It is fairly obvious that as he self-scouted the New York Giants this offseason, head coach Joe Judge came to the conclusion that he had to prioritize doing whatever he could to maximize the potential of the young offensive linemen the Giants are invested in.
To that end, several things are different heading into the 2021 season. Freddie Kitchens has moved from tight ends coach to a senior offensive assistant role where, per Judge, he will spend a lot of his time focused on the offensive line. Veteran offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, who ran that position group during Tom Coughlin’s time as Giants coach, is back with the organization as a consultant who will help with the line.
The biggest move, though, is bringing in Rob Sale, a first-time NFL coach, as offensive line coach.
Sale, 41, spent the last three seasons as offensive line coach at Louisiana at Lafayette, adding offensive coordinator duties last season. he has also coached at Arizona State, Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia, McNeese State and Alabama.
“I’ve known Rob for some time now. I’ve worked with him. He’s someone that’s always impressed me as a very thorough teacher, as a very detailed and energetic on the field coach and he’s someone who has very strong relationships with his players,” judge said during a videoconference with Giants media on Tuesday. “I thought he was a good fit.”
Judge said the Giants went through an exhaustive search to find a successor for Dave DeGuglielmo, who finished last season as offensive line coach after Marc Colombo was fired midseason. Judge said he interviewed more that two dozen coaches for the position, and that the staff researched 15 to 20 more.
“At the end of the day the best move for the New York Giants was adding Rob,” Judge said.
“Rob’s an excellent teacher. He’s a great, high-energy coach. Very detailed on the field. His guys respond to him. I’ve watched him develop a number of players at different places.
“His ability to teach, his ability to establish relationships with his players and the response he gets from his guys and how they play on the field that to me they all just line up to be the best fit for us.”
The Giants have a lot riding on a number of young offensive lineman. They drafted Andrew Thomas fourth overall, Matt Peart in Round 3 and Shane Lemieux in Round 5 a year ago. Nick Gates is a young player who started at center for the first time in 2020. Will Hernandez is also in the final year of his rookie deal.
Judge said he was “pleased with the development” of those players last year.
Sale, and several others, will now be charged with continuing that development.
Other coaching changes
Judge made official Tuesday several of the changes to his coaching staff that had been previously reported.
Kitchens, as noted above, moves from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant.
“His primary responsibility is going to be working with the front,” Judge said. “Freddie has coached quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, has worked hand in hand with the offensive line. Again, tying into having two young offensive line coaches with Rob and Ben (Wilkerson), I think Freddie is going to be an asset up front working directly with them and helping bring together the game planning, like all of our coaches will, but working directly with (offensive coordinator) Jason (Garrett) with some of the things that are going to happen up front.”
Derek Dooley moves from senior offensive assistant to tight ends coach.
“Derek Dooley did a great job for us last year as a senior offensive assistant,” Judge said. “Really did a nice job preparing for opponents, running our scout teams and breaking down what we’re doing. We wanted to get him into a room, get him some guys. … Derek’s a guy who’s got coordinating experience, he’s coached multiple positions, he’s been a head coach, he sees things through a big lens and really sees a big picture at the end of the tunnel, which is important for us, so he’ll be our tight ends coach.”
Flaherty will be a consultant, and his role will go beyond the offensive line.
“(Flaherty is) going to work in a consultant role with both the offensive and defensive staffs,” Judge said. “He’s going to have responsibilities on both ends. Obviously, Pat’s specialty being an offensive line coach in this league for a long time, a tight ends coach, is really dealing specifically with the front. I’m excited to have Pat here.”
Jeremy Pruitt, fired as head coach at Tennessee, joins the staff as a senior defensive assistant.
“Jeremy’s going to work with all levels of the defense, the back end, the linebackers and the front,” Judge said. “Jeremy’s another guy that I’ve worked with in the past, I’ve kept in very close contact. Jeremy’s a guy that’s coached on all levels, high school, college and now the NFL, and he’s always impressed me as somebody who’s been able to connect with every player on the field regardless of how they came up, where they’re from geographically - doesn’t matter, Jeremy just has a good knack of connecting with everyone. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever been around and it’s been fun to have him in the building and talking ball. I think he’s going to help our staff as far as bringing some new ideas and different ways of running our current schemes.
“One thing you’re seeing in the league right now is there are a lot of college schemes that are trickling up to the NFL based on the players and their skillsets and what they’re accustomed to doing. Having guys like Jeremy, (inside linebackers coach) Kevin Sherrer and (defensive line coach) Sean Spencer give you a little bit of an avenue of looking into ways they’ve handled similar things in the college game and being able to do it within our own schemes, so it’s something that should help us right there.”