Giacomini was drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 draft by the Green Bay Packers, but was only active for one game in two seasons. Seattle picked him up and in four years there he went from reserve to full-time starter. He started every game in 2012 and 12 games in 2013, including all three postseason wins. He missed seven games while recovering from knee surgery in the middle of the season.
After the jump, I look in detail at footage from last season to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Breno Giacomini?
The 28-year old Giacomini stands 6’7″ and is listed at 318 pounds. Following a college career where he earned second team All-Big East honors at Louisville, he was drafted by the Packers and spent time on their active roster and practice squad. He was active for one game as a rookie, but did not play on offense.
The Seahawks signed Giacomini off the Packers’ practice squad in 2010 and kept him on their active roster for a month before letting him go. He did not make an appearance for them, but was re-signed after the season and ended up starting eight games in 2011. A promising finish to the season had some people suggesting him as a candidate for the Jets’ starting right tackle role in 2012, which had been manned by the struggling Wayne Hunter up to that point. However, the Seahawks smartly locked him up in February to prevent him from hitting the open market. Just as well, given the great right tackle famine of 2012.
In 2012, he struggled at first, but got better as the season went along, establishing himself as the full time starter on a team that went 11-5 and reached the second round of the playoffs. He remained as the starter in 2013, but missed seven games (weeks four to 10) after requiring a procedure on his knee. He returned in week 11 and the Seahawks won seven of their last nine games to win the Super Bowl.
What do the scouts and stats say?
According to PFF grades for the regular season, Giacomini basically had a neutral grade with a slightly positive pass blocking grade and a negative run blocking grade that cancelled that out. In the post season, his pass blocking grade improved, but his run blocking grade got worse. His grades were slightly better than they had been in 2012.
Football Outsiders metrics note that the Seahawks were the best team in the NFL at running off right tackle in 2012. In 2013, they dropped to 12th, but of course Giacomini missed half of the season. Unfortunately there are no weekly splits to examine if that explains the drop-off.
The Bleacher Report NFL 1000 Study, which we’ve been following on TJB and ranked Austin Howard 24th out of 35 right tackles has Giacomini in 20th. Their observations state that he “is a long-armed wall at right tackle” and lacks athleticism but understands leverage. Their conclusion on him (remembering that they felt Howard was bad, but improving) is as follows:
There aren’t many right tackles who could be described as more “average” than Giacomini. There aren’t a lot of physical attributes that separate him from other guys, and he doesn’t have exceptional athleticism. He displays a good base in pass protection and can win in the running game when engaged with a defender. There’s a lot to be said for simply being “average.”
Based on all the footage I watched, here was my take on what Giacomini brings to the table, divided into categories:
Usage - Giacomini has only ever played right tackle in the NFL.
Measurables - Giacomini is listed at 6’7″ and 318, but was only 303 when he first came into the league, so he’s obviously bulked up a bit. Despite what it says in the scouting report above, his arms are short – 32 and 1/8 inches puts him right down near the bottom according to the excellent mockdraftable.com database. By comparison, D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s arms are 35.5 inches, despite the fact he’s shorter than Giacomini. In terms of combine numbers, he does well in terms of the agility drills, but his bench press, 10 yard dash and vertical leap numbers were poor so he obviously needed to work at his strength and explosiveness when he entered the league.
Athletic Ability – Giacomini displays athleticism at times, getting out in front of screen passes, making blocks on the move and springing out of his stance to pick up outside rushers in certain protections. However, you get the sense it’s more about effort and hustle with Giacomini, who doesn’t make it look as effortless as someone like D’Brickashaw Ferguson. He can be slow to get out of his stance and struggles to recover at times.
Like most tackles, especially 6’7″ ones, it seems to come down more to leverage and technique as to whether he overpowers his opponent or gets schooled.
Run Blocking -
The numbers in terms of running to his side are impressive, but it’s worth noting that when Giacomini made his return from injury with six games to go last year, Marshawn Lynch didn’t have a 100 yard gain in the rest of the regular season despite averaging over 18 carries per game and having had two in a row prior to Giacomini’s return. You could explain that away by saying that Giacomini perhaps took some time to get back into the swing of things or that it messed with their chemistry. The Seahawks’ line was in flux all year with nobody starting 16 games. Whatever the reason, this concern could be allayed by the fact that Lynch exploded for 140 yards against the Saints once the postseason got underway and then added 109 against the 49ers.
Giacomini does much of his best run blocking work in zone blocking packages. He was effective on kickout blocks and setting the edge, especially moving left on counter plays. He also can peel off a double team to the second level effectively and will push his man back when he locks onto them. The Seahawks do have non-zone plays in their playbook though. Giacomini made some good blocks while pulling left, pulling outside and trapping up the middle for cut blocks. These plays were rare though.
Some of his work was straight up nasty, blocking his man to the ground on several occasions. On one play in particular, he threw his man to the ground on a draw play, reminding me of Willie Colon. He also had a tendency to finish his blocks, which is always a good habit.
In terms of negatives, he sometimes got stood up at the line which meant that runs to his side were bottled up. Again, that’s a leverage issue. On a few plays, he didn’t get his pad level down and was driven back into the backfield, but that was rare.
Penalties are a concern too, so let’s consider them separately.
Giacomini had 12 penalties in 18 games in 2012 and another seven in 12 games in 2013. The concern is that, much like Colon, he’s not going to help the team if he’s getting flagged all the time.
