Giants’ 2nd-year offensive lineman could emerge as a breakout candidate

Dec 25, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants center John Michael Schmitz Jr. (61) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the New York Giants struggled significantly with their offensive line, ranking as one of the worst in the league for pass protection. While it’s tempting to judge individual players solely based on their metrics, the context of the team’s challenges reveals a more complex situation.

Challenges and Changes for the Giants’ Offensive Line

The Giants experienced frequent injuries across various positions, leading to constant changes in their lineup—particularly at the offensive guard spots. This turnover put rookie center John Michael-Schmitz (JMS) in a particularly difficult position.

Tasked with relaying crucial information to his teammates, JMS found it challenging to maintain effective communication and consistency due to the ever-changing lineup. Despite these obstacles, the former standout from Minnesota was exposed, allowing 30 pressures and five sacks.

New York Giants center John Michael Schmitz Jr. (61) before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium
Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Critics and analysis from Pro Football Focus have placed JMS among the league’s least effective centers.

“Schmitz struggled as the Giants’ starting center in his rookie 2023 season, earning the lowest overall grade at the position, as well as the worst pass-blocking grade. The environment around him wasn’t ideal, and the Giants will hope that their former second-round pick can improve in Year 2.

However, this assessment might overlook the broader challenges he faced. It’s easy to label him based on his performance without recognizing the inadequate support and constant lineup shifts that marred his rookie season.

Looking ahead, the Giants have made significant strides to strengthen their offensive line. The additions of Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor are expected to stabilize the line and provide the necessary support for Michael-Schmitz to leverage his intelligence and skills more effectively.

Furthermore, with the hiring of Carmen Bricillo as the new offensive line coach—a coach known for extracting significant value from modest talent—there is a strong foundation for optimism. Bricillo’s expertise should foster better chemistry and a more effective blocking scheme, which could enable substantial growth and improvement in JMS and the entire offensive line in the upcoming season.

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