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Chad Wheeler film study: Did the Giants make the right choice at right tackle?
December 03, 2018 03:03AM
The New York Giants made waves early on the third Sunday of the 2018 season when it was announced that they were benching right tackle Ereck Flowers in favor of second-year UDFAChad Wheeler.There was much rejoicing among the fan base Sunday morning when the news hit. And at first blush the victory over the Houston Texans Cheap Eli Manning Jersey , weighed against losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys, gives credence to the Giants’ decision.But it still bears asking whether the Giants’ choice was the right one going forward. To answer the question, let’s look at the tape.Pass protectionFirst quarter, 5:37, first-and-10, Houston 29 The Giants start the play in the shotgun with their 11-personnel set. Odell Beckham is the lone receiver to the offensive right, with Evan Engram inline next to Wheeler, while Sterling Shepard is in the slot and Cody Latimer is out wide at the X position. The play is supposed to be a quick screen pass to Wayne Gallman, but it is sniffed out and blown up almost immediately Tyrann Mathieu, but that isn’t what we are here for. The Texans are in their 4-2-5 nickel set, with J.J. Watt lined up at left defensive end, at the 7-technique outside of the right tackle. Watt takes an outside route to the quarterback right from the start, and Wheeler quickly gets into his kick slide to meet and usher him around the pocket. However, just as the two are about to make contact, Wheeler lunges, opens his hips away from Watt, and lets his hands go wide. The wide hands and open hips give Watt an opening to use a rip move, gaining leverage and turning Wheeler’s back to the line of scrimmage.Manning is just able to get the pass off before the diving Watt can bat it down, but he still takes the big defensive end’s leg to the back of the knee. The play went nowhere, but thankfully Manning got up quickly.Play 2 Third quarter, 8:35, first-and-10, Giants’ 9-yard lineOnce again the Giants are in their 11-personnel, shotgun set. This time, Rhett Ellison is the tight end and he is attached on the left side of the line, while the two receivers are on the offensive right.The Giants use play-action to fake a run to the right. The play-action is sold well, sucking in the linebackers and moving the defense away from Sterling Shepard in the slot. Unfortunately, safety Kareem Jackson is drawn in to the passing lane and deflects the ball. Once again Watt is lined up on the defensive right, outside of Wheeler’s outside shoulder. Unlike the previous play, the Giants’ run-action fake freezes Watt slightly, forcing him to play the run instead of rushing the passer all-out. Watt is still easily able to win Wheeler’s chest plate and establish leverage, and would have discarded the block to make a play on Barkley if he had the ball. However, Wheeler does a good enough job of staying in Watt’s way and selling the run block that he isn’t able to impact the play. It’s part scheme and part player, and except for a good play to knock the ball down by Jackson, the would be a win.Run blocking Building off of a play-action pass, let’s take a look at Wheeler’s run blocking.First quarter, 7:42, first-and-10, Giants 39-yard lineThis is the fifth play of the game for the Giants’ offense. The team comes out in their 12 personnel package (two tight ends), with Evan Engram attached to the left side of the line while Rhett Ellison attached on the right side of the line. “Smash mouth football” and “spread offense” aren’t usually spoken together, but that’s what this is. The Giants have their wide receivers both lined up out wide, and with Ellison , Engram, and Barkley on the field, the threat of the pass is definitely present. That keeps the Texans from crowding the line of scrimmage. And this isn’t true “power” football, with Ellison and Engram both releasing into routes. However, the alignment and routes combine to keep Texans’ defense from keying on the run completely and ignoring the pass. As a result, what looks to be an 8-man box is effectively a six-man box and a favorable run look.The play is made by a good block from John Greco at center and a straight mauling by Will Hernandez at left guard. Wheeler isn’t a huge factor in the play at all, but given Watt’s speed into the back field, sealing the back-side is important none the less. Wheeler does a good job of getting in Watt’s way, actually winning the hand battle for a moment — plenty long enough for Barkley to run through the gaping hole to the left. Watt is eventually able to discard Wheeler’s block and rallies to the ball, but not before Barkley is down for a 13-yard gain.A quick look at FlowersThis is an attempt to convert a third-and-13 on the Giants’ second drive in their week 2 match-up against the Dallas Cowboys. Flowers was far from perfect in this