New York Giants fans have waited ... and waited ... and waited ... and waited some more, all in vain for the team to do something to upgrade an offensive tackle position that was a major weakness in 2015.
The first wave of free agency came and went. The Giants spent major money on defense, but apparently didn’t even dip their toes into the tackle waters.
Later opportunities came with veteran tackles Russell Okung and Donald Penn. The Giants flirted with both and even had Okung into New Jersey for a visit. Still, those opportunities went by the boards.
The 2016 NFL Draft came and went without the Giants doing anything to upgrade the starting five or add to the unit’s depth.
The Giants might have selected Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin with the 10th overall pick, if the Tennessee Titans hadn’t traded up to the eighth pick and grabbed him first. We will never know.
Stomp your foot and complain all you want, but the Giants were never going to select Laremy Tunsil at No. 10 after the gas-mask bong video surfaced. They had one more shot at adding a potential immediate starter at right tackle in the second round, but they chose wide receiver Sterling Shepard over Indiana right tackle Jason Spriggs. He went 48th to the Green Bay Packers. Anyone complaining?
The Eugene Monroe sweepstakes then came and went with Monroe eventually deciding he did not want to play for anyone. The Giants tried here, discussing a trade and then attempting to lure him as a free agent. ESPN reported that the Giants were still hoping to convince Monroe to join them until shortly before Monroe announced his retirement.
Who’s left for the Giants to chase now? We looked at that question when Monroe rode off into the sunset. Let’s look at a different question today.
Can the Giants win with the offensive line they have now?
I have written about both sides of this. I have written that the tackle situation is the biggest thing the Giants failed to address this offseason. Despite that failing, I have pointed out that with this identical offensive line the Giants were a top 10 offense last season.
So, can the Giants win if they are unable to find a better right tackle than Marshall Newhouse? Sure they can. The defense should be much improved. There should be more reliable pass-catching options for Eli Manning this season. The run-blocking from tight end/fullback should be better. Besides, if the Giants can put themselves in position to win there is no way they can blow five games in the last two minutes again, is there?
But we digress from discussing the offensive line.
Truth is, the offensive line is not terrible. The middle of the line is fine. Weston Richburg is one of the league’s best centers. Justin Pugh is a cornerstone player at left guard. John Jerry is an average left guard, and his offseason work with Richburg at OLine Performance Center makes him an interesting player to watch.
We know where the questions are. Lord knows we have discussed them enough. The questions are at tackle, and in the depth beyond the starting five.
The Giants have drawn a line in the sand with Ereck Flowers, steadfastly holding to the belief that he can be a quality left tackle. It’s a gamble, sure, but recent history tells us not to write off off players who struggle as rookie left tackles. New offensive line coach Mike Solari is charged with overseeing Flowers’ development, and cleaning up Flowers’ technical flaws is really Solari’s biggest challenge.
If the Giants have to start Newhouse at right tackle at least they know what they are getting. Pro Football Focus hates him and he will never be an All-Pro. Head coach Ben McAdoo trusts him, though, and the Giants will hope that a second year working next to Jerry leads to better results.
Perhaps more worrisome than the starting group is what happens if any of the starters suffers any type of significant injury. There is a dearth of proven depth. Competing for jobs are Bobby Hart, Adam Gettis, Ryan Seymour, Brett Jones, Dillon Farrell, Byron Stingily, Emmett Cleary and Jake Rodgers.
The belief here is that one or more linemen who make the 53-man roster are currently not part of the Giants organization. Still, the question we started with is can the Giants win with what they have? They can, if things go according to plan.
- If Flowers shows development.
- If they stay reasonably healthy — meaning no one missing more than a game or two.
- If Hart or whoever else is called upon in a reserve role can do an acceptable job.
Upgrades, of course, would be nice. At this point, though, that can’t be counted on.