Did The Chicago Bears Create The NFL’s Newest Dynamic Duo?

New York Giants, Sam Beal

It appeared that the Chicago Bears’ offense was destined to fail heading into the 2021 offseason. After abysmal showings in 2019 and 2020, there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. In April, there were questions on who would be Chicago’s QB1 entering 2021. Would Allen Robinson return for the 2021 season? Are the Bears adding depth at the wide receiver and tight end positions? What is going on doing with the offensive line?

Fortunately, we got answers to these questions. First, the Chicago Bears found a way to keep Allen Robinson around for the 2021 season by getting the talented wideout to sign his franchise tender, show up to training camp, and play an active role in the organization. Then in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bears added potential franchise quarterback Justin Fields, stud tackle Teven Jenkins, and a mountain of a guard in Larry Borom.

Considering Allen Robinson’s elite talents and a solid quarterback option in Chicago for the first time in well over 80 years, is the NFL about to be put on notice?

The NFL has a long history of dynamic duos between QBs and WRs. A quick history lesson will bring up parings such as Steve Young/Jerry Rice, Troy Aikman/Michael Irving, and Peyton Manning/Marvin Harrison. These duos broken defenses and electrified fanbases, picking up win after win on their ways to the Hall of Fame.

Allen Robinson and Justin Fields could be that next great QB-WR duo. Here’s why:

Allen Robinson is a top 10 wide receiver in the NFL, I’ve been saying it, and I’ll continue to say it. PFF is even willing to call him the 4th best WR in the NFL in their 2021 rankings. His stats speak for themself. He literally sits in the top 10 categories for every recorded metric, outside of touchdowns, by PFF in the 2020 NFL season. Unfortunately, Robinson isn’t as high profile as Julio Jones, Deandre Hopkins, or Davante Adams. His lack of profile stems from poor quarterback play throughout his entire NFL career.

Now, imagine with me what will happen when we pair Allen Robinson with the most accurate college quarterback ever recorded. I think we get a sweet symphony of offensive production that the Chicago Bears haven’t heard since the 1980s.

Don’t expect Justin Fields to run out in Week 1 and connect with Allen Robinson for astronomical numbers. I’m excited, but I understand the current QB situation in Chicago. It might be a while until we see Justin Fields and Allen Robinson connect for big plays. Furthermore, Robinson might not return to the Bears in 2022 if negotiations don’t produce a contract by July 17th.

Allen Robinson’s return to Halas Hall this offseason may indicate his belief that Justin Fields can spark this offense’s needs. The winds seem to be changing in Chicago. For the first time in my lifetime, I can look at the offense this team has built and be proud.

Do you think Allen Robinson and Justin Fields can be the next great QB/WR duo? Let me know in the comments section below.

Chicago Bears Biggest Questions at TE entering the 2021 Season

cole kmet, bears

Recently, the folks at PFF released their annual tight end rankings in preparation for the 2021 NFL Season. Zero Chicago Bears out of the 32 position players listed. Considering that at this point last year, the Bears had a whopping TEN tight ends on the roster, you would assume that at least one of them would make the cut, right? Wrong. Whether you like General Manager Ryan Pace or not, you cannot deny his spotty record when it comes to tight ends. Consider the failed Adam Shaheen project, and numerous attempts at finding long-term option fans were rewarded with Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, and Demetrius Harris.

With Jimmy Graham’s future clouded in mystery, Cole Kmet being used as a swiss army knife, and Demetrius Harris just being there for a couple of plays before being cut, this Bears fan is wondering the following questions:

#1 What are we doing with Jimmy Graham?

Jimmy Graham anchored the Chicago Bears’ red zone offense in 2021, leading the league in touchdowns amongst tight ends in the 2021 season with seven. Graham seemed to have an age-defying season with the Bears after following up a disappointing season in Green Bay that saw him haul only three touchdowns. If Graham can continue his dominating performance in the red zone, why would the Bears be willing to part ways so soon?