game, but he showed significant improvement in his second start at right tackle since 2012. Dallas runs a slot blitz under a Cover 2 shell, meaning that not only does Manning not have much time to get the pass off, nothing comes open down the field until he decides to take the check-down to Wayne Gallman. Demarcus Lawrence rushes the right B-gap, but Flowers easily passes him off to Omameh and Greco after the linebacker threatening to blitz that gap drops in to coverage. Flowers actually does a great job to go from defending the B-gap to getting out to pick up the blizting slot corner. Between the block of Lawrence and picking up the blitzer, Manning has a pocket to step up in to and gets the ball to Gallman. The running back isn’t able to pick up the first down and the Giants have to punt.Final thoughtsI don’t say this to dump on Wheeler, but it was difficult to find positives in his game this past Sunday. Granted, he was lined up against one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, but even Whitney Mercilus gave him problems. His best reps, and the second play featured was among them, came when the rusher used an outside move. On those plays he was generally able to force them around the pocket.But he proved consistently unable to deal with inside moves. Any time a rusher rushed through the right B gap between Wheeler and Omameh, he barely slowed them down. Each time, the lunge, open hips, and wide hands he showed in the first play proved to be his undoing. By turning perpendicular to the line of scrimmage too early, Wheeler was essentially opening a door for the rushers and making it almost impossible to for him to gain leverage on the rusher. A tendency for his hips to rise into contact only compounded the problem.The Giants won Sunday because were able to scheme around the weaknesses on their of offensive line. By using quick passes, misdirection, and getting Eli Manning out of the pocket — not to mention Manning playing much, much better than the previous week — the team was largely able to function in spite of the Texans’ talented front seven.It doesn’t get easier for Wheeler, however. This coming week the team will host the New Orleans Saints and defensive lineman Cameron Jordan. Like Watt, Jordan is a big, long, powerful, and athletic defensive lineman who lines up predominantly on the right side.The win likely means that the right tackle job is Wheeler’s to lose, and the Giants have to hope that he will improve in the role. Things won’t really get easier from here on out, from Jordan next week to Ryan Kerrigan in Washington to the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive front, to Khalil Mack and the Bears. The line has its work cut out for it, and the scheme that the Giants used in Houston is on tape for their opponents to study.Fantasy Football Friday: Start/sit for Week 1 of 2018 NFL season Start/sit is a big thing for Fantasy Football. Decisions like these always need to be made and it’s always better to get advice. But I’m not particularly a fan of generic start/sit columns because there’s so much unknown — what scoring your league has, roster size, do you have any other options? Unfortunately there’s really no way to personally cater this column to you, so we get these columns that list a few players that might have a sizable group of people on the fence. At the same time, I want to cater this to you. You’re who I’m trying to help. Trying emphasized. If you like the column as it is, awesome! At the end of this post Cheap Sterling Shepard Jersey , I’ll put a poll to whether you’d like start/sit to keep appearing like this or if you’d like something that could be more personalized, like maybe an hour or so Sunday morning on Twitter or through the Questions feature on Instagram stories. Please let your opinion be known.With that out of the way, here’s start/sit for Week 1.Running backStart: Jamaal Williams, Green Bay PackersJamaal Williams is currently Green Bay’s starting running back, at least until Aaron Jones returns from suspension and maybe after. Williams didn’t put up overly impressive numbers last season, but there is some reason to believe in improvement. Per Next Gen Stats. Williams was ninth in running back Efficiency last season, which I found was more predictive year-to-year than just yards per carry. The Packers are favored by over a touchdown, which could lead to some increased work on the ground at the end of the game.Start: Marshawn Lynch, Oakland RaidersIt’s an easy joke to make, but Jon Gruden’s coaching philosophy might not have evolved from the last time he was a head coach. Considering all he’s said and done throughout the offseason, it’s hard to imagine he’s not a firm believer in running the ball and running it often — even if it is straight into Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. However, the Rams did give up the second most fantasy points per game to running backs last season