By all accounts, New York Giants rookie right tackle Evan Neal had a rough game on Monday night. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Neal and the Giants offensive line allowed five sacks in a 23-16 loss. The Giants simply looked overmatched in the passing game.
Neal had his share of lumps, but let’s be clear: any rookie facing Demarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons is going to be in for a rough night. However, Neal seemed to be the discussion of many on Twitter during the game.
Dlaw is eating on Alabama rookie Evan Neal..his second sack of the game
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) September 27, 2022
Evan Neal is really struggling out there.
— TheGiantsWire (@TheGiantsWire) September 27, 2022
Evan Neal and Ickey Ekwonu are latest evidence that the NFL remains hard.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) September 27, 2022
Neal did have a rough game, allowing three sacks and five pressures, but it wasn’t all bad, and there’s plenty to take from this to improve on in the future. So let’s see what happened and what can be fixed.
First note on this sack: this is a terrible chip block by the TE here. You want to get a shoulder into the defender, or at least throw him off his path. The TE here does neither.
As for Neal, his first problem here is stopping his feet when he tries to throw his hands to start the block. Keeping his feet moving here would allow for him to continue to move his body, even if Lawrence swipes his hands down like he did in this clip.
In addition, Neal is also leaning into Lawrence to block him, which throws him off balance. Coming out of college, Neal did have issues with balance and leaning into players, but it’s definitely fixable. If the feet keep moving here he should be able to reset his hands and make Lawrence run the arc outside.
Again, Neal stops his feet here and starts to lean. Once Lawrence swipes his hands away, Neal is unable to recover, and gets into panic mode. Balance and weight distribution is so important when it comes to pass blocking—the leverage game is an art, and if leverage is lost then most of the time the rep is lost. Neal remains upright all the way until contact. Another bad rep, but something that’s fixable.
Watch Tristan Wirfs here, arguably the best right tackle in the game. Watch his weight distribution here on this pass set. He never leans, keeps his feet moving, and stonewalls his defender. Notice how he never gets flat-footed either, just a textbook rep.
It wasn’t all bad for Neal, however. He had some good moments in the run game, and this really stood out to me. Neal’s ability to move in space and getting a pancake on LB Leighton Vander Esch was really impressive.
Overall, I think one thing can be learned from Neal’s performance: the NFL is really hard, especially at lineman. As media members and fans of the sport, people are raising their standard based on the absurd play we’ve gotten from rookies such as Rashawn Slater and Tristan Wirfs. Neal had a rough game, but there’s precedent for his improvement over time, and it comes from his teammate: LT Andrew Thomas.
Thomas had a rough start to his career. In 2020, his Blown Block rate was 4.8 percent, fourth highest among all left tackles with a minimum of 100 snaps. That number dropped drastically to 2.5 percent in 2021, and this year he’s among the bright young stars at the position. Sometimes, it takes time for everything to click, and that patience needed for Thomas is what Giants fans will need for Evan Neal throughout his rookie year.
Long story short: he’ll be fine.