Salary Cap. The Chicago Bears currently have the second-worst cap situation in the NFL, with only $219,852 sitting in the bank. According to Overthecap, Jimmy Graham’s contract currently costs the Bears $10M. Cutting Graham after June 1st would free $7M in space.  Deciding whether or not Jimmy Graham is worth the $10M in cap space must be a top priority for Ryan Pace and the rest of the Front Office.

#2 Are we going to let Cole Kmet shine?

Chicago loves Cole Kmet. Cole Kmet loves Chicago. Bears fans want to see the hometown kid shine in the national spotlight. I think Cole Kmet has every tool necessary to take a major step forward in 2021. Kmet is an ideal “Y’ tight end, but his athleticism allows him to play in the flex if he wanted to. Nagy seemed to have taken a slow and steady approach in introducing Kmet to the NFL, relegating his abilities to the “H,” essentially an extra blocker. However, as the season progressed, fans could see a little more of what Kmet has in his repertoire.

Cole Kmet could benefit from his new QB, Justin Fields. Bears fans need not forget that the current QB/TE dynamic duo of Mahomes/Kelce. Matt Nagy crafted the relationship between the league’s most fearsome QB/TE duo. It’s a bit of a stretch, but with Nagy’s coaching history and the similar skill set of both Fields and Kmet to Mahomes and Kelce, we very much could be witnessing the birth of a new dynamic duo in Chicago.

Ultimately, Kmet needs to be used more in the passing game. If the Bears are confident he has taken the next step, they might feel comfortable releasing Jimmy Graham. I’m predicting that if we see a Graham release, we will see more of Kmet.

#3 Are we going to get help?

We love to throw names around from a fan’s perspective and pretend that they fit into our offensive scheme. Fortunately, as I state above, we have a head coach who loves tight ends. The Bears relied heavily on 11-personal in 2020, meaning one tight end and one tailback. In fact, 56% of all play calls were in this personnel scheme, according to Sharp FootballStats. This reliance on the 11 personal stayed steady. A small increase in the 12 personal (adding an extra tight-end) occurred in the second half of the season.

With this in mind, if Nagy doesn’t scheme for multiple tight-ends, what’s the point of having so many? Obviously, we would need a solid backup if Cole Kmet gets injured. But do we need to stack for talent at the tight-end position when the offense relies on one?

J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horstead remain on the roster. Both players are solid “H” tight ends. Ideally, I hope to see Kmet and Graham used as passing options while Holtz and Horstead are used primarily as blockers.

All in All

The Chicago Bears sure have some work to do in the TE position. I hope we see Graham stay, and I think his performance in 2020 can continue into 2021 if he’s willing to play. His cost is worth the potential reward in a basic cost-benefit analysis. Regardless of performance this season, I’m confident the Bears will draft a TE in the 2022 NFL Draft. Names to watch in this college football season are; Charlie Kolar (Iowa St.), Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M), Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina), and Jeremey Ruckertt (Ohio St.)

Chicago Bears Breakdown: Sam Mustipher is a quality center with solid upside

When the Chicago Bears lost left guard James Daniel in a Week 5 Prime Time victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many fans and analysts wondered who would step up and anchor the position. A few weeks later, center Cody Whitehair was sidelined with a calf injury. Wouldn’t you know it? Shortly after that, right guard Germain Ifedi joined the COVID-19/reserve list. It didn’t stop there as another addition to the Injury Reserve came in the form of Bobby Massie. 

After the injury bug left the Offensive line in shambles, only Charles Leno was left standing among the line that started the season for the Bears in Detroit Week One. These conditions forced the Bears to reach into practice squad reserves, calling on former Notre Dame Center Sam Mustipher into the starting lineup. What happened next shocked the fanbase. Mustipher provided a solid and consistent option in week eight against the New Orleans Saints only to injure his knee, sidelining him for two weeks. His return performance in week ten against the Detroit Lions gained him the starting spot to close out the season.

Sam Mustipher: the 2021 starting center

In preparation for the 2021 season, I’m anticipating that Sam Mustipher will return to the starting center role. Sam, as centers often do, has become a leader on the offensive line. He has also developed a great relationship with running back David Montgomery. Considering his position on the roster, I think Sam Mustipher receives the tape breakdown he deserves. So here we go. Here is a rundown of Sam Mustipher, his areas of strength, and places where I think he can improve. 

