Negativity has surrounded the New York Giants’ seventh overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Clips circulated on Twitter - and were discussed here on Big Blue View by yours truly - of Evan Neal losing one-on-one pass rushing reps in training camp - a training exercise tailored for defensive success (which was made clear in previous articles); these plays were ubiquitous on social media, and evoked a bleak narrative about the 21-year-old who has played a different position along Alabama’s offensive line since entering college.
Analyzing Neal’s struggles and acknowledging areas of improvement shouldn't be conflated with castigation, nor is it an indictment on how Neal is truly performing in training camp (he’s been solid in team periods).
If there’s a time to adjust to NFL speed, refine technique, and learn from mishaps, it’s in training camp. As I said in a previous article, I’m not jumping overboard, but I hoped to see steady improvement. Well, we saw quality play on Sunday against Cincinnati.
Here are all of Neal’s run and pass blocking reps from Sunday’s 25-22 win over the Bengals:
All of Evan Neal's pass blocking snaps from Sunday's win— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) August 23, 2022
(some RPO passes included) pic.twitter.com/OEkcrJ7WA9
There’s a detailed breakdown in the video below about Evan Neal.
Neal was my top tackle prospect coming out of Alabama and a top 10 player overall for me. Here’s a pre-draft synopsis from my scouting report:
Overall, Evan Neal is a mountain of a man with two redwood trees attached to his torso. He is explosive, with quick feet, excellent power, and strong hands to grip. He is fundamentally sound with his hand technique with a devastating punch to stun, and he’s a good overall run blocker.
Neal found himself on the ground more than I expected; he bends too much at the waist, he’s not the most balanced player when forced to move on a lateral plane, and he has to bring his feet through contact more consistently. His 6’7 height gives him a natural high center of gravity which leaves him susceptible to counter rushes and craftier pass rushers. He’s not perfect, but he has a very high floor.
Neal is going to be a good football player in the NFL. I’m not certain he has top-3 at his position type of upside, but he’s going to make an impact for whoever selects him early on Day 1.
We’re in the infancy stage of Evan Neal’s career. He has 52 preseason snaps under his belt. By all accounts, he’s very conscientious. He’s athletic, long, has vice grips for hands, and does a great job varying his punches to win at the point of attack.
I remain very optimistic about his future; there could be some bumps early on - similar to Andrew Thomas - but there’s so much to appreciate about Neal’s build and skill-set.
Here’s a video breaking down his play against Cincinnati: