Whether people want to admit it or not, the success of an offense starts upfront in the pit. And if the guys in the pit aren’t very good, chances are the offense is going to struggle in both the running game and the passing game.
Such is what the Giants have found out virtually every year since 2013 as they watched the line deteriorate talent-wise with busts and poor fits for what the coaches wanted to do.
Ironically, the decline of the offensive line happened right around the time current general manager Dave Gettleman left to take the GM post with the Carolina Panthers. If running the ball to set up the pass is the key to a successful offense, the Giants haven’t exactly accomplished that goal, according to Football Outsiders:
Giants OL Run Blocking Rank vs. Rushing Game Rank
Not very impressive, right? Even in 2018, after Gettleman began to fix the line, the offensive line’s run blocking still wasn’t very consistent.
This past offseason, Gettleman has supposedly finished the job he started last winter by completely revamping the right side of the offensive line, a problem for the Giants in 2018.
The hope is with the additions of Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers at guard and tackle on that side to complement Nate Solder and a more experienced Will Hernandez on the left side, whoever ends up at center (the best guess is it will be Jon Halapio, though Spencer Pulley will be in the mix for the starting job), should be able to flourish.
But that was also the hope last year when the Giants extended a clean slate to Ereck Flowers, who unlike Bobby Hart (whom Gettleman cut literally within days after accepting the Giants general manager post) at least got the fresh start.
Flowers, as we all know, didn’t take advantage, leaving the Giants with no choice but to cut their losses with him (as they also did with free-agent signing Patrick Omameh).
Let’s hope that this time around, Gettleman has the right guys in place and that this unit doesn’t have to undergo multiple revisions as it did last year.
The Projected Depth Chart
Starters: LT Nate Solder LG Will Hernandez, C Jon Halapio, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Mike Remmers
Backups: C/Gs - Spencer Pulley, Evan Brown, James O’Hagan. OGs – Chad Slade, Austin Droogsma. OTs – Chad Wheeler, Brian Mihalik, Victor Salako, George Asafo-Adjei, Nick Gates, Paul Adams
The coaches would like for us to believe that there will be a competition at right tackle, but unless Remmers isn’t ready physically, it’s his job to lose.
That doesn’t mean the end of Chad Wheeler, who filled in at right tackle all spring while Remmers continued his rehab from off-season back surgery. Wheeler and Brian Mihalik (who filled in for Nate Solder in the spring) figure to be the main competitors for the swing tackle position. Meanwhile, rookie George Asafo-Adjei, a talented but raw prospect in need of seasoning, could start his first NFL season on the practice squad.
The Giants have an interesting dilemma at center. They signed Pulley to a two-year contract that pays him more than the one-year exclusive rights free agent tender Halapio received. But if last year taught us anything, the Giants aren’t afraid to move a high-priced backup for a late-day three draft pick in return.
If one of Evan Brown or James O’Hagan steps up with a strong showing, it wouldn’t be so crazy to think that the Giants might look to move Pulley if he loses the starting job to Halapio.
The big question
Is the starting offensive line going to be different or better?
The Giants are crossing their fingers that this offensive line is better than last year’s. They can ill-afford to be in a position where they have to continue tweaking the lineup due to injury or performance.
Saquon Barkley proved he’s capable of making things happen on his own last year. But if the Giants want to have this valuable contributor around for 10 years, it would certainly help if the offensive line finishes as a run-blocking unit that ranks in the top half of the league.
Also, as the Giants prepare to transition to Daniel Jones, it’s crucial that they put together the right offensive line combination to ensure the transition is a smooth one.
If Jones gets time to make reads and get a feel for the speed of the pro game behind a line that can protect him, that’s going to help expedite his development.
But if he must continuously run for his life, then the Giants are going to be in trouble if Jones develops into a nervous Nellie in the pocket.