The New York Giants have certainly upgraded in a lot of ways following last season. With added weapons at receiver, quarterback Daniel Jones has everything he needs to take the next step. The only thing that can hold this offensive back, other than Danny Dimes, is their offensive line. The Giants’ offensive line was one of, if not the worst o-line groups in the NFL. Going into a new season, this young o-line needs to show improvement if the Giants want to succeed. But can they trust their o-line to improve this year?
Giants’ Young and Struggling Offensive Line
In the past years, the Giants’ offensive line has been one of their weakest position groups. The last two years have been no different, and entering 2021, it looks like the pattern will continue. With the lack of veterans and highly skilled players at the position, the Giants took to the draft to try and fill this hole.
With the 4th pick in the 2020 draft, the Giants took tackle Andrew Thomas out of Georgia. In a top-heavy lineman class, Andrew Thomas was the first of four tackles to be selected in the top 13 picks. Of the four, Thomas performed the worst in his rookie year. Tristan Wirfs, picked 13th overall by the Buccaneers, only allowed one sack all season and helped Tampa Bay win the Superbowl. Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Wills were both dominant forces in their rookie years as well. Thomas, on the other hand, not so much. His season definitely wasn’t great, as he ended it with a grade of 62.4.
The Giants would go on to take two more linemen in the 2020 draft. New York selected Shane Lemieux and Matt Peart in later rounds to address depth. They both saw significant starting time, especially for day two and three picks. Matt Peart only played 150 snaps towards the end of the year and had a 69.7 overall grade. Shane Lemieux struggled with a 32.2 grade on 504 snaps. These players are young and have time to develop, but they need to take a big step this year.
Will Hernandez and Nick Gates are two other young linemen who have played for the Giants a few years. The G-Men drafted Hernandez 34th overall in 2018, and ever since his rookie year, Hernandez has struggled. Nick Gates signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and has been one bright spot on this line. Playing at center Nick Gates has been great for the Giants, and even though he struggled this year, he was still the best lineman on the team.
With such a young line, it’s no surprise that they’ve struggled. But the Giants need to figure out how to develop these players quickly, or else it will cost them.
The draft isn’t the only place where the Giants have failed to build their line. The Giants have made bad free agency decisions as well as failed to retain linemen.
Nate Solder was a dominant left tackle in his time on the Patriots. He protected Tom Brady‘s blindside for many years and saw a few super bowls with the Pats. In 2018, the Giants signed Solder to a four-year, $62 million contract, with $34.8 million guaranteed. With this move, the Giants thought they had brought in a solid starting tackle to solidify Daniel Jones’s blindspot for a long time.
However, this move backfired badly for the G-men. In 2018 and 2019 Nate Solder played… ok. He wasn’t a horrible tackle, but he wasn’t great, and he didn’t fulfill any of the needs he was brought to NY for. In 2020 he opted out due to covid, leaving Thomas to start at tackle. What was expected to be a great signing to bolster a struggling line turned into an average player who became a major cap casualty. Solder returns this year, but he will most likely move to the right side of the line. Solder has played left tackle since his rookie year in 2011, so this change could hurt his game even more. This failure of a signing is just one of many reasons why the offensive line struggles.
The one other move that has backfired for the Giants is the Kevin Zeitler trade. In 2019 the Giants traded defensive end, Olivier Vernon, for right guard Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler played at right guard for 2019 and 2020, but both years he didn’t meet expectations. Not wanting to pay an average interior lineman $12 million per year, the Giants released Zeitler this offseason. Even though Olivier Vernon is no longer on the Browns, the Giants still failed again, overpaying an average offensive lineman.
Can The Giants Succeed with Their O-Line?
The Giants’ offensive line isn’t good there’s no doubt about that. But can the Giants find a way to succeed regardless?
The first factor is that the Giants’ offensive line will most likely improve this year. Solder is returning following his opt-out last year. All of the rookie linemen who struggled last year are entering their sophomore season, and they will likely see improvement. The Giants also hired a new offensive line coach over the offseason. Rob Sale was hired earlier this year as the Giants’ new o-line coach. Sale isn’t a bad hire by the Giants, and he is capable of improving the development of young players, as well as helping the veterans on the line. The bottom line, however, is that this offensive line will improve. It won’t be anything special, but it isn’t hard to be better than last year.
The second factor is the return of Saquon Barkley. There isn’t a lot to be said here, as Barkley’s game speaks for itself. With over 2000 scrimmage yards his rookie year behind a bad o-line, he can definitely find ways to succeed this year too, if he stays healthy. Other offensive additions such as Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney will give Daniel Jones more options and help get the ball out of his hands fast.
The last major factor is how Jason Garrett’s scheme will work this year. If he sticks with the same game plan as last year, the offense will fail regardless of how good the line is. This year, it’s up to Garrett whether the Giants’ offense will hum or not.
Should Fans Trust the O-Line?
The simple answer is yes. While the offensive line was horrible last year, the rookies will improve, and with Solder returning for depth, the offensive line will at least be better than last year. With a new coach to help the development of the young players, the line will definitely have a better year. Barkley is capable of succeeding with a sup-par o-line. Added weapons will give the Giants more to work with both in the short game and the deep ball.
Fans should trust the o-line, but be a little bit cautious. The o-line will certainly struggle at points this year, but the Giants’ offense can still find ways to succeed.