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Poor old BJ Hill

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I done him wrong

NFL: DEC 23 Giants at Colts Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Anyone who reads Hogs Haven regularly in the off-season knows that, with the help of a few other people, I put together a “Ranking the NFC East” series in the off-season.

Anyone who has been a regular reader at Hogs Haven long enough knows that I make egregious errors from time to time.

This week, I did both.

On Friday, I published a “Ranking the NFC East, 2019” article to look at interior defensive lines in the division. I made a huge oversight by leaving Giants DE BJ Hill completely out of the article, even though there was a little alarm bell ringing inside my head as I was finalizing the piece.

A couple of Giants fans pointed out the oversight in the comments section of the article, where my flawed analysis of the Giants situation led to predictable results. Both commenters were kind in pointing out the error.

Poor old B.J. Hill

In fact, the Giants have used a 1st, 2nd, early 3rd, and 5th round pick on the defensive line in the last three drafts.

I think we (the Giants) will have a stout line, impenetrable against the run, but we have no proven pass rushers. If they can push the pocket big-time, that’ll be good enough for me although I hold out hope that R.J. McIntosh can provide a bit of pass rush. As for the others, the main three guys are big lumbering ogres. We really are the New York “Giants” now.

Posted by Mr Facts on Jul 14, 2019 | 1:11 AM

By way of apology to BJ Hill specifically, and Giants fans more generally, I wanted to both explain how this bit of stupidity could have happened, and use the opportunity to put the spotlight on BJ Hill and his position mates in an article with his name on it.

Blame shifting

Let me first start by saying that my reference site of choice for depth charts is OurLads. It is an extremely useful website that keeps team rosters up-to-date and provides depth charts that are consistent and generally pretty damned useful.

I have relied on OurLads for years to fact-check rosters. One result is that I have internalized some things about their presentation. For example, this is how they present the starting front-7 of the Redskins at the moment:

Like everyone, they are unsure who will start beside Mason Foster at ILB and have chosen to put Bostic there. They will update the depth chart when the position becomes clearer.

The notations beside the names provide handy references, showing that Allen was drafted in the 1st round of 2017, Payne in the 1st round 2018, IoannMan in the 5th 2016, and Sweat & Kerrigan both in the 1st rounds of 2011 and 2019 respectively. “SF” indicates a “street free agent” — or a guy who was signed as a veteran. Other designations include CF = college free agent, T = trade, W = picked off of waivers.

Those 4 first-round picks in the Redskins front-7 look pretty impressive, don’t they?

Here’s how OurLads present the starting front-7 of the Cowboys right now:

What I want to draw your attention to is the difference in how the defensive positions are listed, based on scheme.

The Redskins, running a base 3-4, have the following designations:

DE - NT - DE - SLB - MLB - MLB - WLB

The Cowboys, running a base 4-3, look like this:

LDE - LDT - RDT - RDE - SLB - MLB - WLB

When I look at a defense on OurLads, the first player listed is either a DE in a 3-4 scheme, or LDE in a 4-3 scheme.

  • DE is a ‘big ugly’ - an interior defensive lineman who plays the run and creates inside pressure in the pass rush.
  • LDE is primarily a pass rusher positioned outside the offensive tackle (note that this is Demarcus Lawrence for the Cowboys).

A couple of years ago, the NY Giants changed from a base 4-3 defense, similar to what the Cowboys currently run, to a base 3-4, similar to what the Redskins currently run.

When that happened, the guys at OurLads didn’t pull out the 3-4 template and re-enter all the names; they just modified the Giants depth chart. This is how they present the starting front-7 of the Giants at the moment:

What you’ll see is that whoever updated this depth chart didn’t do a full modification of the position designations.

  • For example, that person changed one position designation from LDT to NT, but didn’t change RDT to DE or RDE.
  • In addition, the guy who updated the depth chart made the confusing choice to list the two inside linebackers as SILB and RILB.

The overall effect is a bit disjointed and confusing if, like me, you’re used to seeing the same two templates in use all the time on the website.

