Film review: Martellus Bennett looked improved in the passing game, but is his run blocking suffering?

In the opener against Dallas, Martellus Bennett was targeted 6 times in the passing game.  He made 4 catches for 40 yards and even made a play in the end zone in which he used his impressive size to shield the safety and haul in a TD pass late in the game.  It was arguably the most productive game he has had in the passing game since he was a rookie with Dallas way back in 2008.  From that perspective, it was an encouraging debut for Bennett as a Giant.

However, Bennett was not good as a blocker in the run game.  The Giants ran to Bennett’s side of the formation 14 times last Wednesday.  They gained 27 yards.  When they didn’t run to Bennett’s side, they gained 55 yards on 5 rushes.  That number is skewed a bit, as one run was a draw to Ahmad Bradshaw that went for 33 when the Cowboys were selling out to stop the pass late in the game, although the best run of the night, Bradshaw’s 10 yard TD run, came on a play in which the Giants ran away from Bennett.

I wanted to take a deeper look at the tape and chart Bennett on every play they ran to his side.  It wasn’t pretty.  When the Dallas defense wasn’t getting penetration on him, Bennett spent the entire evening “catching” blocks or just trying to get in their way, as opposed to looking to drive defenders off the ball. He was willing to stalemate with the defender at the line of scrimmage.  There was almost no aggression.

Here is what I saw on each of the 14 times the Giants tried to run the ball to Bennett’s side of the formation:

Yards Bennett’s blocking activity
2 Anthony Spencer sets the edge, gets a yard into the backfield.
3 Bennett lined up as slot WR. Went immediately to second level, whiffed on Bruce Carter.
3 DeMarcus Ware easily sheds Bennett’s block, makes tackle.
2 DeMarcus Ware sheds Bennett block again with ease, makes tackle.
2 This was the play where David Wilson fumbled. Bennett attempts to block Jason Hatcher. Hatcher throws Bennett aside. Bennett falls and may have even held Hatcher. Hatcher gets first crack at recovering Wilson’s fumble.
3 Bennett lined up as slot WR. Anthony Spencer sets the edge on a Bennett block, and is in on the tackle.
5 Nice job blocking Spencer, nothing there, Bradshaw bounces it to other side of formation.
-2 1st and G from the 1. Kenyon Coleman gets 2 yards of penetration on Bennett, forces Bradshaw to continue to stretch his run to outside, runs out of room out of bounds for a loss of 2.
-1 2nd and G from the 3. DeMarcus Ware gets a yard of penetration, sets the edge on Bennett’s block, forces Bradshaw back inside, where the interior linemen clean up for loss of 1.
0 Tough to figure this play out. Spencer has the edge set on a Bennett block, and looks to me that he thinks Bradshaw has turned the play inside, so he follows the play that way. Bradshaw winds up trying to bounce it outside where Spencer formerly was, but he’s cleaned up by the D on the slow-developing play.
2 Bennett content to stalemate with Spencer.
5 Good block by Bennett. Doesn’t drive Spencer, but occupies him enough for Bradshaw to get around the edge.
0 Bennett engages with Coleman, Coleman holds his ground initially, gets a yard of push into backfield, clogs up left side, LB cleans up.
4 4th and 1 situation. Cowboys either expecting pass, or content to let the Giants run the ball and take more time off the clock. Hatcher shoots inside, and Bennett does a good job shuttling him further down the line, and Bradshaw slips right by for the first down.

Anytime a reporter put a microphone in front of Martellus Bennett this preseason, he talked about developing rapport in the passing game with his new QB, Eli Manning.  That’s fine and good, but the Giants brought Bennett in to utilize his excellent blocking ability from the TE spot to improve their woeful rushing attack of a year ago.

While Bennett certainly looks improved in the passing game after one game, he also looks nowhere near as effective in the run game as he was in Dallas.

12 Comments

  1. Peter Gorsky says:

    You’ve been anti-martellus bennett.. even predicting he’d get cut

    you said hes a bad receiver based on the fact that he did not get enough oppurtunities so by that faulty logic that just means he wont be good in the passing game, but hes shown anything BUT that as a giant. he looks like he has great potential and hes going to only improve as a blocker

    1. 1. I never predicted he’d get cut. Just said it wouldn’t surprise me.
      2. I didn’t say he was a bad receiver because he didn’t get many opportunities. I said he was a bad receiver because… well… he was a bad receiver.

  2. [...] Bennett looked improved in the passing game, but is his run blocking suffering?   [...]

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  5. Profootball Focus said Bennett was a blocker on 20 run plays and scored a .6 in the game as a run blocker, which would not be much off his pace of 2011 over the course of a full season. Certainly wouldn’t consider that bad.

    I know you’ve mentioned as well that Hatcher is a player who can really set the edge well, perhaps you’re not giving enough credit to the way Hatcher played?

    1. Jimmy Kempski says:

      Yeah, I saw that. No idea what PFF is looking at. They give a win to a player on every play. I would suspect they gave him wins for all the times he was content to stalemate. But his run blocking was far more aggressive in Dallas. He looked passive Wednesday night.

      It’s Spencer that’s the world’s greatest edge setter, not Hatcher. Spencer played OK in the run game.

  6. ct17 says:

    I am surprised, because when I broke down run game tape in the preseason, Bennett was our best blocker. I’ll have to watch him this week.

    1. That doesnt surprise me (that he was the best blocker in preseason). To be clear, most teams would be happy to get out of their TE what the Giants got Wed night. It’s not like he was whiffing all over the field, or getting manhandled. He simply didn’t look like the aggressive blocker he was in Dallas. He looked ordinary.

  7. Juz Saying says:

    Bust in Dallas, ah bust in NY.

  8. David_Does_Dallas says:

    I’m glad to see Marty B have success in NY. I was never down on him like most Cowboys fan. I though he played his role well and he was never going to be a perennial TE behind Witten. All the best to him in NY.

  9. youngwiz says:

    It’s a trade-off. The Cowboys biggest failure with Marty was forcing (allowing?) him to beef up after his rookie year. They already had Witten and the line was terrible, so maybe they didn’t have a choice. But I know when Marty caught his first pass last week, I asked out loud, “Who is that?” I’ve been spouting off about his weight gain for some time, but with the initial reports out of camp, I assumed he was to blame.Turns out that apparently wasn’t true. He looks great physically, but he may now lack the size and strength to be as an effective blocker as he was in Dallas.

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