New York Giants offensive line faces strong challenge to start the season

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants kick off their season tomorrow afternoon against the Denver Broncos. There is plenty of excitement surrounding the Giants this year as they spent a lot of money to improve the weakpoints of their roster this offseason. However, one weak area of the team went largely untouched. The Giants did not do much to improve their offensive line.

The New York Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in 2020. In 2020, according to ESPN, the Giants’ pass-block win rate ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. Despite this, the team made no major moves to upgrade their offensive line in the 2021 offseason, other than acquiring some quality depth pieces.

As the Giants face off against the Denver Broncos tomorrow, the game will serve as a strong challenge for New York’s offensive line – the unit that might make or break the team’s season.

The Denver Broncos defensive front

Von Miller is back for the Denver Broncos this year after missing the entirety of the 2020 season with an injury. Von Miller is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Miller is a 3x All-Pro edge rusher that will line up over the Giants’ right tackle and wreak havoc this Sunday.

Opposite of Miller is another quality pass-rusher: Bradley Chubb. The fourth-year player out of NC State has racked up 20.5 career sacks in 34 games, establishing himself as one of the best youn pass-rushers in the league. Chubb will line up over left tackle Andrew Thomas, the Giants’ fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The team has set big expectations for Thomas after he had a rookie season filled with peaks and valleys. Chubb will serve as a formidable opponent for Andrew Thomas to kick off his second season against.

Despite being banged up throughout the year, the Denver Broncos defense still managed to total 42 sacks in 2020. Keeping Daniel Jones upright and out of harm’s way is of the utmost importance this season. Jones is looking to establish himself as a franchise quarterback in 2021, but he will only go as far as his offensive line will take him. The New York Giants offensive line needs to set the tone in Week One with a strong performance against a formidable defense.

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Denver Broncos

Week 3 sees the New York Jets made a trip to the Rockies to battle the Denver Broncos, who are also facing a lengthy playoff drought.

The Opponent: Denver Broncos
The Dates: Week 3, September 26, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
The Series: Denver leads 21-16-1 (last meeting: 2020, 37-28 DEN)

Much like Elaine Benes’ heartbreaking revelation that she was turning into her incompetent friend George Costanza, the Denver Broncos may be coming to a similar epiphany of depression: they’re slowly transforming into the New York Jets.

Denver’s extended Super Bowl hangover…they haven’t reached the NFL postseason since their triumph over Carolina in Super Bowl 50…is only at five years compared to the Jets’ five-plus decades. That postseason drought, however, is tied for second-worst in the league (Arizona and Cincinnati are likewise shamed) behind only the Jets’ decade-long disappearance. What’s particularly troubling in Denver is the fact that their post-Super Bowl rut has stationed them at the bottom of the NFL’s standings. An active streak of four straight losing seasons is their longest such since a nine-year tally mostly accumulated during their AFL days. The 23 wins gained in that span best only four other teams.

The Broncos are a franchise in flux, cursed with both a quarterback controversy and a dominant thrower stationed in a divisional rival’s camp (Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City) with no end to his reign in sight. Head coach Vic Fangio is entering his third season, the proverbial make-or-break campaign, with only a dozen wins under his belt. A once-proud defense is struggling to regain its footing.

Their matchup against the Jets is the conclusion of an intriguing September slate. The Broncos have a prime opportunity to start 3-0 as a Week 2 matchup in Jacksonville is sandwiched by showdowns against the reeling New York franchises. Gang Green’s visit will serve as their 2021 home opener.

Denver and New York will square off for the second straight season. A Thursday night get-together, won by Denver in a 37-28 final, was overshadowed by late extracurriculars said to be exacerbated by ousted defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny on the Broncos

Quarterbacks old and new have taken center stage in Denver’s endeavors of the new decade. Life after Peyton Manning proved to be too much for franchise legend John Elway, who stepped out of the general manager role over this offseason, passing the affair over to George Paton, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings’ front office.

