The New York Giants selected Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal with their second first-round pick at No. 7. It was no secret the Giants were in the market for tackles after a decade-long revolving door on the right side. of the Giants offense. Neal was the only tackle out of the big three, Ikem Ekownu and Charles Cross, with experience on the right side.
Neal was a consensus five-star recruit from the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida. He was the top-ranked tackle in the 2019 cycle, and was the Alabama Crimson Tide’s starting right tackle in their 2020 National Championship season.
As a true freshman, Neal entered the Alabama campus and played 723 snaps at left guard. In 2020, he played 765 snaps at right tackle and 23 snaps at left tackle, before playing 1,071 snaps at left tackle in 2021. Neal isn’t just versatile; he is also gigantic and incredibly athletic; he was ranked #1 on Bruce Feldman’s ‘Freaks’ list heading into the 2021 season.
Few human beings have this size and athletic ability, and few people weigh 340 pounds and look 270. Neal is exceptionally smooth in pass protection for a player his size and stature. He explodes out of his stance and gains the necessary depth on his sets while varying his hitting methods to keep pass-rushers honest.
There is much to appreciate and look forward to with Evan Neal. Let’s get into the tape of him.
(Evan Neal is number 73)
This shows the pop and depth that Neal can gain on his sets; Neal explodes on his pole leg (inside leg) with power without problems. This is more of a vertical set where it matches the path of the pass-rusher and keeps your inside hand alive and patient while on an island, in case the pass-rusher tries to move in that direction. Neal is controlled, balanced in his game and disciplined with his hitting because if he dictates and tries to attack, and misses, the pass-rusher has a double meaning. The pass-rusher tries to make the long arm move and work inside. We see the rusher’s torque in his attempt, but Neal is too strong; he sinks on his hips, gaining access to the inside of the pass-rusher and not leaving much room.
I love Neal’s patience on this play against Arkansas. He is disciplined with his hips, his feet moving smoothly, silently, up the arc, and then he attacks with great timing once the pass-rusher lowers his inside shoulder. Neal splits the defender, reflects the spin as he walks lightly, then doesn’t allow the defender to get away.
Here’s a similar play on an island, using patience and showing excellent grappling strength. Once Neal gets inside, those 10 ⅛-inch hands are hard to break. His feet get a little closer and narrower as he performs his set, but his grip strength and ease of sitting on the anchor are excellent.
Neal quickly attacks the Georgia defender and attacks him from the jump with a two-handed punch. The defender tries to stutter and presents his chest long enough for Neal to attack. One of the things I love about Neal is his ability to vary his plan of attack; he can hit with both hands right at the snap, sit back and be patient, or hit and readjust. On this play, he hits, gains access to the inside and simply closes in on the Georgia defender to restrict any space as he anchors through the rush attempt.
Neal’s footwork in contact on this play is not very good. His feet are very narrow and close together, and he lunges a bit on contact. However, Neal lands the shot with the outside arm right on the pass-rusher’s midline and then uses his excellent game strength to bench press the pass-rusher and stop his movement. Neal reset his hands after stopping the run and there was little the defender could do at that point.
Plays like this get me excited about Neal. She gently kicks the bow and matches the path of the edge runner; he stays straight until he hits the third step, and times his outside hand hit well. Then we see that the pass-rusher has just stopped; all attempts to evade Neal failed. Excellent footwork, solid strong punch and Thanos grappling strength.
Azeez Ojulari’s brother BJ tries to stutter on Neal, who sees the chest open and punches aggressively. In earlier GIFs (How is it pronounced with G or J?), we saw Neal sit down and use his patience on an island. Here we see him punch when the opportunity presents itself, and he absolutely disrupts Ojulari’s passing pressure. Neal punches, flips his hips and pushes him away from the pocket.
Neal takes on Travon Walker (44) and breaks Walker’s long arm attempt with a snatch and trap attempt. Neal quickly closed the distance at 45 degrees and headed for Walker. Once Walker attempts to use his momentum with his lower leg, Neal breaks contact with his wrist and Walker’s momentum moves forward.
Neal has a good overall anchor. I wouldn’t say he’s elite; he can sometimes be pushed back, but he handles this bull run well. He does a solid job of sitting on his hips and sinking his weight back down to absorb more contact. His devastating hands also aid his ability to sit down and prevent racers from unleashing power.
