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The Giants player(s) who should scare the Vikings: The offensive line

By Matthew Coller

Each week during the Minnesota Vikings’ season, 1500ESPN will look at a player (or players) who could be the difference between a win and loss on Sunday and the challenges that player presents the Vikings. For Week 4, we look at the New York Giants’ offensive line.

Yes, the Giants’ two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Eli Manning and superstar No. 1 wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. Those are clearly the most dangerous components of the Giants’ offense, but their offensive line has been the straw that stirs the drink. The Giants rank fourth in the NFL in Yards Per Play and No. 2 in Pass Yards Per Attempt when adjusted for lost sack yards. New York has only lost 32 total yards to sacks, which is 8th best in the league.

On an individual level, Pro Football Focus ranks Justin Pugh the best guard in the NFL through three weeks with John Jerry ranking 10th. At tackle, Ereck Flowers is 7th at his position and Bobby Hart (who has played the last two weeks in place of Marshall Newhouse) sits 27th overall. The only weak link has been center Weston Richburg, who is 30th on PFF.

The key to the Vikings’ defensive prowess has been the pressure from their defensive line. Mike Zimmer’s D has sacked opposing quarterbacks on 11.7% of dropbacks, which is No. 1 in the NFL. Putting Marcus Mariota, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton under duress has caused them to toss five interceptions, the second most in the league.

So, in the case of Monday Night Football, whether the strong Giants’ offensive line can slow Minnesota’s dynamic attack will be the difference.

Let’s have a look at what New York does well…

One thing the Giants offensive line creates for their quarterback is lanes to throw the ball. The team’s blockers don’t simply stop D-linemen from charging and hold on for dear life (like we’ve often seen from Minnesota O-linemen), instead they gain leverage and create space for Manning to throw down field. Watch No. 77. The defensive tackle lines up off his outside shoulder and he manhandles him to open up the lane for his quarterback.

Manning has been one of the quickest in the league in terms of release time at about 2.4 seconds, which has helped his offensive line. But when called upon, they have given him clean pockets to step up and put his body into deep throws. The push from both guards has made it challenging for blitzing linebackers to find holes to pressure the QB, giving Manning more time and an area to step and fire. Check the linebacker here. This is brilliant work by Justin Pugh. He blocks the DT, but passes him off to the center because he sees the linebacker is going to blitz. Realizing Pugh is free to block him 1-on-1, the linebacker tries a different route and is way too late getting to Manning. Against the Vikings, this may be a tough task as Pugh and Richburg will take on Linval Joseph, who is terrific at forcing both the guard and center where he wants them to open up Anthony Barr or whoever is rushing.

We hear all the time from quarterbacks and coaches about “going through progressions.” We saw from Cam Newton last week that it’s much harder to go through said progressions when Everson Griffen or Danielle Hunter is bearing down on you. Manning, however, has been able to look to his first read, then second quite often. In fact, he even mentioned in his conference call that it’s been a difference maker in the offense’s success. Here’s a good example.

The Giants have ripped off big chunks of yardage on screen passes. They will be missing Shane Vereen, who was a significant part of their rushing and passing attack, but you can see that the offensive line plays a role in creating space for the back and getting up field quickly. Here the guard does an excellent job of directing his man to the outside, then releasing and busting it to get out in front of the running back.

With some success in the running game, Manning has been able to use the play action successfully at times. The offensive line not only has to sell the run block, but make sure Manning doesn’t run right into a pass rusher who has snuffed out the fake.

An under-appreciated faction of the Vikings’ defensive greatness thus far has been how well they have shut down opponents in the run game. Minnesota ranks 7th having given up just 3.5 Yards Per Carry.

Before his injury, Vereen was averaging 4.7 YPC, in part because of the offensive line creating holes up front. The Giants often run out of the shotgun, which then later creates more playaction opportunities. The drive by No. 77 here of the defensive tackle is outstanding. The battle between New York and Minnesota’s interior lineman will be a great one to watch.

And another one, this time the tight end even jumps in on the action.

There is no question the Vikings have one of the most outstanding defensive lines in the NFL, but they will be up against a very impressive offensive line unit with the Giants – one that plays well to the strengths of their quarterback.

Make sure you check out Arif Hasan’s upcoming piece on how the Vikings will attack them….

The post The Giants player(s) who should scare the Vikings: The offensive line appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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