Putting a spotlight on Mitch Petrus.
Before Saturday morning’s practice, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin fired this salvo. “Let’s go! Show me what you got today! (Practice) No. 9 already! It better look like No. 9!” Well, rookie guard Mitch Petrus heard his head coach. According to Newark-Star Ledger’s Mike Garafolo, Petrus has been fantastic. “OG Mitch Petrus led the way with a terrific pull block on LB Gerris Wilkinson to clear a path for Brown on a TD run in red-zone drills. Petrus is really impressive right now. He’s a guy I’ll be watching hard in the preseason.”
This is welcome news. With Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert out with injuries, it appears with Petrus’ stout performance thus far, the Giants are going to have quality depth along the offensive line. Kudos to Pete, one of our resident experts at UltimateNYG, who liked Petrus’ skills before the draft and was even happier when he became a Giant: “We drafted Mitch Petrus, a kid out of Arkansas in the 5th round who I really like. He is 305 pounds, nasty, fierce, quick and he was in my opinion a steal.”
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride echoed Pete’s analysis: “What we liked about him is that the guy is extremely aggressive. He has great speed. He pulls – he does a great job in open space. He cut blocks; he is very, very aggressive. I think he can get better in the sense of incorporating his leg strength. He has tremendous upper body strength. I think he had the all time bench press record at the Combine.”
Gilbride goes on about Petrus. “I think what we have gotten is – Richie will be insulted when I say this – but he reminds me of a Seubert. He has that kind of tenacity; that kind of attitude. He will be feisty, he will be aggressive.”
The comparision to Seubert is something to note. Why?
It is important to remember, the bread and butter Giants’ running play is a counter run. This type of running play requires a lineman or linemen to pull. What does pulling mean? According to Lehigh football coach John Powers, “Pulling can mean a lot of different things… But in general you’re getting in depth from the line of scrimmage and you’re wrapping around to block the defender.”
After watching game tape of the Giants, football scientist KC Joyner highlighted the strength of the Giants running game. From his book Scientific Football 2009, here is KC’s take on the Giants offensive line: Seubert and Snee’s POA win rate on pull blocks both ranked in the top 10 in the league. From 2008 season, Seubert’s and Snee’s Point of Attack win rate was 93.4 and 91 percent respectively. They also ranked number 2 and 3 in volume of pull blocks, so that percentage is doubly impressive. In addition to Seubert and Snee, O’Hara, Diehl, and McKenzie excel at pull blocking too. Amazed, KC stresses how rare this is. KC continues- Most offenses have one or two players at most who they use for pulling and the Giants used all five very much relative to their position competition. It also says a lot that Seubert and Snee were nearly equal in pull blocks. Since most of their pulls happened on counter plays, it says that a defense could not overload one side or the other to slow that play. Teams had to play the run game honest.
If Petrus cracks the starting lineup or gets significant playing time, opposing defenses will not be able to overload to Chris Snee’s side. Thus, they will have to respect Petrus’ superb pull blocking.
Finally, I believe the Giants running game will get back on track this year. With an improved defensive unit, the Giants will not have to throw the ball as often as they did last year. Instead of being forced to throw the ball because they were behind in many games, the Giants will be able to have a balanced offensive attack. And Tom Coughlin believes in a balanced offense. “I just want to see us run the ball and be productive with the run. Be able to stay with it and play good defense. Stop the run so we can stay with it and stay balanced. I don’t like the situation we were in last year on occasion where there was no way to stay balanced. We can’t win under those circumstances.” Having balance will ensure success this upcoming season.