Entering the 2018 season, the New York Giants had several open competitions for starting roles. This included free safety, slot corner and surprisingly, center. Brett Jones is the incumbent, and proved himself to be one of the best pass blocking centers in the league. Last year, he had the 8th best pass blocking efficiency score according to ProFootballFocus metrics. However, while Jones could be trusted to keep the middle of the pocket clean, he struggled to create holes for his running backs.
Starting in Spring camp, the Giants have given journeyman Jon Halapio opportunities to start at center. Halapio spent the first four years of his career bouncing around practice squads. He finally got an opportunity to play last season after the Giants offensive line fell apart (though was it every really together?). Halapio has been granted this chance based on the perception that he will be an impactful run blocker, someone who can clear lanes for Saquon Barkley. Does perception match reality? To find out, I watched every run blocking snap Halapio (RG #75) participated in last season. Let’s take a look at the film.
Film Review on New York Giants’ Jon Halapio:
Halapio displayed the ability to maintain his block when handling a defensive tackle one-on-one. He rarely overpowers his opponent, but is able to win the battle just enough to allow the running back to generate positive yards on the ground. Further, when he has a clear shot at a linebacker, he occasionally was able to execute his block in the second level.
Week 12 Q1 1:58
Jon Halapio does a good job of making sure the defensive tackle isn’t able to penetrate and cut Wayne Gallman off before Gallman runs off the edge of the line. Halapio wasn’t over powering, but did the job well enough to help spring Gallman.
Week 12 Q2 10:26
This was one of the few instances where Halapio successfully came off a double team of a defensive tackle and quickly got to the second level to take on a linebacker. This enabled Darkwa to gain positive yards running behind Halapio.
Week 13 Q1 1:46
This was one of the only times Halapio over powered a defensive tackle one-on-one. He does a great job of creating a big hole for Gallman to gallup through.
Week 13 Q2 11:45
The Giants run right behind Halapio pulling to his left. Halapio does a great job of blocking the linebacker to allow the runner to cut back right behind him.
Week 14 Q4 6:23
On this draw to Gallman, Halapio easily overpowers Damien Wilson and is able to push him to the ground before the linebacker can attempt to tackle Wayne Gallman.
Week 15 Q4 14:19
This is another example of Halapio quickly coming off his double team to take on a linebacker. This gives Gallman a clear running lane to sprint through.
Week 15 Q4 9:08
On the goal line, Halapio buries the defensive tackle to allow Darwka to run the ball in for a touchdown.
So far, Halapio has shown the ability to occasionally over power the defensive tackle. While showing glimpses of being able to win one-on-one battles is encouraging, the plays highlighted above were more outliers than the norm. Halapio rarely displayed the power one would expect to see from a strong run blocker. The plays below are examples of Halapio losing one-one-one battles with defensive tackles.
Week 13 Q1 15:00
Halapio does a poor job of moving the defensive tackle in front of him. Darkwa didn’t help by running right into the line instead of between Flowers and Engram, but could have gained more yards if Halapio was able to do a better job of creating a running lane for him to run through.
Week 15 Q3 5:41
This play makes you wonder if anyone knew what their assignment was. Even with a little help from Jones, Halapio struggled to hold his block against the defensive tackle. Even if he did, this play was doomed, but his inability to take out the defensive tackle didn’t help.
Week 16 Q2 12:41
The defensive tackle Halapio was responsible for wasn’t directly involved in the play, but this illustrated how easily it can be to overpower Halapio. The defensive tackle shakes him off like he’s a rag doll to assist his teammates on the play.
Week 16 Q2 4:45
Covering all of the breakdowns in run blocking on this play would require a whole separate article. Since this article focuses on Halapio, we’ll focus on his inability to even get two hands on the defensive tackle before handling his responsibility in the second level. Whomever thought it was a good idea to ask Jerell Adams to take on a defensive tackle should probably be fired (oh wait..).
In Pat Shurmur’s offense, backs and receivers will have ample opportunities to make big plays on screens. He wants to get his playmakers the ball out in space. For these types of plays to be successful, it’s imperative that the linemen can excel at taking on linebackers and defensive backs in the second level. This is the one facet of Halapio’s game that stood out the most; he struggled mightily to block at the second level, especially when he had to navigate through some traffic to identify the man he was responsible for.
Week 12 Q1 11:43
Halapio is responsible for pulling to his left and taking out the linebacker. He attempts to dive at the Redskin linebacker and completely whiffs, allowing the linebacker to make the tackle on Darkwa.
Week 13 Q3 11:52
This play is similar to the previous play discussed. Halapio pulls to his left and barely makes contact with the Raider linebacker before falling down. He makes a weak attempt at clearing a hole for Darkwa to run through.
Week 14 Q1 :08
Coming off of the quick double team of the defensive tackle, Halapio is late getting to the second level and is forced to pull down the Cowboy linebacker for a penalty. Halapio was replaced by John Greco shortly after this play.
Week 14 Q3 12:11
Halapio is late again coming off of his double team to block the linebacker. He also reveals a bad habit at diving at linebackers instead of getting in proper position to block them with the right technique. This run was blown up from the start when Brett Jones got pushed three yards back into the backfield, but it still doesn’t absolve Halapio of not handling his responsibilities.
Week 14 Q3 11:39
We are starting to see a consistent theme with Halapio when he’s asked to quickly double team a defensive tackle and then get to the next level; he constantly struggles to find the linebacker he is responsible for. On this play, he’s unable to block Sean Lee, who makes the tackle on Shane Vereen.
Week 15 Q2 2:00
This was one of the few big runs the Giants had all season, but got no help from Halapio on this play. He’s late getting out to block Malcom Jenkins, who eventually tracks down Vereen from behind.
Week 15 Q3 3:55
Even though Halapio has a clear shot at Kendricks coming off of his double team, he isn’t able to apply a clean block to help spring Gallman up the middle. Kendricks is able to assist in taking down Gallman after a short gain.
Week 16 Q1 4:37
This is the second holding penalty Halapio got called for when attempting to block a defensive player in the second level. He’s in good position to block Bucannon, but isn’t able to block him cleanly.
Week 17 Q4 6:10
Again, Halapio displays a bad habit of using shoulders, instead of his hands, to block a linebacker. He whiffs on his responsibility to block Zach Vigil.
After watching every run snap Halapio took, it’s clear he is not going to be able to consistently create running lanes for the Giants backs. He rarely exhibits the power required to win one-on-one battles with defensive tackles and constantly struggled to handle his blocking responsibilities when blocking linebackers and defensive backs.
It’s healthy for any organization to force players to compete for their starting role. Brett Jones hasn’t proved himself enough to have his starting role handed to him, and he needs to continue to develop as a center. However, one thing we know he does well is pass protect and that is the one attribute Giants fans should value in their offensive lineman. Brett Jones gives the Giants offense the best chance to succeed.