Paton raised the heat on incumbent franchise thrower Drew Lock by acquiring brief Jet Teddy Bridgewater for a day three pick. Bridgewater is by far one of the most inspiring stories in recent NFL memory: last season saw him return to the brotherhood of NFL starting quarterbacks in Carolina after suffering a devastating non-contact injury in Vikings camp in 2016. Paton is very familiar with Bridgewater’s work, as he was the assistant general manager when Minnesota made him a first-round pick in 2014.

Lock is in a precarious position as he, like Fangio, enters his third season in the Rockies with a lot to prove. He tied for the league lead in interception with Carson Wentz (15) last season and is threatening to become the latest failed franchise project in the post-Manning era (joining washouts like Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, and Trevor Siemian). The Missouri alum ended the year on a strong note, posting a 92.1 passer rating over his last four games, but the upcoming preseason slate will be crucial for him to prove can still be a long-term solution for an NFL franchise.

The ultimate shame about Denver’s quarterback issues is that they have a strong, skilled arsenal to work with. Courtland Sutton missed all but two games in 2020 due to a torn ACL, but the Broncos enjoyed promising showings from Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, and tight end Noah Fant. Elsewhere in the backfield, the team lost Phillip Lindsay to Houston but is set to welcome back accomplished veteran Melvin Gordon.

Defensively, the team is set to welcome back franchise face Von Miller, who returns from a devastating peroneal tendon injury that kept him out of the 2020 season entirely.  Bradley Chubb rose to the occasion in Miller’s absence, earning his first Pro Bowl nomination and approval on his fifth-year option. The Jets felt Chubb’s wrath firsthand, as Sam Darnold was victimized for 2.5 sacks in the aforementioned Thursday night get-together.

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in Denver?

The Broncos had an early draft pick to work with, choosing to use the ninth overall pick on Alabama defender Patrick Surtain II. His arrival was part of an expensive renovation project in the Denver secondary, as the Broncos bestowed over $65 million in guaranteed money to Justin Simmons, Kyle Fuller, Kareem Jackson, and Ronald Darby.

At $61 million over four seasons, Simmons (Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked safety in 2021 and earner of 16 interceptions since his 2016 entry) is now the highest-paid safety in football. Once Fuller was let go from Chicago, reuniting with Fangio, his former defensive coordinator with the Bears, was a de facto no-brainer. Fuller was added on a one-year deal worth nearly $10 million, it’s clear that Denver expects a lot of him in this prove-it year.

After Surtain’s selection, the Broncos also added Javonte Williams in the second round. The North Carolina alum shared the Tar Heels’ rushing duties with fellow rookie and current Jet Michael Carter. With Gordon in the latter part of his two-year deal, Denver could begin a transition plan that would make Williams their ground man of the future.

How to Beat Them

-Corral the QB

The Jets’ pass rush has a brilliant opportunity to show how far they’ve come from the depths of the 2020 season. That nationally televised loss against the Broncos let America know just how far the Jets had fallen. They failed to take down Denver third-stringer Brett Rypien at any point during the night, letting up a whopping 37 points and 359 yards of offense.

Listing pressure on the quarterback as a key to victory is a football cliche, perhaps the football equivalent of “pucks deep“. But when you’re facing a team that’s dealing with uncertainty in the most important role in football, dealing with a battle that could well extend into the regular season, the pressure becomes more important than ever. The Jets spent this offseason further bolstering a pass rush that was one of the rare silver linings of a 2020 season. If there’s any unit on their current depth chart that can be considered “elite”, that’s it.

Week 3 could also be a breakout for the New York pass rush because of Denver’s issues on the offensive line. Ja’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season and was later released after suffering a torn Achilles in May. Another former Bear, Bobby Massie, is expected to take over. Division III standout Quinn Meinerz should also raise a little heat on incumbent center Lloyd Cushenberry. Granted an opportunity to build long-term momentum, the Jets must take advantage.

-Neutralize the Weaponry

Denver has stockpiled several offensive weapons that the quarterback, be it Bridgewater, Lock, or someone from the 2022 draft class, could work wonders with. The Jets found out about the group’s potential the hard way last fall: going up against Rypien, an undrafted second-year man making his first NFL start, Patrick tallied 113 yards on six clutch receptions, while Jeudy literally stole his first NFL touchdown from Pierre Desir.