The Breakdown

The guiding questions

In an analysis of interior offensive linemen, here the questions I ask while watching the film. How quick is he off the ball? Is he engaging defenders with his hands before his body? Does he hold the block throughout the play? Is he being tossed around? Is he throwing the defender around? Are his feet constantly moving, or is he pretending to be a tree in the local school play?

PFF Grading

To begin with Sam Mustipher, I find a solid and reliable option at the center position. According to PFF, he delivered 334 snaps in passing plays and only allowed one sack in the seven games he started. That would place him T-19th amongst centers in the league. His PFF grade in the running game is 63.4, not a bad place to be for a former practice squad member.

Clean snaps?

The primary function of the center is to snap the ball to the quarterback cleanly. In his seven starts, I could not find a particularly egregious snap. I would find an occasional slow or off-target snap in the shotgun. But it is nearly impossible to remain 100% consistent at the position, especially after bashing heads with linemen for three quarters. 

Impressive second-level athleticism

The first thing you notice about Mustipher is his athleticism. His ability to jump off his snap is something that every center needs to succeed in professional football. His ability to snap and get upfield to engage in the second level of defenders is a strength that cannot be understated.

In the video provided, I give two examples of Mustipher’s ability to engage with linebackers, removing them from the play. Mustipher has this unique ability to adjust on the fly. Although his defender has him on his heels, Mustipher twists his body to tie up the defender, buying the play enough time to leave the line of scrimmage. Mustipher having to rely on this ability is not ideal. I would prefer to see a lineman that completes the block using both strength and athleticism. Still, honestly, if it does not cost yards, it is not something that must change. 

A need to improve his strength

On his overall strength, we find a need for improvement. In Week ten against the Lions, there were about ten or so plays where he gets flat-out beat. Do not expect Mustipher to pancake a defender; instead, he is a textbook example of the fundamental blocking technique. His hands are close to his chest before punching out to grab onto the defender’s chest. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo told reporters in December that Mustipher added 15 pounds by the end of the season, commenting, “He was about 305 or so, and now he’s 320 pounds. There’s a difference.” 

Blitz adjustment

To take the next step, Mustipher has to be better at adjusting to blitzes. The center’s secondary function is to read blitz packages and call protection audibles on the line. The clip provided shows Mustipher recognizing blitz in the A gap, yet his left guard Alex Bars doesn’t pick it up in time. Mustipher does not have a problem peeling off defenders. His ability to engage and re-engage is one reason he continues to play the position. Former starting center and current guard Cody Whitehair thinks he has quickly remedied this issue. In December, Whitehair stated, “You know, he’s done great with I.D-ing everything, getting us all on the same page.” 

Conclusion

Centers are tasked with a lot, and Mustipher does it all well. I don’t consider him a pro-bowl future Hall of Famer on these past seven games alone. I think he has too many issues regarding blitz schemes, and his strength is nothing to write home about. But I think he has the potential to be a solid long-term starter. 

Last offseason, Colts pro-bowl guard Quenton Nelson stayed in the Chicagoland area to assist Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars prepare for the season. Suppose Mustipher continues to train with talent such as Nelson and continues to develop. In that case, I may be biting my own words. I hope I end up doing so.

Watch for yourself:

Chicago Bears: Top 5 things to be excited about for the 2021 season

Ladies and gentlemen, after what seems like an eternity we have arrived. The offseason is entering rookie training camps, and OTA’s are around the corner. After what I can call an absolute home run of a draft, the Chicago Bears have created a ton of buzz about the 2021 season. Statistically, however, the Bears have the 3rd toughest schedule, according to CBS Sports, with a collective opponent 2020 win rate of .550. The schedule appears to be designed with rookie quarterback Justin Fields in mind, as those crafty heads up at NFL HQ slated a majority of the Bears primetime match-ups towards the latter half of the season. You know, just in case Head Coach Matt Nagy pulls the plug on the Dalton experience and throws Fields into the mix.

