…coming off of a putrid effort @ Atlanta, the OL looked to rebound but instead produced more of the same from last week. The group put up a "-5" combined and while they have had worse totals this season, this week's stinker came on only on 26 first half plays. Individual grades: Beatty- 0, Boothe- 1, Baas-1, Snee- "-3", Diehl- "-4"
…everyone on the OL outside of David Baas recorded a "-2" on an individual play in this game, with Beatty/Boothe (Play 14) and Snee/Diehl (Play 23) receiving them on the same play. Once again, the plug was pulled on the grading template at halftime with the game in hand for the Ravens or else we may have seen a sheet littered with more negative numbers. Let's take a look at each of those plays:
Play 14, as you can see, called for a front side double team block (an easy one at that considering the advantage they have on the LB because of the angle) from Beatty and Boothe up to the backside MLB. In this photo the two appear to be well on the way to executing the block, gaining leverage and controlling the LOS. The next logical move would be for one of the two OL to leave the double team block and engage the LB. Who goes is often (and most likely in this instance) dependant on where the LB is by the time they engage him (if he has passed the blocked DT it would be Beatty. If not–Boothe) but either way it should be clear as to who is going.
This screengrab shows us the result of the failed double team block as by this point both Beatty and Boothe have left the DT to get to the LB at the 2nd level, allowing him to stop Bradshaw for a 2-yard gain on what could have been an explosive play or even a TD (seriously, if you have the game on DVR check this one out) all because of poor communication from the two. This is unacceptable for Week 16 and as anyone who played OL even at the HS level knows, is something that is hashed out and worked on in the earliest stages of camp. Just a horrible effort. I know there were plenty of disappointing plays in this one from the OL and the entire team alike, but this one does a great job of highlighting the sloppy football team the Giants have become in recent weeks. Beaten physically and mentally.
Play 23 is a 3rd and 9 (following an OPI penalty on Hixon and holding on Snee that negated some good offense from the Giants) and the Ravens only send a 3-man rush. Should be a relief for the Giants OL but instead results in near disaster. As you see in the picture above Diehl has not only lost the edge to Paul Kruger but has been spun around to the point where it appears Kruger is actually the one blocking Diehl. Not great but should be ok considering Snee is there to help if Kruger comes inside. If he continues upfield Eli should be able to step up no problem.
Instead Kruger is able to split the two and have a straight shot at Eli Manning who is forced to try to quickly get rid of the ball. The result is an incomplete pass call instead of the fumble and TO that occured here. To get beat like this against a 3-man rush is very discouraging and should further support the claim that the Giants' low sack total is a credit to Manning's ability to get the ball out of his hand quickly in the face of pressure and not strong pass blocking. Again, beaten physically and mentally.
…although his play has been as bad as anyone's in recent weeks, I am willing to give Snee a bit of a free pass of sorts (at least as we look forward to 2013) as I still believe he is not only a productive player but an all-pro caliber player. The hip injury is a killer. Prior to the hip injury Snee was still playing as well as he had in the past–a strong drive blocker and a near mistake-free pass protector. A hip labrum tear (even partial) is a damaging injury to any athlete, espeically an OL. To compare, a friend of mine who plays professional hoops overseas recently had his season cut short because of a similar injury, as his range of moment was taken away. This is relevant because much like defense in basketball, pass blocking requires strong and explosive lateral movement, something that an injury such as this restricts. It also makes it difficult for an OL to bend at the hips, something that is necessary for success in both pass and run blocking. As tough as Snee is for trying to play through this, he is nearly 100% ineffective at this point and should have been shut down weeks ago. If Snee is able to make a full recover this offseason then expect him to return to form for the 2013 season.
.,.despite the poor collective effort from the OL in this one, Will Beatty delivered what was probably the block of the year for this group on David Wilson's 13-yard TD run. Beatty got out in open space and drove his legs through the defender and provided the block that sprung Wilson to the TD. The Giants need Beatty to provide this on a consistent basis going forward if he is someone to be counted on at the crucial LT position. I think he is up for the task.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
…last week I wrote that I would be very surprised if Victor Cruz and the rest of the receiving corps were held in check and had a quiet game. Well, I—like most Giants fans—completely underestimated the Giants lack of continuity, execution, and all around desire brought to the football field on Sunday. The Giants performance has left all of us searching for answers. I have questioned, at least privately with Rich, the health of Eli Manning and am highly curious to see if news comes out once the Giants' season ends that he was indeed battling an injury that has yet to be made public. But that is neither here nor there and this certainly isn't the time or place to speculate on that as Big Blue's receiving corp came out flat once again and failed to make an impact in a virtual must-win scenario against the Ravens in Baltimore this past weekend. Don't be fooled by the +2 combined score for the group, a number that is a product of Rueben Randle's 43-yard reception on the Giants' first TD.
