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Giants’ Shane Lemieux named breakout lineman candidate

NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger has high hopes for second-year guard

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New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

At least one NFL analyst sees a bright future for second-year New York Giants guard Shane Lemieux.

NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger released his list of breakout lineman candidates for 2021. Lemieux, the former Oregon Duck, was third on Baldinger’s list behind New York Jets tackle Mekhi Becton and Cleveland Browns guard Ezra Cleveland.

Here’s what the former NFL lineman Baldinger had to say about Lemieux:

The Giants got a tad lucky over the weekend when they found out Lemieux won’t need surgery after suffering a knee injury during the first week of training camp. While he is expected to miss a few weeks, he should step right in as a quality starter upon his return. For proof, look no further than the impact he made as a rookie. The Giants were reeling at 1-6 heading into November — although beginning to play better — and chose to start their fourth-round rookie guard against the eventual Super Bowl champion Bucs. They pulled Lemieux from the left on a variety of plays from traps to powers and sweeps, taking the Bucs to the brink before losing by two. But the Giants looked like a real offense that day.

They then went on a four-game win streak; Father Judge’s coaching and Lemieux’s pulling had me believing they could turn things around. Why, you ask? It’s because whenever the Giants had great teams — Super Bowl teams — they had great pulling guards. In the 1980s, they had Billy Ard at left guard. In 2007 and 2011, they had Chris Snee at right guard. Forget what the grading services say, this kid has an inner fiber that burns hot and there’s a lot of nasty to his game. The Giants found their guard! Look for Lemieux to really impact the run game in Saquon Barkley’s return and protect Daniel Jones in a big year for the quarterback.

It’s an interesting take from a guy who knows the offensive line position well. Perhaps those who watched closely saw the upside in Lemieux last year, but for others it would have been harder.

In fact, Pro Football Focus graded Lemieux’s 2020 season dead last among all NFL guards, at just 32.2. His pass blocking rank came in at a nearly unbelievable 16.9.

It’s worth clarifying that PFF grades aren’t necessarily a completely accurate assessment of a player. The eye test still counts for something and Baldinger clearly saw a pattern of play that the stats folks didn’t.

For a Giants team that recently parted ways with hard-nosed guard Kevin Zeitler, perhaps any positive news on the interior offensive line is welcomed. At the moment, both ESPN and Ourlads are currently slotting Lemieux at the starting left guard spot.

Lemieux has been ramping up after suffering a knee injury early in camp. He could resume full practice this week.