With all this being said, this season is shaping up to define the direction of the franchise for the next 3-4 years. I don’t foresee the Bears marching into Sofi Stadium in early February, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of people and developments to watch this season. From returning talents like James Daniel and Eddie Goldman to the continuing development of Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery. This season is sure to excite any fan. Here are the top 5 things to be excited about as a Bears fan heading into the 2021 NFL season. 

#5: The boys are back in town – Linemen win games

When burgeoning talent DT Eddie Goldman announced his decision to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, it felt like being hit by a truck. I imagine that’s what opposing Centers and Guards felt as he tore through offensive lines with ease in 2019. I understand the decision though the game is just that – a game. Personal health and family safety will always be more important. I can only hope Goldman picks up where he left off, completing a key tandem with Akiem Hicks anchoring our rush defense.

Another returner this season is pro-bowl OL utilityman, James Daniel. This one gets me excited. After suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in week 5, Bers fans saw a carousel of line-men attempting to stabilize the front 5. Surprising breakout performances by former practice squad members Alex bars and Sam Mustipher indicate the front three interior linemen positions have both depth and talent on the roster. Daniels’ return also signals a much-needed return to stability. 

Bears GM Ryan Pace clearly made improving the Offensive Line a top priority in the off-season. Bringing in Elijah Wilkinson in Free Agency, re-signing Germain Ifedi, and trading up in the second round to steal Oklahoma State stud Teven Jenkins, while selecting Missouri big man Larry Borom in the 6th. Charles Leno and Bobbie Massie will not be returning to Chicago this season. Honestly, I’m not all that upset about it.

Jenkins will most likely get the starting nod at the left tackle spot. This leaves the Right tackle spot an area for competition. Offensive life coach Juan Castillo told reporters that “Larry Borom will compete with Germain Ifedi at RT, but Ifedi will line up at RT to start the season.” That leaves the rest of us wondering if Daniels lines up at center as he did in 2019, or at guard allowing Sam Mustipher to continue his hot play. Regardless of the endless possibilities on the interior offensive line, it looks stacked. David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen (also returning from injury) are sure to eat up the run game with James Daniel’s return to the line.

#4: This is Desai’s world, we’re just living in it 

There’s a new defensive sheriff in town, and his name is Sean Desai. A branch off the ole’ Vic Fangio tree, Sean Desai is a defensive secondary scheme savant. I love Chuck Pagano, an amazing man with an amazing story. But his secondary schemes did not play well to the secondary talent acquired under the Fangio years. After the 2018 Bears Defense dominated the league, the 2019 & 2020 Bears rewarded fans with a step back in just about every metric.

Under Desai, I strongly think the Bears defense is in store for a return to form. Desai is not only an actual professor, holding a Ph.D. from Temple University and teaching classes at Lake Forrest College, but he also schools offenses with his secondary schemes. Doc Desai’s ability to educate and communicate with players lead to his glowing review from DB Prince Amukamara. As Chicago Bears reporter with the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs reports, “Amukamara credits Desai for the first pick-six of his career.”

Look, I still believe Eddie Jackson is a top 5 safety in the NFL. I hope he lives up to his reputation this year under a defense that will be built on the backs of the Bears secondary. Losing Kyle Fuller may throw a wrench in Desai’s plan, but young products like Jaylon Johnson and Kendel Vildor will continue to establish themselves as dominant forces. In a schedule that features quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Russell Willson, and more. A staunch pass defense will be a necessity if the Bears hope to see success. 

#3: From cubs into Bears – Offensive Prospects 

The 2021 Chicago Bears roster is full of 2nd and 3rd years players poised to become household names.

David Montgomery went on a tear ending the season, with over 100 yards in three out of six games. Finishing the 2020 season with just a hair over 1000 yards, I am confident we will see another 1k yard season in 2021. I’m putting my money around 1400. Expect Monty to continue his elite ability to break open-field tackles. His vision is one of the best in the league and I can’t wait to see him put defenses on notice. 

