The New York Giants’ offensive line has become something of a running joke, with struggles dating back years. The group was ranked No. 30 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus for two years in a row now.
When Joe Schoen took over as general manager, he used three picks in his first draft to invest in the position. While it’s still very, very early to make any judgments, things didn’t go quite as planned. Evan Neal struggled in his rookie year, Joshua Ezeudu suffered a serious neck injury in Week 10, and Marcus McKethan tore his ACL before the season even began.
Ezeudu is expected to be ready for training camp, but the time he spent on the sideline likely prevented the Giants from truly evaluating his growth during his rookie season. Is he ready to step into a starting role with the team? Or does he still need more time to develop?
By the numbers
Position: Offensive line
Contract: Year 2 of four-year, $5.485 million rookie deal | 2023 cap hit: $1.246 million
Career to date
Ezeudu made his name at the University of North Carolina by playing everywhere on the offensive line. He started 20 games at left guard, six at left tackle and two at right tackle. With his help, the Tar Heels ranked at least fourth in the ACC in rushing yards each season. He finished his senior year with All-ACC honors.
The Giants drafted him No. 67 overall in 2022 and took his teammate Marcus McKethan in the fifth round.
Ezeudu spent training camp living up to his status as a do-it-all lineman, taking reps at both guard and both tackle spots. He spent the first half of the regular season rotating with starting left guard Ben Bredeson, playing 240 snaps total.
Bredeson went down with a knee injury in Week 7, opening up an opportunity for Ezeudu to earn a significant role with the team. He started the next two games at left guard, but suffered a long-term neck injury in Week 10.
Ezeudu ended up needing surgery on his shoulder as well earlier this year, but he’s expected to be recovered for training camp.
Ezeudu should be one of the top contenders for the Giants’ starting left guard role during training camp. You have to think Schoen and Brian Daboll would rather see one of their first draft picks earn the spot than Bredeson. Though Bredeson exceeded expectations, he wasn’t trusted as an every-snap player even when starting. Other depth pieces were in rotation even after Ezeudu landed on IR.
A projection would be much easier had Ezeudu been able to stay on the field following Bredeson’s injury. Shane Lemiuex also saw some time at left guard last year but hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy. The spot will be up for grabs once training camp begins.
Ezeudu flashed upside last year, especially as a run blocker. But he’s still a bit raw and “has a lot of room for growth,” according to former Giant Shaun O’Hara. His ability to secure a starting role likely depends on how much he can close the experience gap with his older teammates.
While most of the focus will be on Neal, Ezeudu’s success this year will play a large role in the long-term future of the Giants’ O-line. In a perfect world, Ezeudu, Neal and rookie center John Michael Schmitz will all develop into starting-caliber players this year alongside Andrew Thomas. It may sound like wishful thinking, but it’s entirely plausible.