Ever chase an evasive fly around a room, whacking wildly at the pesky little bug with a fly swatter? Thwap! Missed. Thwap! Missed. Thwap! Missed. Every time you think you’ve got the annoying thing cornered it somehow escapes your effort to squash it.
Sometimes, that can be what it is like to get substantive answers out of New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo. Ask him a question and “whoosh,” he’s gone without giving you the slightest bit of information. Ask him the same question a different way and sometimes it’s like the offending reporter has become the bug, with McAdoo trying to squash him.
Anyway, let’s talk about the offensive line. McAdoo and the media have been playing this game for a while now in regards to that group as it has become evident that players other than John Jerry are at least getting looks at right guard.
Brett Jones got some first-team practice reps last week, and both Jones and D.J. Fluker got first-team snaps Saturday vs. the New York Jets.
Asked Saturday about Jones’ play, McAdoo said only that he would “have to go back and look at the tape.” Asked what Jones gives to the offense, McAdoo said vaguely that “he’s a smart guy with some versatility.”
Asked Sunday about Jones, Fluker and rookie left tackle Chad Wheeler, McAdoo said they “jumped in there and did a nice job, and they’re competing at a high level.”
Sooner or later, McAdoo and the Giants are going to have to show their hand. Are they going to replace Jerry, who has struggled in three preseason games, with Jones?
“When we get to the first regular season game, we’re going to put the best group out there that we feel can help us win,” McAdoo said.
What if that includes Jones?
The Giants obviously like the 26-year-old, who was CFL Outstanding Rookie in 2013 and Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2014 before signing with the Giants in 2015. There is a lot to like. He’s smart. Versatile enough to play center and both guards. Powerful at a listed height of 6-foot-2 and 318 pounds. Athletic enough to get out in space and block at the second level, something important in the Giants’ offense.
Had Jones stayed healthy last season when he got an opportunity to play with Justin Pugh sidelined by a knee injury, there might not even be a competition right now. Jerry may never have been re-signed, and Jones might have been the starting right guard from Day 1. Jones, though, got hurt in the first drive of his first start.
“I just try to go out and play whenever I get the opportunity and it was my opportunity today,” Jones said after Saturday’s game. “Last year was a little disappointing. I just want to make sure I learn from that experience.”
So, here we are.
Jerry has started 40 regular-season games for the Giants over the past three seasons. He’s always been a pretty good pass blocker, but a below-average run-blocker. He had a good season in 2016. What, though, if the Giants think Jones — or less likely at this point, Fluker — is a better option?
What happens then?
The question, really, at that point would become who do the Giants keep as reserve offensive linemen?
Jerry would figure to stay even if he loses his starting gig. The Giants would take a $3.325 million cap hit if they cut him. He can play both guards and probably right tackle in an emergency.
Sixth-round pick Adam Bisnowaty figures to stay. The Giants traded up to get him and, even though he seems to have struggled recently, it would be stunning to see them give up on him this quickly.
After that, do the Giants keep just one more lineman? That’s what I’ve been projecting. Jones starting would complicate that choice because he is also the backup center. Could Fluker lose his roster spot to someone like Jon Halapio, who can also play center? Could the Giants find a way to squeeze a ninth offensive lineman onto the 53-man roster so they could keep Fluker and a pure backup center? What about Wheeler?
What about Fluker?
There has been some surprise expressed in the fan base that it was Jones and not Fluker who got the first shot at ousting Jerry. Also that Fluker, signed to a one-year deal as a free agent, hasn’t gotten more of an opportunity with the first team at either guard or right tackle.
Fluker is a massive, powerful man. When he locks on to someone that person is not getting away. There is, however, more than strength involved.
Jerry is in his fourth year in McAdoo’s offense. Jones is in his third. They know the offense, and their assignments within it, inside and out. Fluker is still learning the nuances of what he is expected to do.
“I’m learning so much,” Fluker said Saturday night.
There is also the idea that the Giants ask their guards to do a lot of pulling and moving, not just straight-ahead blocking. As a 340-plus pound man, that’s not always an easy ask for Fluker.
After being a star at Alabama, a first-round draft pick and a four-year starter for the San Diego Chargers, it can’t be easy for Fluker to spend most of his practice time with second- and third-team players. He is, however, trying to be positive.
“I just wait until my number’s called. I do my job to the best of my ability,” he said. “I’m just being patient. Be patient on it and it’s gonna come. That’s all I can do.”
The issues with the offensive line are not all Jerry’s fault. Or that of Ereck Flowers. Or any individual player. Yet, right now Jones replacing Jerry appears to represent the Giants’ best chance at some type of upgrade. The Giants should give him a chance.