and Lynch is sure to see volume on Sunday.Sit: Chris Carson, Seattle SeahawksPeople might not remember how good Chris Carson was last season when he was healthy. Unfortunately that might not help him in the Week 1 matchup against the Denver Broncos. For the bit the Broncos defense slipped last season, the run defense was still one of the best in the league — third in DVOA, sixth-fewest fantasy points allowed per game to running backs. The Seahawks appear to have a new commitment to the run game, but that might not find success early in the season in Denver.Sit: Adrian Peterson, Washington RedskinsWe’ve talked a bit this offseason about how running into stacked boxes instantly decreases the chance of a running play being successful. Adrian’s Peterson’s running style calls for defenses to stack the box against him because of the heavy formations his team rolls out for him. He usually needs a fullback and can’t really run from shotgun. He’s going against defense that was the best run defense by DVOA last season and allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. That defense is now coached by the guy who led the No. 5 rush defense by DVOA and allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Wide receiverStart: Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh SteelersSince 2014 in games without Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger has averaged two more pass attempts and 43 more passing yards per game than with Bell in the lineup. The short passes typically reserved for Bell turn into longer passes to wide receivers. Last year no team ran base defense more than the Cleveland Browns, which is asking for the Steelers to come out with three wide receivers and sling the ball around. Smith-Schuster is a big play waiting to happen against a defense that tied for the sixth-most passing touchdowns of 20 or more yards allowed last season.Start: Keelan Cole, Jacksonville JaguarsKeelan Cole is the latest in a now long line of acquired and developed Jaguars receivers that don’t get enough attention because of the quarterback situation. But Cole, a former undrafted free agent, is quite good. From Week 9 through the end of the regular season, Cole had the 13th-most fantasy points among wide receivers and only Marvin Jones (19.8) had a higher yards per reception than Cole (18.7) among wide receivers with at least 30 catches in that span. If Cole gets a bunch of Eli Apple on Sunday, he could have a nice day.Sit: Robby Anderson, New York JetsRobby Anderson is the Jets’ No. 1 receiver and last year he played that role quite well with Josh McCown. On Monday night, though, the Jets will face the Detroit Lions and that means Anderson is likely to see a good amount of Darius Slay, one of the league’s most underrated cornerbacks. Last season the Lions were third in DVOA against opposing No. 1 receivers and Slay followed top receivers most weeks. Between the tough matchup and the first start for a rookie quarterback, it might be better to wait and see with Anderson before using him later in the season.Sit: Sterling Shepard, New York GiantsAll the talk about Odell Beckham and Jalen Ramsey kind of overshadows that Jacksonville has another really really good cornerback in A.J. Bouye. If Shepard plays outside, he’ll likely get Bouye on most of his routes — or he’ll get Ramsey if the two stick to sides. Even in the slot, Shepard won’t have a an easy matchup. If you have a better option at receiver, it might be the right place to go and avoid the Jacksonville matchup with the Giants figure out their offense to open season.Tight endStart: Delanie Walker, Tennessee TitansNo team gave up more fantasy points to tight ends last season than the Miami Dolphins — they narrowly beat the New York Giants (10.2 to 10.1). The Dolphins upgraded at safety and linebacker in the draft with the selections of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker, but there’s still plenty of places for a veteran like Walker to exploit the defense. If he’s healthy — he had been out of practice but did not appear on the injury report this week — he should be a big part of a Titans’ passing game that is still working things out with the wide receivers.Sit: Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati BengalsTyler Eifert is healthy at the moment, but the Bengals want to preserve that health for as long as they can. It looks like that will involve a limited snap count, at least in the early part of the season. While some of those limited snaps should take place in the red zone — somewhere Eifert has been great — it’s safer to see what this looks like in a game before hoping Eifert can become and Antonio Gates-like red zone specialist. Tight end is always deep and there will be plenty of options to fill in like Tyler Higbee against the Raiders or Ben Watson against the Buccaneers this week if you need a streamer.

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