This is the first installment of newsday.com's weekly "Film Room" series, a breakdown of a key moment or storyline in last week's NFL games using NFL Game Rewind's All-22 Coaches Film feature.
The Giants revamped their offensive line in the offseason, with just two returning starters from the 2013 season (Will Beatty, Justin Pugh). Things went awry, however, when starting guard Geoff Schwartz went down with a dislocated toe in Week 3 of the preseason. That forced the Giants to tweak their plans, sliding rookie Weston Richburg over from right guard and plugging newcomer John Jerry alongside center J.D. Walton
It certainly didn't help that the Giants' Week 1 opponent, the Detroit Lions, boast a scary defensive line that features three-time All-Pro Ndamukong Suh and first-round picks Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah.
So how did the Giants' line fare against one of the NFL's most potent front fours? Let's go quarter-by-quarter and take a look at the unit's highs and lows.
1Q: 1st & 10, 12:11 left, ball on NYG 20
The first play from scrimmage for the Giants’ offense was an ominous sign of things to come. Here, you can see tight end Daniel Fells is sent in motion to block Ansah on the edge. Ansah uses a swim move (which Is circled in yellow) to easily get by Fells. However, Ansah is unable to blow up the play and take down running back Rashad Jennings.
That’s where Fairley and linebacker DeAndre Levy come in. While all of the above is going on, Fairley simply overpowers Walton at the point of attack, sending him to the ground (circled in yellow).
Meanwhile, Levy has set the edge that was vacated by Ansah. He tracks Jennings from the second level, and he goes in for the tackle once he has a clear path -- which is shown in yellow -- to Jennings.
The result of the play: Levy and Fairley are in on the stop for a loss of 2 yards.
1Q: 3rd & 4, 3:57 left, ball on NYG 48
The Lions don’t do anything special on this play. There are no blitzes, stunts or anything out of the ordinary -- just four defensive linemen coming in on the rush. The Giants manage to double-team Suh with Walton and Jerry, but Beatty has some trouble with Ansah (circled in yellow). Ansah manages to collapse the pocket and disengage, and as a result he has a clear path to quarterback Eli Manning.
As George Johnson and Fairley manage to break free from their blockers, Manning is forced to either get the ball out or take a sack. He correctly checks down to Jennings in the flat, but Jennings drops the pass and the Giants are forced to punt.
1Q, 1st & 10, 1:12 left, ball on DET 44
It wasn’t all bad for the Giants’ offensive line in the first quarter. Here, the Giants are running a draw play out of the shotgun formation. The play calls on Richburg to pull from his usual left guard spot and take care of Johnson (circled in white), who was freed up when tight end Larry Donnell was motioned into the backfield. Richburg’s path is highlighted in yellow.
Richburg does a good job of sealing off the edge rusher (circled in yellow) while Jennings follows Donnell into the hole. The play goes for only 4 yards, so it’s not an explosive run by any stretch, but with the way the line had played up until that point, it was a positive.
1Q, 2nd & 6, 44 seconds left, ball on DET 40
The next two plays, though, were more of what happened earlier. The first of these two plays wasn’t anything special -- just the Lions’ front four rushing the passer. But Ansah manages to get past Beatty (this time using a power move) and has a clear shot toward Eli.
Manning is forced to hurry the pass as Ansah lays a hit on him. The pass, intended for Jerrel Jernigan down the sideline in single coverage, falls incomplete.
1Q: 3rd & 6, 37 seconds left, ball on DET 40
On the following play, the Lions disguise their blitz and manage to get the sack of Manning. Here, Jerry and Pugh double-team Suh, while Jennings stays in and blocks a blitzing Levy (with Ansah faking the rush and dropping back into a zone coverage). This allows George Johnson to come up the middle on a designed stunt. Johnson's path from pre-snap is highlighted above in yellow, while Suh and Levy's are in white.
Johnson is able to get by Walton and Jerry before they’re able to pick him up, and he gets the easy sack of Manning.
2Q, 2nd & 7, 14:35 left, ball on DET 32
Just as he did earlier, Richburg shone when the Giants asked him to block on the move. Here, the Giants are lined up in a shotgun formation with Jennings in the backfield. They run a draw up the middle, and Walton is able to occupy Fairley (circled in yellow), which frees up Richburg to block a linebacker in the second level.
Jennings picks the right hole and cuts it back up the middle to avoid cornerback Nevin Lawson, who shot the A-gap between the center and the guard. Richburg already has engaged with linebacker Stephen Tulloch, freeing up the middle of the field for Jennings (Richburg's path is highlighted in white, whileJennings' path is highlighted in yellow). Jennings is able to carry the ball 14 yards before being taken down by safety Isa Abdul-Quddus.
2Q: 3rd & 9, 0:59 left, ball on DET 45
With the Giants driving just before the two-minute-drill, Beatty attempts a cut block -- which isn’t a block so much as it is diving at the knees of an opponent -- against Ansah (circled in yellow). It fails, and Ansah is able to force Manning to rush his throw to Rueben Randle. The throw is high, and the Giants are forced to punt before the end of the half.
(On a side note, aside from the three pressures detailed above, Beatty was OK in his return from a broken leg – not quite back to the form that earned him a five-year, $37.5-million deal after 2012, but still an improvement from 2013.)
3Q, 1st & 10, 5:46 left, ball on NYG 16
Things got better for the Giants’ offensive line in the second half, but there was one key play that was a result of the Lions’ pass rush -- Manning’s second interception of the night. Here, the Giants line up with Eli under center and Jennings as the single back. As was the case for most of the night, the Lions didn’t show anything fancy and have four defensive linemen with their hand in the dirt.
Manning fakes the handoff to Jennings, but Fairley (circled in yellow) is playing pass all the way. He blows by Walton off the snap with pure power and gets to Manning at the top of his dropback. As a result . . .
. . . Fairley flushes Eli out of pocket. Suh (circled in yellow) disengages and joins in pursuit, which forces Manning to throw on the run. Safety Glover Quin (circled in red) reads Manning’s eyes and is able to jump in front of Victor Cruz to get the interception.