“Those first few games, I’m looking at myself on tape, and I’m like, ‘Who is that?’” Beatty recalled. “Everyone who knew me knew that something [was] wrong—they were like, ‘Beatty, this is not you. Why this is not you, we don’t know, but this isn't you.’”
After doing some soul searching about his early-season struggles—during which, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he gave up four sacks, four quarterback hits and 16 quarterback hurries—he realized what was at the heart of his problem.
“I started off the first few games with way too much pressure on my plate,” he confessed.
“I’m still the same guy, but I was trying to change the technique, trying to do better, trying to do things that took me away from what I did well. So I’m thinking back then, ‘OK, now I’m here so I’m going to do something different.’”
The reason for Beatty’s desire to change, he said, was that he felt pressure to live up to the expectations that came with signing a new five-year, $38.75 million contract this past offseason.
“It’s unusual because you’d think most guys would feel pressure without having the contract,” Beatty said. “I was feeling like I still had something to prove.”
While he was technically correct—he just missed cracking Pro Football Focus’ "Top 10 NFL Left Tackles" list, placing as the 11th-best at his position (subscription required)—Beatty let his competitive nature get the better of him to the point where he over-analyzed his objectives for the 2013 NFL campaign.
Instead of making himself better, he made himself worse by moving away from what helped him earn that new contract to begin with.
The revelation for Beatty was his abysmal performance against the Carolina Panthers, his worst game thus far this season. In that game, he gave up three sacks, matching his entire total from the 2012 season.
"You take one year of three sacks the entire year and then you match that in one game, and the red flags go up to where it’s like, 'OK, I'm doing something wrong,'" he said.
What Beatty did wrong was that he violated the old cliché: "If it ain't broke, don’t fix it."
"He got out of whack out there early in the season," said Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
"If you go out and try to do something because the defenders are trying to do something, that’s when you get out of whack and lose what you need to do as an offensive lineman."
Against Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Beatty's footwork was one of his biggest problems.
In an earlier review of the Giants’ pass protection issues against the Panthers, by taking a slight half-step forward against Hardy, Beatty not only ended up off-balance, he also ended up losing a split-second, which was all the defensive end needed to beat him on the edge to get to the quarterback.
“He just was facing a good player and a good defense in a hostile environment, and he kind of overreacted the wrong way,” Flaherty noted.
In the game against Bears defensive end Julius Peppers three weeks later, Beatty cleaned up this and other issues to pitch a shutout.
“I had to calm down and remember what the technique got me to this point was, and that was what I had to go back to doing,” Beatty said.
“You see the Carolina and the Chicago games. We lost both, but for me, it was like two different performances. I was thinking too much (against the Panthers) and not being a savvy veteran who was playing the game and having fun,” he added.
The biggest and most noticeable improvement was in Beatty’s footwork. Against the Panthers, Beatty was seen on several plays taking a half-step forward on passing downs rather than immediately dropping back.
By taking that half-step, he threw himself off-balance when he went to establish a base.
In a follow-up study done of the Bears game, that half-step forward was eliminated and Beatty was smoother in quickly setting his base and holding his ground.
The following sequence illustrates how effective an offensive tackle can be when he uses the prior technique.
In frame A, Beatty has a gap a defensive lineman to his right and a linebacker to his left as the Bears show blitz.
In frame B, the defensive lineman slants inside, where left guard Kevin Boothe picks him up. Beatty also provides a little help, though he sees the blitzing linebacker coming in.
Note how Beatty’s base (his feet) are hip-length apart, giving him a solid base to meet the blitzing linebacker.
Also note how instead of stepping forward, Beatty’s left foot (designated by the blue arrow) is stepping backward.
In frame C, Beatty is actually handling two Bears defenders, including the defensive lineman who rubbed off Boothe and onto Beatty.
Beatty not only has a solid piece of the blitzing linebacker, he also stalls the defensive end just long enough for Boothe to reset and come back to offer a second push in keeping the pocket clean. Quarterback Eli Manning then manages to get the ball away without being hit.
These subtle technique adjustments are a big reason for Beatty’s recent turnaround.
However, it’s just a start. Beatty believes he’s in no way close to being the player he can be.
“I have gotten back into the groove of playing the way I did last year and not trying to be like, ‘OK, now I’m here so I’m going to do something different,’” he said. “I have settled down and I feel like I’ve been playing more like the way I’m expected to and know how to play.
“I’m not saying that what I did (last year) was perfect. I’m talking about finding those things that I did well and improving them. That’s been my focus.”
“He’s worked really hard to develop the technique he needs to become a mainstay at left tackle,” said Flaherty. “You have to do it in practice and be consistent. If you’re consistent with your technique in practice, then you’ll go out and execute and be successful.”
With each week, Beatty continues to earn the respect not just of his opponents, but of his coaches and teammates. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who lines up across from Beatty in practice, said that Beatty deserves to be considered among the best at his position.
“I’ve been going against Will Beatty for three years now, and he’s gotten better and better,” said Pierre-Paul. “I can compare Will Beatty to the best of the left tackles in the league because he’s athletic enough to move around and compete with anyone, especially against a defensive end.”
“It’s a good matchup,” Beatty said. “You can see how he could be disruptive in a game and you’re trying to keep that from happening.”
“It’s not a team I've played against before, so I can’t compare him to anyone else I've faced, but I’m looking forward to it,” he added.