The showdown against Denver will be one of the Jets’ biggest challenges in the early going, especially with Sutton’s potential return to the lineup. But with so many areas to improve after the horrors of 2020, it was almost a guarantee that one or more areas of the roster were going to be neglected. That turned out to be the secondary, which is set to see Bless Austin and Bryce Hall headlined at cornerback. Projected top strong safety Ashtyn Davis is already out for Week 1, while rookies and undrafted journeymen are expected to receive major snaps.

This visit against Denver presents a major opportunity for Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich to show their impact. Whether the Jets capitalize remains, as always, the question.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Break Down: NC States’ Bradley Chubb Is A Monster — Video Analysis

Here we go guys, let’s delve into New York Giants’ first-round target Bradley Chubb and what makes him so great.

Analyzing his impact on the field and breaking down his skill set will give us a solid idea of what he can offer to a team that traded away tenured edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.

To start things off, take a look at this complication of all of Chubb’s sacks from 2017:

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You will see that a majority of his sacks come from his speed around the edge and attack the opposing quarterback in his drop back. Against NFL talent, this approach will be far less effective. One of the most interest things to point out is that Chubb has a superb swim move on the inside.

His ability to utilize his speed to beat the tackle on the edge and then dive back in to the inside is a professional skill. This requires immense strength and agility. Chubb’s 6-foot-4  frame and 269-pounds of power only aids his skill-set and contributed towards his tangibles.

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One thing that Chubb struggles with is hip movement and lower body control. He tends to get lazy with his legs and can often be stood up by athletic tackles. He uses his upper body to compensate for his lack of power from his torso and hips.

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In this clip you can see his superior vision, agility and tackling ability. He immediately bounces to the inside, locates the runner, and makes the tackle flawlessly.

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To attest to Chubb’s lower body weakness, this clip with show you how powerful his arms and upper body are, while his legs seem to be lagging behind. Against professional talent this ‘will’ be an issue.

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His primary strength is his violent hands and ability to wreck havoc on an offensive lineman at the point of attack. His ability to disrupt the hand placement of linemen really stands out when being compared to other quality edge rushers.

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For comparisons sake, let’s look at him side-by-side with JPP:

When we look at Pierre-Paul, we instantly recognize his motor and persistence as a pass rusher. He will chase running backs 50 yards down field if need be, which is what separates him from the rest. His arm strength and speed are comparable to Chubb, while his lower body contains more power, which has been refined over the years.

With a year or two of development, Chubb could be one of the most dominant defensive lineman in the league.

Chubb’s greatest strength:

The most enticing aspect of the NC State edge rusher is his versatility. He would fit perfectly in a James Bettcher defense. The Giants are likely to adapt to a hybrid form of the 3-4 defense. Chubb’s quickness could see him stand up on the edge or even act as a de-facto linebacker.

Utilizing him in the trenches would be a field day for Bettcher, who will be overseeing a defensive line with talent on every corner.

New York Giants Draft Profiles: DE Bradley Chubb

The New York Giants just traded veteran defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay. This move clears up a lot of cap space for the team, but also creates a need at pass rusher. Having the second overall pick in the draft makes Bradley Chubb a real possibility for the Giants to draft him.

Chubb had a very decorated career at N.C. State, finishing his senior year with first time All-American and first-time All-ACC honors. He has shown flashes to be the full package in a defensive end and could be the most talented pass rusher coming out of the draft in years.

Strengths:

He has the size and athletic ability necessary for the position at the NFL level. Has shown versatility to set the edge and shoot gaps in the run game, rush the passer, and can even drop into coverage from time to time. He is relentless in his attack and has fantastic body control.

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Weaknesses:

His aggression can hurt him at times, as he tends to play top heavy and lose body control. He needs to work on his initial hand placement and technique. Balance and pad level can be inconsistent at times.

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Summary:

Bradley Chubb is a natural talent at defensive end, a day one starter that will be good for a long time. Though he is more of a natural 4-3 DE, he may not fit the scheme of the Giants new defense, he may not be a talent the Giants cannot pass up at number two.