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Can Giants’ OT Nate Solder bounce back after rough 2019?

Like it or not, Solder looks set to be part of offensive line

New York Giants v Detroit Lions
Nate Solder
Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Nate Solder, perhaps only with a challenge from Leonard Williams, has to be the member of the New York Giants that fans of the team love to hate the most.

There is an understandable reason on a team that has won just nine games over the past seasons and has suffered horrid offensive line play much of that time. Solder, a left tackle coming off an awful season, has yet to play up to the level expected when he signed a four-year, $64 million contract ($34.8 million guaranteed) prior to the 2018 season.

At 32 and carrying a team-high $19.5 million cap hit, can Solder give the Giants something akin to their money’s worth in 2020? Let’s take a closer look.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-8
Weight: 325
Age: 32
Position: OT
Experience: 9
Contract: Year 3 of four-year, $62 million deal | Guaranteed: $34.8 million | 2020 cap hit: $19.5 million

How he got here

Solder, of course, was the first big puzzle piece Dave Gettleman acquired in 2018 when he set out to revamp the Giants’ offensive line. Solder was decent in 2018, but had a rough 2019 season.

At left tackle, after offseason ankle surgery kept him out of spring practices Solder had the worst season of his nine-year career. The 57 pressures and 11 sacks were both the second-most he had ever allowed and his 64.7 PFF grade was the worst of his career.

“Nate had a rough year last year, nobody is denying, and certainly he is not,” GM Dave Gettleman said prior to the 2020 NFL Draft.

I’m not certain Solder was ever fully healthy in 2019. Plus, the reality that his 4-year-old son, Hunter, underwent surgery and a third round of chemotherapy for a Wilms tumor had to weigh on his mind.

2020 outlook

Solder is going to be part of the Giants’ offensive line. Left tackle? Right tackle? I don’t know. A recent interview Andrew Thomas gave to the team’s official website made it seem like Thomas is preparing to spend his rookie season on the right side, but that’s just reading between the lines.

I have said it before, but there are arguments to be made for both Solder left, Thomas right and vice versa. Players like Tyron Smith, Jason Peters, and Laremy Tunsil have all become outstanding left tackles after not starting their NFL careers at that position.

With the limited practice time it might be logical for the Giants to simply leave Solder where he is comfortable, left tackle. Thomas played both sides in college, so moving to the right shouldn’t be an issue.

Solder is not, and never was, a great left tackle. I am, though, inclined to fall in line with the view of Shaun O’Hara, who told me this a few weeks ago about Solder:

“I still believe Nate Solder is a good left tackle. I think anybody that says anything otherwise isn’t watching film, and doesn’t understand how hard it is to play left tackle in this league,” O’Hara said. “Nate Solder is a damn good football player. He’s been a damn good football player, he’s played at the Pro Bowl level, he’s won Super Bowls. One hundred percent I think he’s the best left tackle the Giants have right now.”

O’Hara, in fact, said he would leave Solder at left tackle and allow Thomas to get his NFL feet wet at right tackle.

”I think Andrew Thomas can morph into a left tackle but if you’re telling me to put the five best guys out on the field I’m putting Nate Solder at left tackle and I’m putting Andrew Thomas at right tackle,” O’Hara said.

“There are a lot of teams that wish they had Nate Solder.”

I know this much. With Cameron Fleming on the roster, if Solder does struggle like he did a year ago the Giants are in better position to make a lineup switch.