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Giants position review, offensive line: Joe Schoen succeeding where predecessors failed?

Schoen is trying to fix what Dave Gettleman, Jerry Reese could not

New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

After allowing it to fall into disrepair, then-GM Jerry Reese took multiple swings at trying to fix the New York Giants’ offensive. He failed. His successor, Dave Gettleman, walked in the door proclaiming fixing the offensive line was a top priority. He did manage to draft Andrew Thomas, but failed for four years to assemble a functional line.

The 2022 season was Joe Schoen’s first as GM, and his first effort at fixing, or shall we say ‘upgrading’ since there is never a permanent fix, that offensive line. How did Schoen do? Let’s review the performance of the line in 2022 and look ahead to what the line might look in 2023.

2022 in review

The roster

Starters: Andrew Thomas (LT), Ben Bredeson (LG), Jon Feliciano (C), Mark Glowinski (RG), Evan Neal (RT)
Backups: Jack Anderson, Wyatt Davis, Nick Gates, Tyre Phillips, Matt Peart
Practice squad: Korey Cunningham, Devery Hamilton, Solomon Kindley
IR: Joshua Ezeudu, Marcus McKethan, Shane Lemieux

Pro Football Focus placed the Giants No. 30 in its offensive line rankings, including 27th in pass-blocking efficiency, 24th in overall pass-blocking grade and 14th in run blocking. PFF also ranked the Giants No. 30 in 2021.

Football Outsiders said the Giants improved from 3.75 Adjusted Line Yards to 4.24 in 2022, showing better run blocking. The pass blocking, though, regressed from an Adjusted Sack Rate of 6.4 percent in 2021 to 8.4 percent in 2022.

The view here is that Schoen and the Giants made inroads toward having a better offensive line, even if the results were not as good as hoped.

The Giants drafted Evan Neal No. 7 overall, and Neal had a rocky rookie season at right tackle. Neal was the lowest-ranked tackle among 57 graded by Pro Football Focus. Only two tackles surrendered more pressures than the 52 Neal allowed. Both Orlando Brown Jr. (56 in 861 pass-blocking snaps) and Andrew Wylie (53 in 835 pass-blocking snaps) played far more than Neal’s 534 pass-blocking snaps.

Neal has significant work to do this offseason, but recent history with Andrew Thomas should tell us not to write Neal off. Thomas, perhaps the worst tackle in the league as a rookie, is now in the discussion for being the league’s best left tackle.

Right guard Mark Glowinski was at times a target of frustrated Giants fans, but he played as expected when the Giants signed him to a three-year, $18.3 million contract with $11.4M guaranteed. He allowed five sacks, tying his career worst, but he was durable and his PFF grade (65.7) and pass-blocking efficiency percentage (96.8) were right around his career marks.

In his first full season as a starting center, Jon Feliciano was ranked 27th by PFF among 31 qualifying centers. Feliciano was 27th as a pass blocker and 15th as a run blocker.

Injuries forced the Giants into a revolving door at left guard as five players — Ben Bredeson, Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, Joshua Ezeudu and Jack Anderson — started games. The Giants finished the season with Bredeson and Gates rotating at that spot.

2023 outlook

There are two things to watch in 2023:

  1. Does Neal show significant progress?
  2. How do the Giants address the center and left guard spots?

In terms of expectations for Neal, the incredible ascension by Thomas during the past two seasons offers comfort and hope. It does not offer a guarantee that Neal will follow a similar path. The two are different players, with different flaws, different coaching staffs. If Neal ascends, the Giants will have bookend tackles to build an offensive line around.

Center could, I think, go one of three ways.

  • Both Feliciano and Gates are free agents. The Giants could bring back one (probably Feliciano) and give him the job outright.
  • The Giants could sign one of Feliciano or Gates as a stop gap, or even slide Ben Bredeson to center, while drafting and developing a young player they hope would become their center of the future.
  • The Giants could dip into free agency for a veteran center like Rodney Hudson, Connor McGovern or Garrett Bradbury.

Left guard is even more unpredictable.

  • The offense seemed to function best when Bredeson was playing, and he did start eight games. The Giants, though, had Bredeson rotating with Ezeudu at the beginning of the season and Gates at the end. So, do they really think he is a starting-caliber player?
  • Will they bring Gates back? He is a great story and a popular player, but do GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll think they can do better?
  • What about Lemieux? After back-to-back seasons in which he couldn’t make it through a single game, what is his future?
  • Did Ezeudu show enough to warrant an opportunity to compete for the starting left guard job?
  • Does McKethan, who missed the entire season with a torn ACL suffered during training camp, fit in the picture anywhere?

I have doubts that the Giants will spend premium free agent dollars on the guard position. They might, though, spend premium draft capital. I will be very surprised if they don’t add at least one or two players in the draft to the competition at guard.