The New York Giants are heading into training camp without much depth at offensive guard. While management feels confident that Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux can hold it down for the 2021 season, they remain major questions after letting Kevin Zeitler depart in free agency.
There is a reason to believe that Hernandez, who is making the transition to RG, will have an improved fourth season in the NFL. Last year in the first year of a new offensive scheme, Hernandez not only battled injury but also contracted COVID-19, which kept them out for multiple weeks. During that time, Lemieux, the Giantsâ€™ fifth-round pick from last season, took over starting duties. While he was sufficient as a run blocker in Jason Garrettâ€™s pulling power gap scheme, he was graded as one of the worst pass blockers in the NFL.
Expecting LeMieux to be a consistent starter might be overly optimistic, but Hernandez has proven to be an average player over the course of his career. Having worked with Duke Manyweather this past off-season, Hernandez is projected to take a developmental jump, but after three years, we shouldnâ€™t be putting all our chips in on a drastic improvement.
One alternative could be former Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro. Pittsburgh released DeCastro this past week due to a lingering ankle injury â€” he was also set to earn $5.5 million in 2021.
â€œI have to get surgery on my ankle a third time,â€ DeCastro said in a text Thursday. â€œI tried to fix it last year but the bone spurs kept coming back. It nagged me pretty bad all last year.â€
â€œGotta see how the surgery goes,â€ he said. â€œBut Iâ€™d have no problem calling it a day and moving on with my life.â€
There is a good chance that DeCastro calls it a career and retires if the surgery doesnâ€™t mitigate the impact of his bone spurs, but if he decides to return to football, the Giants could land him on a cheaper deal to compete for a starting guard spot.
Over 13 games last year, DeCastro didnâ€™t allow a single sack, posting an 80.7 overall pass-blocking grade, per PFF. He spent the majority of his time at right guard, which would be a suitable landing spot for him with Big Blue, shifting Hernandez back to his traditional left guard position.
An incentive-laden deal seems to be a good option if DeCastro elects to return to football in the coming months. Considering he was set to earn $5.5 million after surgery, the Giants could snag him for half of that and allow him to compete with no guarantees during training camp. As a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro member, he undoubtedly has elite experience that would benefit QB Daniel Jones positively.