With the New York Giants hosting the Chicago Bears in Week 3 of the NFL preseason, you could be sure there’d be some offensive line issues to talk about. In this match-up of our two lowest ranked lines from 2011, something had to give right?
Well something did give, but given what we’ve come to expect from both units, it could have been a lot worse.
Instead, there were a number of performances to impress (and depress) from some unexpected sources. After all, that’s what happens in preseason.
Let’s take a look at what I noted from watching the first half of this encounter.
Chicago Bears – Three Things of Note
1) Patchy Accuracy
Yesterday I watched Jake Locker fail to put the ball in the places he needed to, and there was a striking resemblance between that performance and the one put on by Jay Cutler. This stood out all the more with how well Eli Manning was playing, but you couldn’t help notice Cutler overthrowing a couple of receivers, failing to recognize defenders in coverage, and just generally not putting the ball in a spot that would help his receivers. The zip on the ball continues to impress, but the placement, as is often the case with Cutler, is hit or miss. Last night it was definitely more miss (though there were some nice throws, such as the one Alshon Jeffry couldn’t hold). The good news is Brandon Marshall looked alert and ‘on it’, and Earl Bennett still displays a knack of getting open, so when Cutler is on, this passing game could really click.
2) Missing Urlacher
When Brian Urlacher missed the 2009 season the strangest thing happened. Lance Briggs struggled. When he came back, Briggs returned to being one of the best weakside linebackers in the league. Well, without Urlacher on the field Briggs had a poor start to this game as Henry Hynoski was able to use his momentum on more than one occasion to ride him out of plays. He wasn’t helped by either Geno Hayes or Nick Roach, both of whom struggled to cope with the amount of misdirection the Giants were using in the running game, and both of whom found themselves washed out on more than one occasion. They got better as the Giants slowed down, but there was evidence here of how much they could miss their defensive general if he’s not on the field for Week 1.
3) Old Problems on the Offensive Line
It didn’t start well. Gabe Carimi gave up a pressure on the first drive, and it seemed on every drive there was a player getting beat at some point in pass protection. That extended to when the left side backups of Chilo Rachal and Chris Williams came in and made you realize that whatever the Bears do (short of getting rid of the ball within two seconds on every play), they’re going to give up a lot of pressure.
A bigger problem was how manhandled they were in the run game. They gave Matt Forte nothing to work with as the line seemed to lack harmony. Guys were getting passed-off and linebackers were being allowed to shoot gaps with no concern for who was picking them up. Throw in some shaky blocking and it could be a long year for this unit.
New York Giants – Three Things of Note
1) Wonderful Wilson
Being that he’s a rookie, I haven’t seen much of David Wilson. Now I have and I must say I’m looking forward to seeing more. The Giants got him into space where he showed his burst through a hole and some good balance to take a big shot and stay on his feet. He turned some decent gains into big ones, and showed what he can do if you give him some space in the passing game, with a big scamper down the left sideline.
2) Mixed Day for the Line
It started off exceptionally well for the Giants. They were giving Manning what time he needed, while beating the Bears up front. They look all the better for Martellus Bennett joining the team. Here’s a player who on three occasions sealed Israel Idonije (a strong man) inside to allow runs outside him, and he did it without giving up an inch. Kevin Boothe also flourished with some nice pull blocking, before things started to unravel as the Bears stopped falling for the same traps, and players like Julius Peppers started making an impact.
Outside of a horribly designed end around that never stood a chance, the play calling seemed to make up for some of the limitations of the players, and bodes well for an improvement on how the ball was run on their way to the Super Bowl. In pass protection, both guards gave up ‘nearly pressures’, while David Diehl found himself beat by Idonije on more than one occasion (only for some help to come his way), while the longer the game went on the less sure you became of Sean Locklear. So, far from perfect but an improvement on last year? It looked as much.
3) Dominance up front
While the Bears offensive line took a beating, it should be noted that the Giants really won the battle at the line of scrimmage. Justin Tuck caused problems from the first series, Osi Umenyiora made life hard for J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams, while the linebackers and safeties filled up running lanes like it was going out of fashion. It reminded me a lot of the way they played against the Falcons in the postseason last year, and while there are some question marks in the defensive backfield, the performance should encourage Giants fans.