Darnell Mooney What another mid-round steal for Ryan Pace. This kid is fast, has elite hands, and is first among rookie WR’s in broken tackles according to PFF. Any rookie that buys a Juggs machine with his first paycheck then proceeds on to drop only one pass after being targeted 98 times in a season is good in my book.  His speed and route running abilities will be a feature of this offense as Justin Fields establishes himself as QB1. Mooney has a knack for burning nickel corners and getting behind safeties. Fields has a knack at throwing incredibly accurate deep balls. Let’s hope Jalen Ramsey can keep up this time. 

Anthony Miller — This one is a controversial take, a bit spicy if you will. Miller has every tool needed to be an elite slot in the NFL. He just hasn’t taken the next step. With his career on the line, I think he has every reason to do it this year. There’s valid concern around Miller’s maturity. After his late-game ejection against the Saints, many called for the Bears to ship him off during the season. I think it was a wise decision by the front office to keep Miller on staff. As wide receiver coach Mike Furrey stated, “There’s a small increment in improvement so he’s done great, he’s been in our rooms, no issues.” Drafting speedy slot Dazz Newsome also sends a blunt message to Anthony Miller, saying “we have a replacement, let us know when we need to put him in.”

#2: The Packers? What is going on over there? 

How does it feel to have talent surrounding a big question mark under center? That’s what being a Bears fan has felt like for the past three decades. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want to play in Green Bay, and I don’t blame him. The team is refusing to let him walk, and I don’t blame them. Regardless of what happens, I have to admit this has all been extremely amusing. If Blake Bortles becomes QB1 for the Green Bay Packers, this will be one fun show to watch.  

#1.5: Getting to see live football again

My first live Chicago Bears game was in the 2015 preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs. We got blown out. But seeing Cutler, Jefferies, and Howard live was amazing. It’ll feel even more amazing to see Justin Fields and this talented unit out on the field again. There’s nothing quite like being at a Football game. I can’t wait to go back. 

#1: Fiel- I mean the Rookies. 

Pace’s trade with the New York Giants to move up to pick #11 and snag Justin Fields was the shot of adrenaline the Bears fanbase needed. After two consecutive years of letdowns, it seems like the Front Office has finally started listening to the fans. This was Ryan Pace’s best draft as GM. No contest. Pace was able to steal early-round talent late in the draft with picks like Khalil Herbert, Thomas Graham Jr., and Dazz Newsome. He filled needs in the Offensive Line with Maulers like Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom.

I’m stoked to see Justin Fields on Soldier Field. Also, these UDFA’s are fantastic as well. Charles Snowden, an early-round talent, went undrafted. The 6’7”, 240 lb monster of a man is listed early as a defensive lineman. To all the rookies, if you ever end up reading this. Take a breath. Welcome to the greatest city on Earth. Congratulations, and get ready to play some Bears football. 

Altogether, buckle up Bears fans. Though we may not win a ton of games, this team is poised to turn heads. I haven’t been this excited about a season since, well, honestly I can’t remember! 

New York Giants trade back in 2021 NFL Draft First Round

New York Giants

The New York Giants have traded down in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Giants have traded down to the 20th overall pick in the first round with the Chicago Bears. The Giants received pick 20, pick 164 (fifth-round), a 2022 first-round pick, and a 2022 fourth-round pick.

Dave Gettleman, general manager of the New York Giants, was notorious for never trading down in the draft. Tonight he made his first trade down to 20 overall. The Chicago Bears traded up to 11 overall to draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

The Giants missed out on DeVonta Smith and pivoted towards moving down in the draft to gain extra draft capital. Now, the New York Giants have additional capital in this year and next year’s drafts. Barring any more unforeseen trades, Giants will be on the clock at 20 overall.

New York Giants: James Bradberry Stands Out With Stellar Performance Despite Loss

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants endured another heartbreaking loss today. The Giants fell short in their comeback attempt against the Chicago Bears, falling to 0-2 for the fourth year in a row.

Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense surged back late in the game and had a chance to win on the final drive of the game. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. But this game could have been much worse. After a putrid first quarter, it seemed likely that the Giants would be blown out on Sunday.

