Scouting the Jets Free Agent Signings: Breno Giacomini

Mike Nolan breaks down the tape on New York Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini

I don’t think anyone realistically saw it coming that the Jets would lose Austin Howard to free agency. It was reported months ago that the Jets main priority in free agency was to resign the right tackle who had been somewhat underrated over the past two seasons. Turns out that this was just the first unfulfilled report of many during this free agency period. When the Jets couldn’t come to terms with Howard, they quickly went to their back up plan and signed former Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini. Let’s take a look at what Giacomini will bring to the Jets offensive line.

Name: Breno Giacomini
Age: 28Breno 2
Exp: 6 years
Height: 6’7″
Weight: 318 pounds
Arm Length: 32 1/8″
Games Played: 41
Games Started: 33
Contract Details: Signed a four-year, $18 million contract. The deal contains $7 million guaranteed, including a $2.5 million signing bonus and first-year roster bonus of $1 million. 2014: $1 million, 2015: $4.5 million, 2016-2017: $5.125 million. (From Rotoworld.com)

Background

We all know Giacomini recently won the Superbowl with the Seahawks, but what led him there? Because of his athleticism, he started out as a tight end at Louisville until he came into his junior year weighing more than 300 pounds. He was named 2nd team All-Big East his senior year at right tackle. Giacomini was drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He started his career similar to Austin Howard as a member of the team’s practice squad. The Seahawks signed Giacomini from the Packers practice squad in 2010. After being released, he was resigned by the Hawks for the 2011 season where he started 8 games. He started every game of the 2012 season at right tackle and was the starter in 2013, but missed 7 games due to knee surgery. He started down the stretch of the regular season and into the Seahawks playoff push to become Superbowl Champs.

Pass Protection

One of the big knocks on Giacomini is that he doesn’t have great lateral quickness which should greatly affect his ability to pass protect. Despite this shortcoming, he is greatly improving in this part of the game. Although he let up 4 sacks in 2013, he only let up one QB hit. This is a great improvement from 2012 despite the same amount of sacks allowed. In 2012, he was rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the worst pass blockers in the NFL. In 2013, he improved his pass blocking efficiency and got better as the season went on. He was rated as the 3rd most efficient pass protector in the playoffs.

His footwork is a little lumbering and slower than you you would want in a starting NFL tackle, but he doesn’t waste any motion and doesn’t over-set. Often times in pass protection, lineman will use false steps or take additional steps in order to change direction. Giacomini doesn’t have this problem and because of it he is usually in good position to mirror defenders.

One problem he does have is his anchor. Giacomini is a tall lineman at 6’7″ and it can be used against him because he doesn’t drop his anchor and bend properly. He is susceptible to bull rushes and can also be pretty easily “push-pulled” off of his blocks. Another part of the problem here is his arm-length. Despite being described as a “long armed wall” by the Bleacher Report 1000, he has short arms for his position. While having a solid punch, he can’t sustain his block when he locks out his arms.

Giacomini would also have better pass pro numbers if he would stop trying to get cute and just do his job. I don’t know if this is something taught by Tom Cable, but Giacomini throws way too many cut blocks. Its good to mix in a cut block here or there, but Giacomini does it all the time and he’s not very good at it. Instead of driving through defenders legs he basically just drops to the ground, which very rarely works. In week one against the Panthers, he kept playing games with cut blocks that got him into trouble.

Giac Sack 1
Here Giacomini is lined up against the Panthers’ Charles Johnson who is lined up wide outside in a good pass rushing technique.
Giac Sack 2
When looking at this screen shot you may be wondering why Giac would ever be leaning forward like this. It isn’t bad technique, he actually takes a jab step to fake a cut block, which he throws a little too often for my taste.
Giac Sack 3
Because of this fake cut, he puts himself in a bad position as he has turned his shoulders too early. A simple rip move will give Johnson the edge.
Giac Sack 4
Johnson uses a nice rip move to get Giac’s hands off him and gets the edge en route to Russell Wilson.
Giac Sack 5
Johnson gets the strip sack on Wilson and all Giacomini can do is give chase. A bad sack given up because Giac tried to get cute in pass protection.

Run Blocking

Scouring twitter and the rest of the internet for information on Giacomini, it’s apparent that there is a common misconception that he is a mauler in the run game. While he plays with great physicality and effort, I would not consider him a mauler. In fact, Giacomini is a better pass blocker right now than he is a run blocker. The fact that Marshawn Lynch was able to do what he did with this offensive line is incredible. There is a reason why he led the league in yards after first contact.

Giacomini has a quicker first step and better overall footspeed than I anticipated, but he is not very athletic and he often falls off blocks because of it. I would compare him to the Wide Receiver with great straight line speed, but can’t run intermediate routes. He is a little out of control run blocking and defensive lineman can pretty easily through him off. He is pretty solid at getting to the second level, but once he gets there he doesn’t have the athleticism and body control to get on linebackers.

Again, he is decent when blocking the guy in front of him, but if he has to take scoop or reach steps to block a guy in the next gap over he isn’t very good. He is especially terrible when stepping to his left. Out of the games I watched on tape, I counted 24 plays where he took a drop zone step to cut off an inside defender to his left. He actually blocked this guy one time. He was often times thrown to the ground because he was completely out of control and other times he tried to cut block the defender and missed. It looks like he steps underneath of himself in this situation, which means he is off balance from his first step and can’t recover. He is much better when stepping right to fan block a defender to the outside.

