By his own admission, New York Giants right tackle Evan Neal has had an uneven rookie campaign in which he's been learning the ins and outs of how NFL pass rushers try to make their opponents look silly.
Such has been the case in particular against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have primarily lined up outside linebacker Haason Reddick across from the former Alabama product on most snaps. In the Week 14 meeting against the Eagles, per Pro Football Focus, Neal allowed eight of his ten total pressures this season vs. the Eagles, the eight pass pressures a season-high for the rookie.
But Neal is not one to get discouraged. He believes the more looks he gets at them, the smoother his game will run.
"I’m getting a better feel for them," he said Tuesday. "And as I study those guys, having that in-game experience against them will help me prepare."
The Eagles aren't the only team that has given Neal trouble. He currently has a 94.1 pass-blocking efficiency rating, dead last in a group of nine rookie NFL tackles who have taken at least 700 offensive snaps this season.
For Neal, most of his struggles have come since he returned from a mid-year knee injury that cost him four games. Thirty-one of his 47 pressures came following his return from a sprained MCL, including eight in last week's Wild Card win over the Vikings, raising a question regarding how he's feeling.
"I’m good. I’m ready," Neal insisted. "At this point in the year, you’re not going to find a guy that’s not banged up in some way, shape, or form. But I’m standing up. I’m ready."
Neal, who is wise beyond his years, was realistic about his rookie season. "I feel like it was a learning year for me. I had some ups. I had some downs. I had to battle through adversity, getting hurt, battling, and coming back. So, I feel like it was a growing year for me – a learning year. And I feel like I handled myself the best way I know how," he said.
That includes not folding mentally when the going got rough.
"Failure’s a part of life," he said. "I feel like failure’s something you learn from, and that’s how I’ve been approaching it. The good things I do out there, I try to capitalize on them and do more of them. The bad things, I try to clean them up the best way I can."
Fortunately for Neal, teammate Andrew Thomas, who famously went through his own struggles as a rookie, has been there for his younger teammate.
"He’s been in my ear, giving me advice through the things that he went through his rookie year and how he handled it and stuff like that. So, I’m thankful for him and just being able to help me that way," Neal said.
Neal has always enjoyed playing football, and with the stakes higher than ever, this weekend will be no different for him as far as his goals are concerned.
"I’m here to go out there and compete and give everything I have; empty everything I have in the tank. And at the end of the game, whatever the outcome is, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know I gave it my all," he said.
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