Pro Football Focus has released their preseason projection for the NFL’s offensive lines.
As far as the New York Giants are concerned, their projections are something of a mixed bag. On the downside, PFF believes that for all the money and resources Dave Gettleman has poured into the line since being hired, the Giants still have the worst line in the NFC East. Each of their division rivals boasts a line that is in the top half of the NFL in PFF’s reckoning, with the Washington Redskins coming in at 14th, while the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are ranked as 2nd and 1st in the NFL, respectively.
The good news is that after fielding what was arguably the worst performing line of Eli Manning’s career in 2018, PFF is bullish on the Giants’ OL in 2019, ranking them 18th in the league.
18. NEW YORK GIANTS
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
Left Tackle: Nate Solder
Left Guard: Will Hernandez
Center: Jon Halapio
Right Guard: Kevin Zeitler
Right Tackle: Mike Remmers
It wasn’t necessarily cheap, but the Giants acquired the best pass-protecting guard in the NFL from a season ago. Kevin Zeitler allowed all of 11 pressures in 2018 and will pair nicely with second-year guard Will Hernandez, who finished his rookie year with a very respectable pass-blocking grade of 73.1. Left tackle Nate Solder is coming off an above-average year as a pass-blocker, while center Jon Halapio could be a surprise candidate for a breakout season in 2019 — he began last year as the Giants’ starter before going down with an injury, but in his 116 snaps, he didn’t allow a single pressure, despite playing almost 50 pass-blocking snaps against the Jaguars and their array of pass-rushing weapons in Week 1.
Raptor’s Thoughts: This is something of a two part question for me.
I’ll start by saying that I absolutely believe that the interior of the Giants’ line will be improved from a year ago. The development of Will Hernandez and the addition of Kevin Zeitler should see to that.
Elsewhere, however, things get sticky for me. There are definite questions surrounding the projections of Jon Halapio, Nate Solder, and Mike Remmers.
The Giants are obviously very fond of Halapio, and he seems to be effective enough in pass protection. However, he does struggle on film when it comes to getting his hands up in time to engage defenders when he isn’t retreating in pass protection. That can certainly change and he can improve at center, but less than two games worth of sample size makes it difficult to state anything definitively.
PFF has long held a favorable view of Nate Solder — in part, I suspect, due to his relatively penalty-free play. From what they have shown of their methodology, they grade OL penalties very harshly.
But in speaking with offensive line expert Brandon Thorn, he placed Solder in his third tier of offensive tackles. Thorn stated that while Solder could handle average to below average rushers, he struggled against good to elite pass rushers, particularly athletic ones.
That sentiment coincides with PFF’s own analysis of Solder in 2017. In their view, Solder struggled in the first half of the season, but was their 2nd rated left tackle over the last seven games of the season. Over that stretch, the Patriots faced the Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers. Of them, only the Steelers fielded a dangerous pass rush, leading the league in sacks that year. The other four teams ranked 24th, 26th, 28th, and 29th, respectively. In the first half of the season the Patriots faced defenses such as the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, and Los Angeles Chargers.
This year 12 of the Giants’ 16 games will be played against a team that finished 2018 top-20 in sacks, eight of those teams finished in the top 10. And at 31 years old, Solder is nearing the age at which most offensive tackles begin their decline. While neither predicts a poor season from Solder, both of those facts bear remembering.
Thorn also advised caution in predicting that free agent Mike Remmers would be much of an upgrade over Chad Wheeler (who he does not believe is an NFL starter). While Thorn is a fan of Remmers’ game, citing his veteran savvy and bloodymindedness (paraphrasing on my part there) he admits that he was only ever a marginal NFL athlete, and the combination of age and injuries might have taken too much of a toll.
So, will the Giants field an NFL-average offensive line? That is obviously the hope — that they won’t have to worry about the offensive line this year and can hopefully find long-term building blocks. The good news, for us, is that we’re only two weeks away the start of training camp and we will soon begin to get our answers.