In 2012, he had three false starts, four unnecessary roughness penalties and five holding penalties. The good news is that he cut out the roughness penalties completely in 2013, perhaps showing signs of maturity and leadership. He had four false starts in 12 games in 2013, which perhaps isn’t that bad when you consider how many personnel changes there were.
In terms of holding penalties in 2013, he was flagged for four although one was clearly called on the wrong player because he was double teaming with JR Sweezy and barely engaged as Sweezy dragged his man down. Of the other three, two came on key seal blocks on the backside where the play went for a huge gain (24 and 37 yards) and he was only just on the wrong side of the rules. One of these two was a really late flag and a bit dubious. The other just saw him unable to sustain his block quite long enough. The third hold was a ridiculous call. He made a great block, driving his man all the way over to the sideline and to the ground and they were wrestling on the floor nowhere near the action.
On this basis, I’m less concerned about penalties than I was based on the numbers alone, but obviously you have to factor in the Jets’ propensity for getting shafted by questionable officiating and accept that his aggressiveness is going to cause some penalties to arise.
Pass Protection –
Despite his positive pass blocking grade from PFF, Giacomini was all the way down in 61st place for pass blocking efficiency for the regular season. Without even looking at the film, we can rationalize this because Russell Wilson spends more time scrambling around than any other quarterback. Clearly there would be more instances than usual of Giacomini’s man registering a pressure long after most quarterbacks would already have got the ball out. With the way PFF’s rankings work, you would receive a higher negative grade if beaten cleanly or badly. Obviously Giacomini didn’t get beaten badly as often as some of the players who gave up equivalent amounts of pressure. That’s a good sign.
Also a good sign: He gave up four sacks and only one quarterback hit. That’s really good. Like, really good. Austin Howard only gave up two sacks, but he surrendered 15 hits. Of course, Wilson is elusive and adept at avoiding being hit, but it’s not like Wilson never got hit. The rest of the Seahawks linemen, backs and tight ends (excluding Giacomini) combined to give up 23 hits, the same amount as the rest of the Jets (excluding Howard).
In addition, whether it’s because the line gelled, he got past his injury or whatever, Giacomini’s pass protection numbers really improved in the postseason. He gave up no sacks or hits and just four pressures in three games, giving him the third best postseason pass blocking efficiency in the NFL.
Again, the numbers are encouraging and when you look at the sacks he gave up, one of them was excusable. Brian Robison clearly got away with jumping offside and as Giacomini scrambled to recover, he got in front of his man to allow Wilson time to step up, but Wilson had nowhere to go because Sweezy was bullrushed into the backfield.
On the other three, one saw him allow Charles Johnson too much separation so he could leverage outside for a strip-sack, perhaps exploiting those short arms. The announcers criticized Wilson here for not sensing the pressure and checking down to a wide open Robert Turbin in the flat. Another saw him fail to get outside quick enough to stop a speed rush from Jason Babin who had lined up extra wide. He adjusted after that and it didn’t happen again. The last one came about because he missed a cut block.
Ultimately, the sacks he gave up weren’t that bad, especially considering there were so few of them, but there were a few more moments where he was badly beaten and Wilson’s elusiveness prevented a sack. Only a couple though.
At times, Giacomini was susceptible to a jab step move getting him off balance at the snap and then was unable to recover. Both Johnson and Chris Long got him with this. Also, as with in the running game, he was driven back a few times, although he did manage to stay in front of his man and re-anchor before his man could get to Wilson.
The Seahawks did give Giacomini some help in terms of chip blocks against some of the better pass rushers, but they left extra blockers in less than the Jets did overall.
As already noted, Giacomini gives a great effort and plays to (and beyond) the whistle. The fact he cut out the unnecessary roughness penalties is encouraging and, in fact, in 2013 he twice drew 15-yard penalties because he got hit and didn’t retaliate. One led to an ejection and negated a key sack. This article discusses his efforts to play smart during 2013 in light of his penalty numbers.
As noted, he had the knee issue in 2013. This was described as a fairly minor procedure that should have kept him out for weeks rather than months. Prior to that, he’s been listed on the injury report just three times, all for different minor ailments that lasted only a week.
Scheme Familiarity –
I already wrote about how the Jets are following the Seahawks blueprint during Super Bowl week and this could represent another step in that direction. The Seahawks use all the same kind of running plays that Marty Mornhinweg did last year, but with a higher emphasis on the zone blocking packages. Had the Jets retained Austin Howard at their price, that might have continued, but now they have Giacomini, who is smaller and experienced in a zone blocking role perhaps there will be more of a shift towards that. It might even play into their thinking as they seek to fill the right guard spot.
As noted above, John Idzik would be familiar with Giacomini and the fact they moved quickly to pick him up once it became apparent they couldn’t meet Austin Howard’s asking price is a good sign. We may never know what the Jets were prepared to offer Howard and we’re still waiting for confirmation on Giacomini’s contract, but I assume it was less.
I’m comfortable with Giacomini as a starter level player and, having watched the footage, I like him. He has some minor holes in his game, but is a good run blocker and reliable in pass protection. While he wasn’t always consistent, I was most encouraged by the fact that most of his worst plays weren’t that bad. I’d hope he is potentially capable of holding down the right tackle position for the next couple of years until a younger candidate emerges.
It’s a shame to see Howard go, but in a strange way I’m delighted to see a guy the Jets developed get a big money deal elsewhere and I wouldn’t have given him the deal that he got from the Raiders. We wish Austin the best, but also are pleased to welcome Breno to the Jets!
Up next: Eric Decker, followed by whoever the Jets sign after that…