Our word of the day, thanks to the unique stylings of NFL analyst Brian Baldinger, is “dysfunction.”
There is near-total dysfunction on the New York Giants’ offensive line, leading to quarterback Daniel Jones being sacked at a historically horrific pace.
The beating Jones has taken has left him with an injured neck, and has him at times not seeing the field properly or perhaps not identifying where the pass rush will be coming from. Jones is tough and coach Brian Daboll said on Monday that Jones “made some good throws under a good amount of pressure” on Sunday.
There is, though, at least some dysfunction in his game.
As a result, the offense has been almost completely dysfunctional.
We have spent a lot of time talking about the reasons for the dysfunction. You can find some of those reasons here. And here. Tony DelGenio and I talked about some of it on Monday’s ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast.
We will go through some of that here, but let’s spin forward.
How do Daboll and Co. fix this mess? How do they make an untenable situation tenable over the final 12 games? What are the ramifications if they can’t?
“You know you’re going to go through some adversity. When that is, you never know, but you are consistent with your approach,” Daboll said. “You have to get with them again this week, all of the guys, not just offensive line – everybody. Obviously, we all need to improve. Coach them on the details, go out there, do what you need to do in practice and then have the confidence to go out there in the game to execute it.”
Nothing gets better for the Giants until they get better play from their offensive line.
So, how can that happen? Or, can it happen at all?
First, it doesn’t sound like left tackle Andrew Thomas is returning for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills. Daboll was clear on Monday that Thomas, who did not practice last week due to his hamstring, is farther away from a potential return than Saquon Barkley.
Daboll said right guard Marcus McKethan, who left Sunday’s game with a knee injury, might be able to play this week. He wasn’t sure about starting center John Michael Schmitz.
Perhaps veteran guard Justin Pugh, signed to the practice squad last week, will be ready to play by Sunday. That would, on paper, upgrade the talent on the interior of the line. In practice, Pugh’s experience should help the communication among the linemen.
The other potential personnel move would be replacing Joshua Ezeudu at left tackle with Matt Peart. That seems obvious, except that Peart was not good in relief of Ezeudu last week as he allowed four pressures in 19 pass-blocking snaps.
The communication, as pointed out by both Baldinger and our own Nick Falato, has to improve.
The play Nick broke down, incidentally, is a perfect microcosm of everything that has gone wrong on the Giants’ offensive line this season.
There is an individual breakdown as Bredeson is beaten by Christian Wilkins. On the right side of the line, two young players (McKethan and Neal) either miscommunicate or don’t understand their assignments. On the left side, two out of position players who have barely worked together (Ezeudu and Mark Glowinski) fail to work together properly to pass off a stunt.
In one play, pretty much every issue the line has experienced gets exposed.
Is that coaching? Is that simply inexperience? It is all of the shuffling of positions that has taken place thus far? Is it a combination of all of that? Probably, it is the latter.
The Giants have used five different starting combinations, and if they add Pugh, Peart or both to the lineup this week that will be six. Bredeson admitted on Monday dealing with that isn’t easy.
“Obviously, that adds a different element. Gelling is definitely something that’s key with an offensive line, but this is why during training camp we had rotation and different combinations,” Bredeson said. “It’s something that we need to improve, and we obviously have different guys in there at different spots and we need to work on getting that gelling going as fast as possible.”
What if it doesn’t get better?
I think we need to discuss potential impacts on four people — GM Joe Schoen, head coach Brian Daboll, quarterback Daniel Jones, and Neal, the beleaguered right tackle.
The GM is ultimately responsible for the roster. If Neal fails, it is certainly fair to ask the GM why he passed on Ickey Ekwonu for Kayvon Thibodeaux in the 2022 draft and why, having done that, he chose Neal over Charles Cross? To this point, both have been far better than Neal.
I think it’s fair to ask why Schoen signed off on cutting Tyre Phillips, a player who did an adequate job filling in at right tackle for the Giants last season and has guard-tackle flexibility. I don’t think Phillips is a viable left tackle option, but he’s a decent backup at three spots. NFL teams are starving for those and the Giants let one go.
I think it’s fair to ask why, if the Giants don’t believe Peart is a quality swing tackle he is on the roster and the team didn’t seek a better option? Ezeudu is doing the best he can at a position he probably shouldn’t be playing.
I refuse to go along with the idea that some are expressing that Daboll is, or should be, on the hot seat for the way the Giants have started the season.
The Giants must get off the two-year coaching merry-go-round. They haven’t had a head coach for more than two seasons since they moved on from Tom Coughlin after the 2015 season. They will never get anywhere if they keep changing course.
Daboll has made mistakes this season, and some questions are warranted. In my view, here are some that have direct offensive line implications:
- Daboll often defends the constant shuffling of players in training camp by pointing out that Bredeson has had to play center and Glowinski left guard. OK, but why is Ezeudu starting at a position he did not practice all summer — and really had not practiced since 2022 training camp?
- Why was an unprepared McKethan thrown so abruptly into the lineup? He missed all of last season and barely practiced all summer, getting a scant 20 snaps in the preseason finale. That was the extent of his work before finding himself in the starting lineup Week 2.
- Why was Phillips cut?
- Why wasn’t the starting offensive line settled sooner, and why didn’t that group play together more in the preseason?
- Does Daboll have the right offensive line coach in Bobby Johnson?
- The Giants seemed to have a much better, more realistic approach to what they could do on offense Sunday against Miami. Why did it take five games to get there?
There are 12 games left in this season. After Sunday’s game against the Bills, the schedule does provide the Giants with opportunities to win some games.
What changes will Daboll make over those 12 games? What changes will he make next year in how he prepares his team?
What is Jones? He is in his fifth NFL season, and I don’t think we have a true answer. More importantly, I think we might be reaching a point where the answer no longer matters.
We will be asking in this week’s ‘SB Nation Reacts’ poll if the Giants should select a quarterback in the first two rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft. That, realistically, is where we are. Or, at least where we will be if the Giants go something like 3-12 and show no signs over the next 12 games of being able to play functional offensive football.
Jones will be in the second year of his four-year, $160 million contract. That will be the last season in which there is guaranteed money, since the deal the Giants gave him was smartly structured as a two-year “prove it” window.
Whether or not quarterback is on the menu in the upcoming draft could largely be determined by the next 12 games.
The Pro Football Focus grades (a season-worst 31.6 with six pressures allowed in 46 pass-blocking snaps) disagree, but our Nick Falato swears Neal played better for most of Sunday’s game against Miami.
Regardless of that, and regardless of his unfortunate tirade against the fans, we are reaching a point where a decision will have to be made about Neal.
The 2022 No. 7 overall pick is currently graded 62nd by PFF of 64 qualifying tackles. His 26 pressures surrendered leads the league. Neal’s pass-blocking efficiency score is 58th. His run-blocking grade is 60th.
Neal has 12 games — maybe less — to show he can be a competent right tackle. If he can’t, do the Giants bench him? Move him to guard? Trade him?
I don’t know, but a decision is looming unless he plays better — and does it soon.