One factor that held the Giants together on Sunday was their formidable defense. The Chicago Bears were held to only 17 points as the Giants forced 2 turnovers. One player, in particular, stood out on Sunday afternoon: James Bradberry.

James Bradberry Stats and Highlights

The New York Giants signed cornerback James Bradberry to a highly-lucrative contract this offseason. Bradberry inked a three-year deal worth $43.5 million. So far, Bradberry has lived up to the contract, performing as the best player on the Giants’ defense.

In Week Two, Bradberry totaled 4 tackles, 4 passes defended, and 1 interception. He was constantly getting his hands on the football, making plays, and breaking up passes. His interception on Allen Robinson was maybe the most impressive play of the game:

This was one of many impressive plays Bradberry made on the football today. But this is nothing new, rather, this is a continuation of last week. Bradberry was solid in Week One, too, forcing a fumble and deflecting 2 passes.

With 6 passes defended through two games, James Bradberry is pacing out to have one of his career’s best seasons. Continued success from Bradberry in coverage will be key for the Giants as this season continues, especially considering the poor performances from the rest of the team’s cornerbacks through two weeks.

New York Giants: Andrew Thomas vs Khalil Mack A Key Matchup To Watch In Week Two

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants‘ offensive line struggled mightily in Week One. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants’ offensive line allowed pressure on 52.1% of the team’s pass plays against the Steelers last week. This week, New York has to face one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.

Khalil Mack is coming off of an impressive Week One performance that saw him record 6 total pressures. Mack, the three-time First-Team All-Pro, will be lining up against rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas this weekend. Thomas played well in Week One against a fierce Steelers defense. But this week’s matchup will be a true test for the rookie.

Mack v Thomas

Rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas made his debut in Blue against one of the best defenses in the league last week. Thomas’s primary task was blocking Bud Dupree. This was a challenge, but Thomas held his own and looked like the best offensive lineman on the Giants in Week One.

In Week Two, Thomas has an even more challenging task at hand. The rookie out of Georgia will be blocking one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL this week. Khalil Mack will likely be Thomas’s toughest blocking assignment of the 2020 season.

Granted, Thomas will not be blocking Mack the entire game. Khalil played 60% of his snaps lined up over the right tackle last week. But the Bears like to move their star pass-rusher around and get the best matchups possible. They will undoubtedly face him off with Andrew Thomas to test the rookie.

Opposite of Khalil Mack, the Bears have another talented pass-rusher. Robert Quinn, coming off of an 11.5 sack 2019 season with the Cowboys, is now a member of the Bears’ defense. Quinn did not play in Week One, though, and he is questionable to play this week. If he does, this matchup will be even more challenging for Andrew Thomas.

New York Giants: A More Creative Rushing Attack Is The Key To A Win Against Chicago

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Jason Garrett

The New York Giants‘ rushing attack was shut down in Week One of the 2020 NFL season. The Giants were handed a disappointing loss on Monday night against the stout Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in the league and they absolutely suffocated Saquon Barkley and the Giants’ offensive line.

Saquon Barkley is under criticism this week for his performance as a pass-blocker in Week One. But all are aware of the fact that Saquon is one of the best running backs in the NFL when his offensive line does their job. On Monday night, they did not do their job, and the Giants’ offense suffered from the offensive line’s poor performance.

But is it fair to put all of the blame on the offensive line? This line features a rookie left tackle, a starting center who has never before played that position, and a newly-signed swing tackle starting at right tackle. The lack of continuity across the offensive line led to a multitude of negative rushing attempts. But the offensive line does not deserve all of the blame for the team’s pitiful rushing attack in Week One. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett deserves some blame, too, and he needs to implement a more creative rushing attack in order to beat the Chicago Bears in Week Two.

A Lack Of Creativity

The Giants’ rushing attack in Week One lacked creativity. New York’s running plays were predictable, which is why the Steelers seemed to be in the backfield often before the ball was handed off.

Saquon Barkley was given fifteen rushing attempts in Week One. Of these fifteen attempts, eight of them went wide right and five of them went inside right (according to Next Gen Stats). The Giants barely ran the ball to the left side of the line. One attempt went inside left and one attempt went wide left. For the Giants to only run the ball to the left side of the offensive line twice on fifteen attempts is almost inexplicable.

