The New York Giants are a fascinating football team. Conventional (and proven) wisdom suggests that in order to win games, you have to be strong on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Offensive linemen, specifically tackles, pass rushers, and quarterbacks. Those are the three most valuable positions in the game of football. The Giants, however, have spent a plethora of draft and free agent capital on pass catchers while virtually ignoring their running game, and failing to adequately provide quarterback Eli Manning with the proper protection up front.
“The Giants have a bad offensive line” is a pretty common take to have these days, so I decided we should look at the film and pinpoint exactly where their struggles come from.
And, of course, what the Cowboys can do to exploit these weak points. Let's take a look.
During their week 14 match-up in 2016, the Cowboys defense held New York to just 10 points. Though the Giants did muster up some decent drives throughout the game, takeaways and other splash defensive plays kept them out of the end zone.
Those splash plays all must start up front, with the Cowboys defensive line. On this play in particular, we see Tyrone Crawford take on starting right tackle Bobby Hart. As we know, Crawford isn't know for his explosiveness of the ball, relying more on technical ability to get the job done.
Crawford doesn't possess much of a speed rush threat whatsoever, making Hart's wide set even more preposterous. He gets too far outside of Crawford, allowing Tyrone an inside rush route. Hart is also inconsistent with his hands and feet, something which rears its head on this snap as well.
The end result is a pressure and a quarterback hit from Crawford, despite not ever executing much of a pass rush move. He does utilize a rip, but it doesn't appear to be too strong. The Cowboys ends should be able to challenge Hart with both inside and outside rushes this Sunday.
Now, to the starting left tackle Ereck Flowers. Flowers has become a punch-line of sorts within the football world recently, becoming known for some awful-looking pass sets. Where we saw Hart struggle with an inside move on the last play, Flowers' struggles don't discriminate against any pass rush move.
On this snap, right defensive end Benson Mayowa shows why I believe he could be the most productive rusher on the Cowboys roster this season. Mayowa beats Flowers cleanly around the edge with speed and bend before meeting Manning and forcing the fumble.
Flowers is simply too slow in his pass set on this play. He also panics late, and turns his shoulders. When you combine these technical mistakes from the offensive tackle with a good rusher on the other side, sacks will come.
This time we see Flowers against James Harrison and the Steelers. On the last play we saw Flowers get beat cleanly around the edge with a speed rush. Here we see him get bullied by a bull rush.
The Steelers' 3-technique comes with a very wide rush, making it seem like this was meant to be a stunt. He makes contact with Flowers during his pass set, knocking him off balance for a split second. That little amount of time was all Harrison needed to win this rep.
The Cowboys could benefit from running stunts at Flowers, particularly by executing a “tackle-first” stunt. Here, the 3-technique would hook Flowers and the left guard, allowing for the defensive end to loop around to the inside. Knowing that Flowers has such serious balance issues, any type of confusion or unexpected contact could kill his rep.
Plus, we all know how shaky Manning can look with pressure in his face.
If the Giants offensive line has a strength, it would be their interior. Despite a somewhat down season in 2016, center Weston Richburg is still a solid player. Plus, guard Justin Pugh is probably the Giants' best all around lineman.
The right guard, John Jerry, however will have his share of issues with Maliek Collins Sunday night. On this play we see Collins in a 3-technique beat Jerry across his face and make the tackle for a short gain. This dip and rip move from Collins was something which Jerry struggled with during that week 14 game.
Collins' explosiveness and skilled hands present a multitude of problems for John Jerry, and should give the Cowboys a serious advantage whenever the two are matched up inside.
So, while the Cowboys defensive line is certainly not an elite unit, they should be able to find some level of success this week against the New York Giants. If they can't generate pressure against these tackles, it may be a long season for Dallas' defensive ends.