Kevin Zeitler doesn’t mess around. You could see that the first time Zeitler was available to New York media, as the Giants new guard stalked into the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, dropped his backpack with a thud and said to reporters, if memory serves correctly, “Let’s do this.”
Whether those were his exact words or not, the invitation was not a social one. It was a “this is part of the job, so let’s get it done” demand.
“I just try to take my time seriously here,” Zeitler said during the media session. “You’ve only got so many hours in the building, whether it’s lifting, practice, meetings – you should really take advantage of it. Once that’s done, you can cool down, but just taking the time seriously in the building.”
Offensive line coach Hal Hunter noticed Zeitler’s no-nonsense demeanor right away:
“He is very demanding of guys around him in a positive way,” Hunter said back in May. “You demand in yourself what you demand in others. I love that about him. I love everything about him, his personality and what he brings. He is so fun to coach.”
New offensive tackle Mike Remmers, expected to line up next to Zeitler at right tackle, figured out quickly that Zeitler is hard to miss.
“That guy in enormous,” Remmers said. “He makes me feel really small.
“He’s got a great attitude and you can tell how much it means to him. That helps everyone around him. You can see how hard he’s working, and it pushes everyone else around him.”
Let’s talk more about the 29-year-old seven-year veteran as we conclude our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
Position: Right guard
How he got here
Let’s make sure we get the bookkeeping right. The Giants did not acquire Zeitler from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for Odell Beckham Jr. They got Zeitler in exchange for defensive end Olivier Vernon. The Beckham-Jabrill Peppers trade was really a separate deal, although both happened at roughly the same time and were announced jointly by the Giants.
Zeitler has started all but one of the 108 games he has played in, including four playoff games, since he was a first-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012.
Per Pro Football Focus, Zeitler’s 98.9 pass efficiency score in 2018 put him in a three-way tie for best among NFL guards. He was 13th in 2017, third in 2016, fourth in 2015. In those four seasons, he has been charged with only six sacks allowed. Zeitler isn’t quite as good as a run blocker, 22nd last year and 48th in the 2017 PFF rankings.
He has, somehow, never been named to the Pro Bowl or voted All-Pro. His only postseason honor was being named to the 2012 All-Rookie Team.
Zeitler is the key piece of version 2.0 of GM Dave Gettleman’s re-structuring of the offensive line. Eli Manning suffered a career-worst 47 sacks a year ago, 11.6 percent of the sacks he has taken in his 15-year career.
The importance of Zeitler, left guard Will Hernandez and returning center Jon Halapio can’t be underestimated in helping lower that number. An immobile, pocket-passing quarterback like Manning needs a pocket to step up into when pressure inevitably comes from the edge on long-developing routes. The numbers tell you that throughout his career Zeitler has helped give that to the quarterbacks he has protected.
As mentioned by Remmers, Zeitler also brings professionalism and leadership that Gettleman has sought and his teammates should appreciate.
Zeitler is signed through 2021, and should be a key part of the offensive line during that time.