Of course, if you take a minute to look at the depth chart, it becomes clear that this is a 3-4 defense, but when I was preparing the “Ranking the NFC East, 2019” series, I looked only at the top-listed guy in the defense — LDE BJ Hill — and from 6 years of habit (my own form of ‘muscle memory’), my mind automatically listed BJ Hill as the primary pass rusher in a 4-3 defense.

That’s where the confusion started, but not where it ended.

Andrew sets me straight

The Giants have had a lot of roster movement. When I was setting up the Edge-rusher ranking article that we published in mid-June, their top pass-rusher from 2018, Olivier Vernon (7 sacks), was gone. I went to a team statistics reference website and scanned down the stats looking for who was left.

  • BJ Hill had 5.5 sacks in 2018, the highest total of any remaining player on the Giants roster
  • I double-checked OurLads and saw LDE, which, to me, means a pass rusher

I put BJ Hill into the Edge Rusher article, asking Andrew York to do a film breakdown on him.

You can imagine the delicate wording that Andrew had to use when he wrote to tell me that BJ Hill was NOT a pass-rusher in the Giants 3-4 scheme, but a defensive lineman. He suggested that we highlight Lorenzo Carter instead.

I sheepishly agreed.

Making the same mistake twice

When it comes to some positions for teams other than the Redskins, I find that I need to use more resources than OurLads depth chart — especially in the off-season, with 90-man rosters — to feel confident about which players are likely to make the team, which are starters, and which are backups. I mean, I don’t need to look up the starting quarterback, but when it comes to interior linemen, I usually do a bit of double-checking.

Fortunately, everyone publishes early 53-man roster projections in May. I have used the roster projections from BleedingGreenNation, BloggingtheBoys and BigBlueView, among others, to help sort through the depth at positions when preparing these “Ranking the NFC East, 2019” articles.

I smartly did so again when I prepared the Giants section of the Interior Defensive Line article. Specifically, I looked at an article titled, “New York Giants post-mini-camp 53-man roster projection”. Here’s what it says:

There’s BJ Hill’s name, listed as a starter, as clear as day!

I immediately put these five guys down as the ones I would focus on in the defensive line ranking article, and did a bit of research.

The very first thing I wrote in the Giants section of the article on my first draft was that the Giants had used 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks on the defensive line over the past three seasons, with the backups, McIntosh and Slayton having been drafted in the 5th and 7th rounds.

I actually wrote it a bit more poetically than that, and it read beautifully. I remember being proud of it, because it had taken a bit of editing to get the wording just right.

I set the publication date for later in the week and went to bed happy.

Here’s a thing you should know: I almost always double-check what I’ve written; if I don’t, I make mistakes.

I try to double and triple check every article I write, and that’s usually a good thing because I find one or more mistakes in nearly everything I prepare - grammar, spelling, facts, whatever... things like typing “Jalen Mills” instead of “Jalen Smith”, or listing Caleb Brantley as a 1st round pick instead of a 6th. I’ve avoided deep embarrassment on a number of occasions by doing this kind of checking & correcting, and suffered a few humiliations when I’ve been too busy.

I did the double-checking in this case.

The day before the Defensive Line ranking article was set to publish, I re-read it. When I got to the Giants section and read what I had written about the Giants’ defensive line, I automatically opened up OurLads to double-check my facts.

“Shit!” I thought. “Good thing I double-checked. I almost embarrassed the shit out of myself.”

Somehow, I realized, I had listed BJ HIll with the defensive linemen. Clearly, looking at OurLads, he was a LDE and didn’t belong here.

Of course it didn’t make sense that the Giants had used so many high draft picks on one position. I was stupid!

So, I deleted the reference to BJ Hill and Chris Slayton (shown as his backup at LDE on the OurLads depth chart), and replaced Hill with McIntosh in the review of the Giants interior DL.

It’s hard to explain how this could have happened to me twice. I guess, sometimes I get things in my head, and — being old — can’t unlearn them.

  • Months ago, I wrote in an article that Montae Nicholson had been put on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. It wasn’t true - the Redskins had suspended him. Scott Jennings corrected me, and I thanked him for that.

Several weeks later, I wrote again, in a different article, that Nicholson was on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. It still wasn’t true. Again, Scott provided the correction.

