Making the leap from college to the NFL comes with its challenges, and New York Giants rookie right tackle Evan Neal is learning that lesson the hard way.
Longtime NFL defensive end Chris Long recently broke down Neal’s performance in New York’s preseason opener, and the two-time Super Bowl champion was not impressed. Long described Neal as “top-heavy” and explained why the rookie struggled against the New England Patriots last Thursday.
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Here’s the video, via The 33rd Team on Twitter, followed by a transcription of the relevant analysis from Long (emphasis added).
[email protected] outlines why rookie OT Evan Neal looking top heavy is cause for some concern if you’re the #Giants
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) August 17, 2022
I wasn’t a big fan of what I saw from Evan Neal. It’s the first preseason game, but I thought Evan Neal was top-heavy. I was worried, after watching him, about his ability to anchor a bull [rush] without leaning forward and getting pulled by.
I mean, that’s something that showed up a couple times. He was on the ground twice the first series. And then, you know, to continue that same trend — I’m sure he would tell you this, I’m sure his coaches would tell you this — it wasn’t a great day as far as getting overextended. They ran play-action pass, the action was away. He had to cut No. 96 off for the Patriots and got so far down, trying to get across his face, he chucked him by and was able to disrupt. And ultimately, it led to a Josh Uche sack, which shouldn’t happen in that situation.
So listen, there’s some positives I’m sure you can draw from Evan Neal, but I thought the one thing that concerned me was how top-heavy he was. Which doesn’t seem like a — you know, I’m not an offensive lineman — but that feels like an athleticism thing. It seems like maybe something that he’s got to work on from a technique standpoint. But, generally guys who are top-heavy and who lean, that’s a tough habit to kick. He could kick the habit. He could kick it next week.
Long was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He played in 162 career games with the St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. With 70.0 career sacks and two Super Bowl rings to show for it, Long’s analysis shouldn’t be casually dismissed.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at Evan Neal’s Game Film
When you go back and watch the Giants-Patriots preseason game from last week, it’s hard to argue with Long’s analysis. Below is a closer look at the sack quarterback Daniel Jones had to eat on the second drive of the game.
Here’s a closer look at the Daniel Jones sack where @JOEL9ONE described Giants rookie RT Evan Neal (No. 73) as “top-heavy” #NYG pic.twitter.com/mif7Ia2rRX
— Kevin Boilard (@KevinBoilard) August 18, 2022
The play unfolds exactly as Long described it. Neal gets beat pretty soundly, and Jones has no chance to throw the ball due to the immediate pressure in his face.
At 6-foot-7 and 350 lbs., Neal is the one who should be tossing players aside — not the other way around.
The Positive Takeaway From Evan Neal’s Preseason Debut
Evan Neal may experience some rookie struggles in pass protection, but he showed a lot of potential as a run blocker. Check out this screen pass to wide receiver Darius Slayton, where Neal is able to get out in front and let his downfield momentum do the work.
Nice manufactured production, screen to Darius Slayton — look how far Evan Neal gets down field to block!
A little motion too 🤔 pic.twitter.com/oZYMu8jcH0
— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) August 11, 2022
It will take some time for Neal to become the ideal bookend opposite left tackle Andrew Thomas, but this is promising for the ground/short passing games.