Most games come down to the play in the trenches, but this game will be a unique test of this old football truism. If the New York Giants have a calling card it’s their ability to bring the pass rush. This year that trademark pass rush has been inconsistent, but the potential is still there. As a result, we could spend all three key matchups this week talking about offensive line versus defensive line - but rather than beat a dead horsse - just one matchup to highlight the difficulties the Packers will face will be looked at. Only one is needed because it can encapsulate the problems the Packers will face on Sunday night. The match up in question is that of Evan Dietrich-Smith versus Chris Canty.
Let’s face it, the Packers are going to be overmatched this weekend on the outside of the offensive line. All things being equal, Marshall Newhouse would have his hands full with Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP is one of the young premiere pass rushers and Newhouse has struggled against this type of player…and JPP specifically. Newhouse is going to need help in the form of TE’s chipping and RB's pitching in in pass blocking. In the grand scheme of things that’s not a big deal so long as the rest of the line can hold up, especially the other tackle. The problem is that replacement RT is going to face off against Justin Tuck, which could also be a bit of a mismatch for the Packers. T.J. Lang has looked alright in spurts as a tackle so he may hold up, but it’s not a great place for the Packers to be in. The tackles struggling is not the end of the world, so long as the interior of the line can hold up….which brings us to the key matchup.
Chris Canty is a seasoned veteran brought in by the Giants in order to help bring an interior pass rush. This year Canty has been slowed due to an injury early in the year keeping him out of action until week seven against Washington. Since then he has racked up a sack and been a consistent presence along the interior line of the Giants. The good news is that he’s not full out beasting like say Nick Fairley. The bad news is that he is a capable interior pass rusher and may cause problems for the Packers.
The man who will probably be tasked with stopping him is Evan Dietrich-Smith. Smith was forced into action at LG after the injury to Bryan Bulaga. EDS finished the Cardinal game strong, but struggled mightily in his first start of the season against Detroit (earning honors on PFF’s "Bad Day" team). If EDS can step up and show the sort of performance that he showed last year in his time as a starter then the Packers may have a shot at moving the ball against stout Giants’ pass rush. This is critical because, like the Lions, beyond the front four of the Giants' defense things go downhill fast. If the Packers can control that pass rush to some degree then they will probably win the game….and controlling the middle of the line will be essential to managing that pocket.
Why you ask? Because if the middle of the line can hold then Aaron Rodgers can step up and make his throws….or if need to run it himself. If the middle of the line can’t hold then expect to see Rodgers besieged or flushed into the waiting arms of Osi Umenyiora, Tuck, or JPP.
It may not be pretty this week, but it is possible to do….and that starts with EDS putting in a better performance than last week and controlling Canty and the rest of the Giants interior line.