If there is one area where the New York Giants want — need, really — to see a tangible improvement in 2018 over 2017, it is on the offensive line. That was why Dave Gettleman completely tore down and rebuilt the offensive line this past offseason. The Giants made Nate Solder the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL (at the time), signed Patrick Omameh to a 3-year, $15 million ($10 million guaranteed) contract, and drafted Will Hernandez at the top of the second round in the 2018 NFL draft.
So far we only have small sample sizes in preseason games, but advanced analytics service Pro Football Focus believes that the Giants’ offensive line is trending in the right direction.
The #Giants starting offensive line showed improvement from week 1 of the preseason. Here are the week 1 grades compared to week 2:— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) August 19, 2018
LT Solder: 1-65.9, 2-73.5
LG Hernandez: 1- 41.8, 2-77.5
C Halapio: 1-53.0, 2-58.9
RG Omameh: 1-53.7, 2-51.9
RT Flowers: 1-63.0, 2-64.8
According to PFF’s grading system, Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, and Ereck Flowers all improved from their first performance to their second. While neither the Browns nor the Lions have monstrous defensive fronts, they aren’t bad either. And players like Myles Garrett and Ezekiel Ansah present serious challenges to any blocker they go against.
The Giants seem to have solidified the left side of their offensive line with Solder and Hernandez, and it is encouraging that Ereck Flowers seems to be adjusting to life on the right side of the line.
The concern here is on the interior. Jon Halapio seems to be entrenched as the starter getting all the first team snaps in both pre-season games and being named a game-day captain in Detroit. Meanwhile, Patrick Omameh took a step back in PFF’s eye, which is a definite concern.
Pat Shurmur said after Friday night’s preseason game against the Detroit Lions that he was happy with how the offensive line performed, and how the running game responded to a mid-game adjustment.
“I thought they performed better than the week before,” Shurmur said. “Aside from the one play where the ball potentially got knocked out of Davis (Webb’s) hand, I thought the protection was pretty good. I thought we did a decent job run blocking. There’s certainly plays in there where we can do better, but for the most part, I think they battled. I think they had 25 snaps together, and there were really no communication errors. So it was a solid performance. There’s plenty of areas where we can get better, but each week they’re doing some things better and better.”
On the other side of the coin, NFL.com has concerns about the state of the offensive line, writing,
But all too often, Webb was hurried by a Lions front seven that had little problem piercing the Giants’ reconstructed offensive line. Touted rookie guard Will Hernandez missed easy blocks. The right side of the line -- Ereck Flowers and Patrick Omameh -- was mauled on a called-back strip sack. Holes didn’t open up for backup running back Jonathan Stewart either (four carries for minus-1 yard) -- though Wayne Gallman had a nice night. New York invested heavily in the heavies this offseason, but it’s yet to pay off.
I’m not sure which “easy blocks” Hernandez missed, but as Shurmur notes, the snap which ended with Webb’s incomplete pass was an ugly one for the right side.
The Giants do have options, such as Brett Jones at center and John Greco at right guard, if Halapio can’t continue to improve or if Omameh can’t turn his trend around.
But for now, with just small sample sizes in preseason games to work with, we should at least be encouraged that the line as a whole is trending in the right direction. The offensive line might not be “fixed”, but if it is at least functional the Giants will be in a better position than they were for much of 2017 and several teams will be in this year.