Though they're not going to somehow turn into a strength for this team, let's hope that the Week 3 beating in Carolina was rock bottom for the Giants' offensive line. The game feels as some sort of culmination of a steady decline for a proud unit that was labeled one of the best in the league five seasons ago. Four out of the five starters have changed so it is a moot comparison but it goes to show how far they have fallen. While the run blocking failures are nothing new, the group has always done a solid job of protecting Eli.
Until this season.
With the help of some PFF data, we take a look at the three biggest culprits so far this season. With the help of one of their "signature stats" we'll take an analytical look at Snee, Beatty and Pugh. The formula is briefly explained below, as taken from the PFF website.
Pass Blocking Efficiency- A weighted formula that combines sacks, hits and hurries (with hits and hurries three quarters the worth) relative to how man snaps an offensive guard stays in pass protection. (PBE)
Chris Snee: -7.6 (overall pass block grade through 3 weeks, 69th out of 71 G)
Week 1: -3.7
Week 2: -1.1
Week 3: -2.8
–14 pressures allowed (2nd amongst all G)
–91.1 PBE (58/59 for all qualifying G)
Snee, as we harped on over and over in 2012, has not been right since Week 9 of last season when he suffered a hip injury. It's also no coincidence that some in the media feel as though this is when the problems began for the offensive line. As the season wore on, I maintained that having Snee play out the rest of the season was not only a detriment to the 2012 squad, but also to Snee's future as a player.
It was obvious that Snee has still been dealing with some sort of hip injury and yesterday's news confirmed this much. It certainly goes a ways in explaining how a player can go from perennial all-pro to weak link (if that even applies to this group) in 10 months. Snee has been far too talented, tough and physical since day 1 for his complete downfall to be explained in any other way. It will be interesting to see what the MRI reveals and whether or not it is something that will linger for Snee for the rest of the season and whatever remains of his career. (update: Snee's MRI showed no major damage but the team noted that if the swelling did not go down in the hip then they would have to assess all of otheir options)
William Beatty: -5.2 (66th out of 73 T)
Week 1: -2.8
Week 2: 0.6
Week 3: -3.0
–15 pressures allowed (6th amongst all T)
-90.8 PBE (53/62 for all T)
There is no justification for how anyone on this group, let alone Beatty has played so far. But for the sake of "this is a guy who is in game 3 of a 5 yr/$37.5 million contract" let's try to see how we got here. It's first important to understand just how great Beatty was in 2012. His production ranked him as one of the best tackles in the game, particularly in pass blocking, according to PFF. On a per game basis, Beatty recorded a positive grade in 14/16 games with a "-0.5" grade in his other two. Overall, he finished with a pass block grade of 14.4 which was good for 14th of 80 qualifying tackles.
Fast forward to this season, when Beatty's first test of the season featured the task of matching up with DeMarcus Ware for 60 minutes. Although Beatty has blocked him in the past, 2013 is Ware's first year as a true 4-3 RDE, something that allows him to solely focus on rushing the passer. All in all, Ware bested Beatty for most of the night and was a force from LITERALLY the opening snap. While you would certainly like to see a better effort, there is no shame in getting worked over by the generation's best pass rusher. Also keep in mind that Beatty was working with James Brewer at LG instead of Kevin Boothe. The effect that this can have on assignments and blitz pickups cannot be understated. I recall several occasions in Week 1 where the two were unable to execute a simple "bump (a way to block up a DL stunt) along the offensive line.
Beatty wasn't all that bad in Week 2 and his efforts resulted in the positive grade from PFF. This of course brings us to this past week's disaster, Beatty's worst since he became a full time starter in 2011. He was beat in every which way in this one. Panthers RDE Charles Johnson (ranked as the 2nd best 4-3 pass rusher in 2012 and 4th best so far in 2013) had his way with Beatty in a variety of fashions. We saw him lunging forward to "reach" for Johnson far too often and we also saw him a step slow out of his pass set.
As someone who reviewed film of every snap Beatty played last year, the lack of technique was very surprising as I consider him to be a well above average player in this regard. He has been a patient pass blocker (a CRUCIAL element of pass protection) who does an outstanding job of staying square to the defender in order to keep him in front of him.
Although this is now Beatty's 2nd rough go at it in three tries this season, I can't help but look back at all the stellar pass pro efforts Beatty has had in the recent past and agree with Beatty himself who said that the game was merely a blip on the radar for him.
Justin Pugh: -3.7 (62nd out of 73 T)
Week 1: -0.8
Week 2: 1.6
Week 3: -4.5
–17 pressures allowed (3rd amongst all T)
–89.9 PBE (58/62 for all T)
While three games into a rookie season is far too soon to say the book is out on someone, I'd imagine the Giants expect much better of Pugh then what he has shown so far.
As a side note–I maintain a belief that I have held since the Giants took Pugh 19th overall last April—he will be the Giants starting center in 2014 and if not they will have him lined up at guard. Many experts acknowledged that Pugh may be better suited for the interior three OL positions and with Baas' 2014 base salary up to nearly $5 million in 2014, this may be an avenue that the Giants choose to pursue.
Back to the issue at hand, Pugh looked physically overmatched and failed to show the strength needed in order to hold his ground and not lose the pocket so early in the play. Perhaps this is just because he is still very green or maybe it is related to the "short arm" issue that many raised when the Giants selected Pugh. Regardless, on several occasions in the Week 3 game, a Panthers defender (for the most part that defender was LDE Greg Hardy) found that the best way to get to the QB is right THROUGH Pugh. No one on the offensive line stands to gain or lose more than Pugh in Week 4.
The Week 4 visit to the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs puts the offensive line right back into the fire as they face an even tougher task then the game prior. Not only is Arrowhead one of the toughest places to play in the league (particularly for the offensive line) but the Chiefs pass rush has been the league's best in the young 2013 season. Through three games, the unit (all who rush the passer, not just the DL) has recorded a grade of 15.2.
The opportunity is there for the Giants' last ranked pass protection (PBE of 66.2) to quiet the critics and right the ship after last week's mess. It is also on Gilbride and Manning to make sure they do their part in "picking up" the struggling unit. They can do this by avoiding a heavy dose of 5-step and 7-step drops, at least early on in the game when the Chiefs will be most aggressive. This will be a huge boost as our tackles regain some confidence. Early success in this manner will keep the pass rush on its heels and hopefully prevent them from attacking the QB with reckless abandon.
Of course this is all dependent (and I expect this to be the case) for each player on the line to play better individually and I full expect this to be the case this upcoming Sunday, win or lose.
(As always, a big thanks to the great team at PFF for allowing us to use their stats as we provide you with the thinking man's look at the Giants)