One of the constant features for the New York Giants in a decade of mostly bad football, has been poor offensive line play.
The Giants have tried ... and tried ... and tried to repair the damage done by allowing the Diehl-Seubert-O’Hara-Snee-McKenzie line to age out of effectiveness without adequate replacements on hand, but multiple efforts and multiple regimes have been unable to do so.
New GM Joe Schoen took a mighty swing at improving the line — I won’t say ‘fixing’ — in his first season as GM. The only returning starter is left tackle Andrew Thomas. The No. 7 overall pick was used on right tackle Evan Neal. A third-round pick was used on Joshua Ezeudu. A half-dozen budget free agents were signed, mostly to fortify the guard and center positions.
Will it work? Will the Giants — for the first time in a long while — finally have consistently competent offensive line play?
Key additions: Evan Neal, Mark Glowinski, Jon Feliciano, Joshua Ezeudu
Other additions: Marcus McKethan, Matt Gono, Max Garcia, Jamil Douglas
Key losses: Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Billy Price, Matt Skura
Why the Giants could be better
The drafting of Neal gives the Giants something they simply have not had — a pair of young bookends at the tackle spots that they can build an offensive line around. With Neal at right tackle at 2020 No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas at left tackle the Giants should be solid at those spots for a while. At least until a couple of years down the road when it comes time to start figuring out whether or not to pay them big money second contracts.
Thomas is an ascending player finding his footing in the league after a rocky 2020 season. Neal is a player some thought was the best offensive tackle in the draft. He has significant collegiate experience at right tackle, and could be set up for an easier NFL transition than the one Thomas experienced.
On the inside, the Giants drafted two players out of North Carolina — Joshua Ezeudu in Round 3 and Marcus McKethan in Round 5. They brought in a number of competent, experienced veteran players including Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, Max Garcia and Jamil Douglas.
Shane Lemieux, expected to be last season’s starter at left guard, is back after a year on IR with a knee injury. Ben Bredeson has another year of experience and could factor as a depth player at guard and center.
The tackle talent is definitely better for the 2022 Giants. The interior group seems more palatable — a number of players with significant starting experience, a hopefully ascending player like Lemieux, and a pair of 2022 draft picks to develop.
With all of that in place, there should be optimism that this line will be the best one the Giants have fielded in several years.
Why the Giants could be worse
Well, let’s paint the worst-case scenario.
- Thomas’s twice-surgically repaired ankle continues to be an issue, and he either can’t play or backslides toward the player he was in the first half of 2020. Matt Gono or Korey Cunningham have to play a lot, and that doesn’t go well.
- Neal has a rocky transition to the NFL.
- Swapping out Billy Price for Jon Feliciano, who is expected to be a full-time starting center for the first time in his career, proves to be a mistake.
- Lemieux isn’t any better — especially in pass protection — than he was during a terrible 2020 rookie season. Ezeudu isn’t ready, and the Giants are trying to get by with Garcia, Douglas or Bredeson at left guard.
- Glowinski plays like 2018 free-agent signee Patrick Omameh, who was cut after a half-season with the Giants, and actually makes fans pine for Will Hernandez.
Do I think all of those things will happen? No. If several of them did, however, the ljne could struggle.