…if you told me that the Giants WR/TE graded out to a score of +4 three weeks ago I would have thought that you were talking about a handful of plays or a single drive. Well, the grade of +4 is what this once-dynamic group of receivers and tight ends graded out two the last two weeks…COMBINED. For a group that has this much talent this is totally baffling and inexcusable. Take away the names and numbers on the back of the Giants jerseys and from looking at the tape it seems as if this group is as pedestrian as it comes, not one that was advertised as one of the best in the game during the offseason.
…the most frustrating part about this is the WR/TE were playing up to expectations (for the most part) until recently and have been completely ineffective, much like every unit on this team. Again, there can be several factors that led to this, many of which were discussed in Bill Barnwell's Monday column on Grantland. Many of these are fairly obvious, such as the Giants tougher schedule in the second half, lack of pass rush, and meltdown of the offensive line. However, I feel the reason for the lack of performance from the receivers comes down to one key thing: timing. The Giants passing game has shown no semblance of rhythm in weeks. Even the most pedestrian slant and in routes have become a challenge for the passing attack.
…an aspect we preach here at UltimateNYG is small ball, which is essentially using the short passing game as an extension of the run game whether it comes from the receivers, tight ends or backs. Those quick routes are all dependent upon timing and rhythm, two key elements that the Giants passing game has shown none of in recent weeks. The fact that the Giants o-line hasn't provided Eli with any time, many starters on the offense have not practiced during the week, and teams have aimed to disrupt the timing of the offense are all key reasons why this group has staggered down the stretch.
…since there weren't many plays to grade on an individual level (this game was over at the half) the WR/TE made only two plays that were noteworthy in a positive way. On Play 9 Rueben Randle ran a great route, blew by his corner covering him, and made a tremendous adjustment to a less-than-perfect ball from Eli Manning and made a spectacular catch in traffic as the safety was providing help over the top. Although it was just one good play (there haven't been many in recent weeks) this has to be a nice sign for Giants fans It is clear that Randle has the raw ability (Rich: This catch was very similar to his big gain on the opening drive of the game @ Dallas. On both plays Randle showed the body control and ball skills that make him a potential explosive play guy for the Giants going forward) to become an impact player in this league. The fact that he earned Tom Coughlin's trust to play in some key situation tells you a lot about how talented he really is. With some more seasoning, studying and a full offseason of camps Randle could be poised for a breakout season in 2013.
…the other positive sequence came four plays later on that same drive on Wilson's 14-yard touchdown run, the only scoring play of the first half by the Giants. What garnered the positive score was the blocking done by both Bennett and Pascoe. Pascoe was lined up in the slot, a formation that we saw a lot early in the season but only sparingly in recent weeks and Bennett was lined up to the left of the formation. Both TEs did a nice job coming off the LOS, getting to the second level and maintaining their blocks. Since they were both lined up on the strong side of the field their effective blocking created a huge running lane for Wilson leading to a score. The rest of the plays during which the TEs were required to run block they got off the line flat, had no leverage, and consistently were beat by their man.
…now I know the Giants season technically isn't over but now is a decent time to discuss what is going to be an important decision this offseason. Over the next few weeks a popular question among Giants fans will surely be the status of impending free agent tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett stated yesterday that he would take a hometown discount to stay with Big Blue and I feel that it would be in the best interest of the Giants to keep the Black Unicorn in New York. I know that not everyone is going to agree with me on this as Bennett has had an up and down season, his run blocking is inconsistent and flat out bad at some times, and he has had his share of drops but I would still like him back in New York for at least one more season. In his first full season as a number one tight end Bennett put up some solid numbers: 54 catches for 611 yards and five TDs through 16 games. Not bad for someone who never topped more than 283 yards in a season and had to learn a new system for the first time as a starter. I believe the talent is there. Bennett has shown flashes that he can be a tremendous weapon in the red zone and can be a key cog in the Giants "small ball" attack. With some improvement and consistency in the blocking game I truly feel that Martellus has the ability to become a top-tier tight end in this league. I think that Jerry Reese and co. feel the same way as well and will give Bennett the opportunity to become the great player that he can be. (Rich: Another positive of resigning Bennett, as mentioned by the Unicorn himself in the article referenced by Steve, is the possibility of Bennett recruiting his brother, Michael, to play for the Giants. Michael had a very solid season as a DE for the Bucs and could be an asset as the Giants may be looking to replace Osi if he doesn't come back.)