Giacomini has really high pad level in run blocking. Because of this he often uses his back for power in run blocking instead of his hips. His technique often has his feet too close together and he can easily be tossed by defenders.

Giac run 1
In the Superbowl, the Seahawks will be running Inside Zone to the right. Giacomini will be responsible for the blocking the defensive end to his right.
Giac run 2
Notice how high Giac is on first contact. He is much higher than the defender and is even on his tip toes. This is a big no-no in run blocking. You want to be on your in steps to maximize balance.
Giac run 3
As he starts driving his feet, they become very narrow which means he is out of control and has no balance. He is still higher than the defender.
Giac run 4
While Unger and Sweezy have a nice double team going, Giacomini gets tossed off by the defender on the right side of the screen.
Giac run 5
The hole closes quickly and Lynch only gains two yards instead of a big gain.

He was pretty good in combo blocking in Seattle’s zone scheme and was proficient at taking over the down lineman when he had to combo block with JR Sweezy. This is actually difficult block to make on a regular basis. It takes good footwork and great chemistry between two linemen. Hopefully this is something he can develop with whoever plays right guard for the Jets in 2014.

Everything Else

Giacomini is a high effort player with a little bit of an edge to him. He is a guy that will block to the whistle and sometimes through it. He is a little bit of a throw back lineman in that he’s not great athletically or technically, but you always notice him on film because of the effort he shows. This is an attribute that shouldn’t be diminished. Next time you watch an NFL game pay attention to the lineman about 2-3 seconds after the snap. I guarantee that most of them will be standing around watching the play instead of trying to get another block. When you watch the Jets this season, Giacomini will not be one of those lineman. He reminds me of Willie Colon from an attitude standpoint. He will not back down from a fight and is the first guy to have his teammates back.

Another area where he is like Willie Colon is penalties. He is one of the most penalized right tackles in the NFL. He gets himself into trouble when he is out of control and will hold on to defenders instead of moving his feet laterally. This is an area where he needs to improve as he is not a good enough player to cost his team yards. On the other end of the spectrum, it never hurts to bring in a Superbowl Champion.

How he compares to Austin Howard

In the Bleacher Report 1000, Austin Howard was ranked as the 31st best right tackle in the NFL and Giacomini was ranked 20th. This is actually the ranking that made me realize that the BR 1000 is equivalent to throwing darts. Howard and Giacomini are very similar players. Both guys improved tremendously in pass protection, while struggling in the run game. Neither of them is very athletic. From a pure talent standpoint, I think Howard is slightly better than Giacomini, but the gap is closed by Giacomini’s effort. They are both very average offensive lineman when compared to the rest of the league. I would not have paid Howard what he got in Oakland, so you are essentially getting a very similar player at a much cheaper rate. The only main difference is that Giacomini is 2 years older.

I also think your getting a little more consistency out of Giacomini. Howard had an up and down 2013. On my Big Man Reports, Howard would fluctuate between grades in the high 80s to the low 70s. From watching Giacomini’s tape, I think your getting a guy who will be in the low 80s, maybe high 70s, every week. I think Scott Salmon at Gang Green Nation put it perfectly when he said Giacomini is a high floor, low ceiling player. Giacomini is essentially a similar player to Austin Howard but with a higher floor and lower ceiling.

How he fits with the Jets

When Tom Cable went to the Seahawks as their offensive line coach, they went to a primarily zone blocking scheme in the run game. This is also a staple of the Jets offense. He does a nice job on the inside zone play, but really struggles when they try to run mid-zone and stretch type plays. I haven’t seen him run enough of Power on tape to determine if he will be an upgrade from Austin Howard when running Power to the right. I think he will be good on the first level, but will probably struggle getting to linebackers in that scheme.

It will be interesting to see how Giacomini does in pass protection with the Jets. Alot of that has to do with the Quarterback behind him. Geno Smith does not have the pocket awareness that Russell Wilson displays in Seattle. Wilson’s scrambling ability helped keep Giacomini’s sack total down. Unless he improves in this aspect of the game, I can’t see Geno Smith pocket presence making Giacomini’s job any easier. Hopefully he continues his ascending trend here and produces similar numbers as he did in 2013.

Conclusion

If you take the contract details out of the equation, I don’t think I’d be too thrilled with the Jets replacing Austin Howard with Breno Giacomini. Their backgrounds and skill sets are very similar, but Howard is two years younger and seems to be improving. However, we live in a world where there is a salary cap and the Jets are a team that is trying to slowly put the pieces in place to get back to the top of the AFC. To do this, they are constantly looking for value. Instead of paying about $6 million a year for an average right tackle, the Jets decided to pay about $4.5 million a year for an average right tackle. It’s not an earth-shattering move, but one I understand and can get behind because value is the name of the game in free agency.

Author: Mike "Tiny" Nolan

Mike is a graduate of Muhlenberg College where he was a team captain and All-American Center on the football team. Mike is a former NFL Films employee where he was a PA for the NFL Network shows Playbook and Total Access. He also worked at NBC Sports and now does some free lance producing for them. He lives in the Philadelphia area where he is a football coach at The Haverford School.