On the left side of the line are arguably the Giants’ two best run-blocking offensive linemen. Andrew Thomas was an elite run-blocker at Georgia and Will Hernandez is now a veteran left guard. Only thirteen percent of Saquon’s rushing attempts followed these two excellent run-blockers.

An even more perplexing statistic relates to the Giants’ usage of pre-snap motion. Across the NFL, the teams with the best rushing attacks emphasize the usage of pre-snap motion (the Ravens, Chiefs, and 49ers are known to lead the league in pre-snap motion percentage). On Monday night, the Giants utilized snap motion on only 1.6% of their offensive snaps. They used all forms of pre-snap motion on a league-lowest 9.4% of the time.

This lack of creativity in the run-game led to a 15 attempt, 6-yard rushing performance by Saquon Barkley. Saquon is an uber-talented player, but he will only go as far as his offensive line and offensive coordinator allow him. In need of a win in Week Two, the Giants need to emphasize the utilization of a more creative rushing attack in order to allow Saquon Barkley to dominate the Bears’ defense.

New York Giants: Offensive Stars Need To Improve In Week Two

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants are coming off of a disappointing loss to kick off the season. On Monday Night, New York lost to the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers with a final score of 26-16. Despite this loss, there were plenty of positives to draw from the Giants’ performance. However, there were some glaring negatives to take away from it as well.

In particular, the Giants had a couple of disappointing performances on the offensive side of the ball. Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, two of the Giants’ most dynamic playmakers, need to improve in Week Two if the Giants want to beat the Chicago Bears.

Saquon Barkley Not An Every-Down Back?

Superstar running back Saquon Barkley has received plenty of criticism from the media and fans after his performance in Week One. Most prominently, former Giants star running back Tiki Barber was very critical of Barkley this week. Tiki was quoted saying:

“Saquon Barkley is a great back, but he might not be an every down back. He cannot pass protect. It’s becoming glaring & could become a liability” – Tiki Barber on Saquon Barkley

What Tiki said does have some substance. Obviously, Saquon is a phenomenal running back and should be on the field as much as possible. He is a mismatch as a receiver and a big-play machine as a runner. And it is hard to criticize Barkley’s Week One rushing performance, given the way his offensive line played on Monday night. But Saquon Barkley’s struggles in pass protection have become a glaring weakness in his game.

Saquon let up more than one sack in pass protection on Monday night. According to Pro Football Focus, Saquon Barkley earned a 27.0 pass-blocking grade in Week One. He was a liability in pass protection for the Giants vs the Steelers. Granted, the Giants were facing arguably the best defense and best pass-rush in the NFL in Week One. It is a long season, so Saquon has plenty of time to improve, but he needs to step up and silence the doubters against the Bears in Week Two.

Evan Engram’s Night To Forget

The uber-versatile tight end Evan Engram had maybe the worst game of his career in Week One. With Jason Garrett serving as the team’s new offensive coordinator, Giants fans heard all season long about how big of a role Evan Engram would have with the Giants moving forward.

While Engram did have a substantial role in the Giants’ game plan versus the Steelers, he put together an extremely disappointing performance in that role. Engram was targeted 7 times on Monday but only hauled in 2 receptions for 9 receiving yards. Evan also dropped 2 passes in this game and committed an offensive pass interference penalty that erased a big gain through the air.

Pro Football Focus’s grading for Engram was pretty harsh, too. They gave Engram the worst grade amongst all tight ends in the league, 30.9 overall. Evan was also a complete liability as a blocker, both in pass protection and in the running game. He earned an 18.2 pass-blocking grade and a 32.9 run-blocking grade, both the lowest marks at the position.

Monday’s game was a night for Engram to forget. He will need to bounce back in a major way on Sunday to quiet the critics. Fans and analysts alike have torn Engram to shreds this week, rightfully so. But, like Barkley, Evan has plenty of time to make things right. A strong performance in Week Two versus the Bears will get Engram back on the right track.