  • Somewhere along the line I got it in my head that Dwayne Haskins was 20 years old, rather than 22. Scott had to correct that two times, as well.

What can I say? Sometimes my brain short-circuits, and it did that again with BJ Hill. I panicked when I saw him listed as LDE on OurLads, and took him and Slayton completely out of the ranking article.

The result, of course, was to make a talented young Giants DL look a lot weaker than it should have, in an article where the omission mattered a lot.

The alarm bell rang in my head when I did my final review — especially when I saw only 3 players on the end-of-article depth chart for the Giants — but I shrugged it off and pressed the ‘publish’ button instead of taking one last look and asking myself why that annoying bell was ringing.

Sorry, Giants fans (and everyone else).

Setting the record straight

Since the goal of the “Ranking the NFC East, 2019” series is to get to know our division opponents, let me take some space here to highlight the Giants defensive line and try to make up a bit for my earlier lapse:

BJ Hill

2018 third-round pick, BJ Hill, had 5.5 sacks last season. BigBlueView recently said this about him:

Hill is entrenched as a starter in the Giants’ base 3-4 front. He will give the Giants run defense, athleticism and the versatility they seek to line up in various spots along their front. What remains to be seen is whether he can give them pass rush, or if the three-sack game last season was an outlier.

Dexter Lawrence

This year’s draft pick at 17th overall was Dexter Lawrence, 6’4”, 342-pound defensive lineman from Clemson. Here’s part of what they had to say about him at BBV:

Lawrence is pretty much universally referred to as a “nose tackle” when evaluated, and its easy to see why: With his size and power, he has the ability to command double teams and push the pocket from the interior. That, in fact, makes up the bulk of his pass rushing upside: Bulling blockers into the backfield and denying passers a pocket into which they can step up.

Dalvin Thomlinson

Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft, here’s what BBV had to say about their 3rd year starter, who was 11th in tackles on the Giants team last sesaon:

Second-year man Tomlinson appeared to still be growing into his new role once Harrison was traded, but by year’s end, he seemed to settle down somewhat in his new role.

NJ.com added this:

Tomlinson offers the Giants some versatility, where he could play a couple positions across the defensive line, lined up over tackles, centers or guards. He had a standout rookie season starting all 16 games.

RJ McIntosh

McIntosh was drafted in the 5th round a year ago. From BBV:

After a still-undisclosed medical condition kept him off the field all spring, summer and through the first 10 games of the 2018 regular season, fifth-round pick got valuable experience by playing in the final six games for the New York Giants.

McIntosh compiled five tackles and one quarterback hit in just 65 defensive snaps. In reality, though, after being unable to practice for so many months, we probably did not see McIntosh anywhere close to his best last season.

Right now, he looks like the team’s fourth defensive lineman. He should see time resting Hill and Lawrence on the ends, and could see some time rushing from inside in passing situations.

Chris Slayton

Slayton rounded out the Giants’ 2019 draft, being selected in the 7th round. Here’s the Big Blue view:

The Giants were lining him up at the nose, or “shade” spot during the spring. He appears to have the versatility to play all three of the defensive line spots, something the Giants value. How many snaps Slayton can earn in 2019 remains to be seen, but the Giants are hoping he can be part of a deep, athletic defensive line rotation they are trying to build.

Two talented young 3-4 defensive lines in the NFC East

So there you have it sports fans, a much fairer look at the Giants defensive line than I offered in the Ranking the NFC East, 2019 article.

As a recap, let’s put the names of the 5 young defensive linemen for each team, the Giants and Redskins side-by-side:

Poll

With this updated look at the Giants DL, where would you rank them in the division?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    1st
    (12 votes)
  • 10%
    2nd
    (37 votes)
  • 39%
    3rd
    (136 votes)
  • 46%
    4th
    (163 votes)
348 votes total Vote Now

Poll

and where do you rank the Redskins DL in the division?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    1st
    (243 votes)
  • 22%
    2nd
    (82 votes)
  • 5%
    3rd
    (20 votes)
  • 4%
    4th
    (16 votes)
361 votes total Vote Now