For the last year and a half, David Diehl has not been good. That’s actually a little bit of an understatement. Against the Buccaneers, Diehl went down with an MCL injury, and when he was healthy to play once again this week against the Steelers, he was reinserted back into the starting lineup. Sean Locklear hit the pine to make room for Diehl, as the Giants evidently abide by the “starters can’t lose their job due to injury” thing.
Problem is, Locklear has been what I’ll refer to as a “functional” player. He’s limited in what he can do athletically, particularly in the run game and the screen game, where he has shown little ability to get to the second level and make blocks. However, he’s been serviceable as a pass blocker.
Someone with the YouTube account “NYGiantsCentral” edited together tape of all of Locklear’s snaps against the Redskins. This was a good, but certainly not perfect game for Locklear, but you can see his athletic limitations:
“Functional” is a big upgrade over whatever adjective you’d you to describe Diehl’s play over the last year and a half, and Giants fans were right to be upset when Diehl re-gained his job.
Diehl is catching heat this week from some NY media outlets as well. From Josh Alper of NBC NY:
BAD: Hate to say we told you so, but we said last week that the decision to move back to David Diehl at right tackle made no sense. The running game did nothing and Diehl continues to be a liability in pass protection in front of a quarterback who looked uncharacteristically skittish in the face of the Steelers rush on Sunday.
David Diehl returned to the starting lineup at right tackle for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Week 2. He did not fare well against Pittsburgh’s speed up front.
Eli Manning was sacked twice in the fourth quarter by Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley, both of whom raced around the right side Diehl was manning in place of Sean Locklear.
I watched the tape on Diehl this week, and found that he really didn’t play all that badly, and frankly, NorthJersey.com is flat out unfair in their assessment of Diehl. Here’s the Timmons sack they attributed to Diehl. Diehl and Timmons are circled:
At the snap, Diehl locks up on LaMarr Woodley. Woodley tries and inside move and Diehl rides him right down the line, while Timmons comes on a delayed blitz. Notice Ahmad Bradshaw not seeing Timmons coming on the blitz:
Timmons has a free lane, and Eli is meat:
How many guys is Diehl supposed to block?
I also took issue with NBC’s blanket statement that “Diehl continues to be a liability in pass protection in front of a quarterback who looked uncharacteristically skittish in the face of the Steelers rush on Sunday.”
That simply wasn’t the case. On 27 of 29 dropbacks, Diehl did his job. By my count, he allowed one pressure, and one sack. The sack was on the Giants’ last offensive play of the game, so I’m not sure how Diehl’s bad play made Eli skittish for 60 minutes, as is implied by NBC.
Here are the two plays where I would hold Diehl at least partially accountable. LaMarr Woodley is lined up over Diehl, with Larry Foote in Woodley’s back pocket:
Diehl knows he has outside help from Bradshaw, so he’s trying to take the inside rusher, which he diagnoses as Woodley, who he engages on. Bradshaw sees this, so he locks in and has his sights set on Foote:
However, Foote stops, and cuts inside:
Diehl, thinking he needs to take the inside rusher, leaves Woodley and tries to get to Foote, except Bradshaw has already committed to Foote:
By the time Diehl realizes Bradshaw took the inside guy, Woodley is by him with a free run to the QB.
That play led to a throwaway by Eli.
The other bad play by Diehl was a lot more black and white. It was the Giants’ last play on offense on Sunday. Woodley gets a great jump at the snap:
…and does a straight speed rush. Nothing fancy here:
Woodley gets the edge and hits Eli as he tries to throw:
And gets the strip sack:
The Giants are able to recover the fumble, but they punt and never see the ball again. On this play, Diehl is clearly beaten soundly.
David Diehl is a liability, no question, and the timing of that play most definitely hurt. But let’s be careful about taking that one bad play on Sunday and pretending he looked like Winston Justice against Osi Umenyiora.