrade their starting right tackle position. The addition of Gono is a solid start to rebuilding the offensive line and adding depth. He hasn’t played since 2020, so expectations shouldn’t be more than a swing lineman. If he can ever work his way into the starting conversation - and he’s competent/capable - then the signing is an absolute win. I wouldn’t have that expectation, but that doesn’t mean this is a bad move. As we, unfortunately, found out in 2021, depth is very important.