Walker, the No. 1 overall pick, rotates from the nose tackle position into Neal’s box. Neal mounts Technique 5 to the guard and lands his outside arm on Walker, who wins the battle at platform level and tries to get through Neal. Walker uses the inside long arm technique to unlock his power, but Neal exploits the move with a well-timed inside arm slam to break contact and force Walker’s momentum down, again. Neal doesn’t panic, and is focused on absorbing the contact.
Neal watched the film and knew that the edge runner jumping into cover meant the exotic pressure was coming from another angle. He turned his attention inside and located eventual first-round pick Devonte Wyatt. Neal showed good processing, understood Georgia’s intentions, and then easily located Wyatt from the inside.
Neal is a little late in recognizing this twist, but his length allows him to get the job done. Neal confronts Walker and takes him to the guard. He noticed the looper and exploded with his inside foot to make contact and disrupt the defensive lineman’s path. The overall length and size of him allows his recovery ability to lag a bit, which is not consistent with the movie of him.
Neal is a good run blocker overall, but he’s better at pass protection due to balance issues that show up on the tape when he’s in contact and moving laterally. However, this was not a persistent problem throughout his film. With his size similar to a mountain, one could imagine that he can’t crouch down and win with leverage in close range situations.
That is not necessarily the case; on the right side of the screen, Neal explodes with the ball low and drives through the defensive lineman’s midline, displaying excellent playing strength and driving with his lower leg to pave the way for a touchdown by Brian Robinson (4).
Neal blocks Zach Carter (6) very well to take him out from behind. Carter was a 4i technique, and Carter made good contact with his outside hand. Despite that, Neal rotates his hips around Carter and seals all three holes to give Robinson room to burst.
From the back after a defensive switch, Neal can adjust and block the 4i technique. Neal can cross the defender’s face and overpower the defender as he places his inside hand on the chest. The alley defender makes a great play from deep, but Neal was able to adjust and block the defensive switch well at a difficult angle.
Neal can jump over the defender and get to his outside shoulder after making initial contact with the inside shoulder. Neal twists his hips and then pushes the defender out of the runner’s way. Good result, but we see how Neal’s chest is well above his toes at the point of contact and that he doesn’t always carry his feet through the contact when he’s facing. This is one of the reasons for the problems that we will see later.
Like Andrew Thomas, Neal does very well as a playside blocker on power/gap concepts. The ability to generate force through inside-lined defenders on down screens is impressive, as seen above. Neal places his hands inside and twists his hips wide to take advantage of his strength and drive through his target.
Ikem Ekwonu is a superior blocking finisher in the running game, but Neal isn’t a thug in that area.
This is an RPO where we got to see Neal shoot. Neal spots the linebacker who got into the hole, and the huge new Giant pushes the defender into cover.
Here’s another RPO block where Evan Neal works the DEUCE combo with the guard and finishes with authority, knocking the defender to the ground.
Here’s another DEUCE combo block against Arkansas where he puts the defender back on the ground.
Leaning on contact was a problem for Neal in college. Not terrible, but it did happen more than I would have liked.
This is a third-and-1 play against Georgia where Neal explodes with the ball, and a much smaller defender uses Neal’s forward momentum and poor technique against him to break away. He’s not constantly balanced with his movements in the running game in situations like this.
Neal is the serving block on the play side; he puts his chest too far in front of his feet and hips and leans in too far. He pushes the smaller defender back and the Bulldog concedes some space, but he just flips the block and Neal goes down.
Neal tries to work the DEUCE combo block with the guard. The Florida defender reaches into Neal’s chest and throws him to the ground. Neal found himself on the ground too often, which was mainly due to balance issues and some plays like this where it seemed like an opposing player’s strength took him by surprise.
Neal comes in to block 5’s technique to the rear. The defender fits his hands well and leaves Neal planted; Neal doesn’t refocus and regains his balance. He stands tall, begins to lean, and allows the defender to break the screen.
It doesn’t happen too much in pass protection, but there are times when his pad level can be exposed if he starts leaning in to make contact, as seen above. He usually plays well inside his frame in pass protection, but almost lost to an inside hump move here against Florida.
Neal is a mountain of a man with two sequoia trees attached to his torso. He is explosive, with quick feet, excellent power and strong hands to grab. He is fundamentally solid with his hand technique with a devastating hit to stun, and is a good overall run blocker with a lot of positional versatility.
Neal found himself on the ground more than he expected; he bends too much at the waist, and is not the most balanced player when he is forced to move in a lateral plane.
His 6-foot-7 height gives him a naturally high center of gravity that leaves him susceptible to counterattacks and more cunning pass-rushers. He is not perfect, but he has a very high floor. Neal is going to be a good football player in the NFL for the Giants.