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Why Jerry Reese was wrong about the Giants’ offensive line

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The GM’s explanation for not upgrading that group doesn’t make sense

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese was right on Tuesday about Ereck Flowers. The much-maligned left tackle has played better in recent weeks. Reese, though, was wrong — or at least horribly misguided — in just about everything else he said about the team’s offensive line.

Reese was asked point blank why he didn’t upgrade the offensive line during the offseason. He said “there weren’t a lot of choices out there” and added “there just wasn’t a lot of offensive line help out there from our perspective.”

What? Quality offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth, Russell Okung, Ricky Wagner, Kelvin Beachum and Riley Reiff weren’t available in free agency? I could have sworn they were. I could have sworn guards Kevin Zeitler, Ronald Leary, Larry Warford and T.J. Lang were looking for new jobs.

Reese was asked directly about passing on Whitworth, the 35-year-old left tackle who made the Pro Bowl the last two years and is still one of the game’s premier left tackles. Whitworth is currently the sixth-graded tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

“We want to be a younger football team and everybody has an opinion about who was available and who wasn’t. To us, it didn’t make sense for us and that’s what we went with,” Reese said. “We want to be a younger offensive line. Again, do you want to try to develop a 23-year old guy, or do you want to bring in a 36-year old guy? We chose to go with the young guy.”

That makes sense. Except for two very obvious things.

The Giants have an immobile 36-year-old quarterback with a rapidly closing window. They should have been worried less about development and more about putting the best possible line in front of Eli Manning regardless of age.

Second, 33-year-old Brandon Marshall. I tried to ask Reese why it was OK to sign an aging wide receiver but not an aging offensive lineman, but couldn’t get the question in above the chaos. Part of the problem is that Marshall was coming off two poor seasons in the last three, while Whitworth had just played the best two years of his career.

What about the draft?

In the draft, Ryan Ramczyk and Cam Robinson were available in the first round. Let me be clear — picking Evan Engram was the right call. But, Reese had a choice. Both players are starting, with Ramczyk in particular playing well.

In Round 2, the Giants took a good player in defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. They could have selected Temple’s Dion Dawkins or Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton. Again, there was a choice.

Point is, the assertion that the Giants did not have choices is nonsense. They simply made the decision to go in other directions.

About those “comparables”

Reese’s chatter about “comparable” offensive lines and linemen was way off the mark. If he truly believes what he said that is irresponsible.

Of Flowers, Reese said “if you look at him compared to a lot of left tackles around the National Football League, there’s a bunch of comparables around.”

Translation: Yeah, he’s not good. But there are a lot of left tackles in the league just as bad or worse.

When asked directly if he had missed on the Flowers pick, Reese said “there’s been guys that have been picked higher than him in the offensive line who have struggled.”

Translation: Other GMs have made worse mistakes, so don’t blame me.

Reese also said this about the offensive line overall:

“Is our offensive line comparable to a lot of teams around the National Football League? Absolutely, it is.”

The problem with that is Manning. He’s not Russell Wilson. He’s not Aaron Rodgers. He’s not Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, DeShaun Watson, Cam Newton or even Alex Smith. He can’t run around and overcome bad offensive line play with his feet like those guys can.

It’s not OK that the Giants’ offensive line is bad simply because other offensive lines are bad. Or, that it is comparable in its mediocrity. You have a quarterback who needs better. He needs a top-tier offensive line to play the kind of football he is capable of.

The GM, simply, doesn’t appear to recognize that.