Shane Lemieux was supposed to be the starting left guard for the New York Giants in 2021. He was a young player with upside, a late-round 2020 draft pick the franchise believed could grow into a long-term answer on their long-beleaguered line.
Things didn’t work out. Lemieux suffered a partially fractured patellar tendon early in training camp, and tried to push through it. He lasted 17 snaps in the season opener before realizing he just couldn’t play on the damaged knee.
“I was trying to do everything I could to get out there,” Lemieux said this spring. “I was in a lot of pain.”
At halftime of the season opener against the Denver Broncos, Lemieux knew he couldn’t go any further. He spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.
Let’s talk more about Lemieux as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
By the numbers
Contract: Year 3 of four-year, $3.642 million deal | 2022 cap hit: $981,785
Career to date
Lemieux moved into the Giants’ starting lineup midway through the 2020 season when left guard Will Hernandez went on the COVID-19 reserve list. He started nine games and played 504 snaps. The former Oregon Duck had a rough go.
Lemieux ended up with a poor 32.2 overall Pro Football Focus grade, last among 93 qualifiers. That included a not-good 45.3 in run-blocking (80th of 84 qualifiers) and an embarrassingly bad 16.9 in pass-blocking (last among 91 qualifiers). Lemieux gave up 25 total pressures in 299 pass-blocking snaps, an awful pass efficiency rating of 91.7.
Lemieux pushed back this spring when asked about those poor grades.
“That’s like two years ago now,” Lemieux said. “I listen to what my coach at the time was telling me. I don’t have a Twitter. I don’t have any of that kind of stuff, so I don’t listen to that kind of stuff. I’m kind of old-school. Much respect to PFF, but I listen to what my coaches tell me.”
Lemieux never got a chance last season to make a second-year leap similar to the one left tackle Andrew Thomas made from 2020 to 2021. Could that happen in 2022?
Lemieux is the clear frontrunner to be the Giants’ starting left guard this season. He spent the entire spring working with the first unit in that spot. Rookie third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu, thought to be in competition for that spot, worked as a backup guard and fill-in left tackle for the rehabbing Andrew Thomas. Free-agent signee Max Garcia worked as a backup guard and center.
Head coach Brian Daboll and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, who both came from the Buffalo Bills, said Lemieux was on Buffalo’s radar during the 2020 draft.
“We liked him where I came from, too, coming out in the draft. Had good conversations with (Oregon coach) Mario (Cristobal),” Daboll said. “He’s a tough, smart, dependable guy. Plays with a nasty edge, which you need up front. Did a really good job in the meetings that we had with him leading up to the draft when I was in Buffalo.
“He’s done a really nice job here. He’s smart. He’s what I thought he was when we evaluated him. Now when the pads get on, he’ll have an opportunity to show that.”
Johnson expressed a similar view.
“I liked Shane when he was coming out of Oregon. I had a very high grade on him and I really wanted an opportunity to coach him,” Johnson said during OTAs.
The Giants selected Lemieux with pick No. 150 in Round 5 of the 2020 NFL Draft. Might the Bills have taken him (they took quarterback Jake Fromm) if Lemieux had still been on the board? We will, of course, never know.
From their words, and their actions thus far, it would appear that this coaching staff wants to give Lemieux a full opportunity to show that he can be a capable starting guard.