Giants’ Evan Neal having rookie season to forget, reminiscent of Andrew Thomas

evan neal, new york giants
Aug 21, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants offensive lineman Evan Neal (73) says a pregame prayer before the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

With the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected right tackle, Evan Neal. The Alabama product has struggled immensely during his rookie season, however, it is still too soon to panic sixteen weeks into the regular season. Neal is having a rookie season to forget, but he should not be written off just yet. His season is reminiscent of New York Giants starting left tackle Andrew Thomas’s rookie season. Thomas also had a rough beginning to his career but has since blossomed into one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.

Giants RT Evan Neal could experience a breakout like LT Andrew Thomas

Evan Neal has been thrown a bunch of curveballs this season. Ranging from tough pass-rushing matchups to a knee injury that kept him sidelined for four games, Neal has had to play through a ton of adversity. This has led to some struggles from the rookie, who has surrendered 36 pressures and 7 sacks on the season. Neal was considered a blue-chip prospect coming out of the 2022 NFL Draft but has struggled to look the part as a rookie. This is a story Big Blue is familiar with, though, as Andrew Thomas experienced a similar issue in his 2020 rookie campaign.

In his 2020 rookie season, Andrew Thomas was a complete liability in the New York Giants offense. Thomas allowed 57 pressures and 10 sacks that season. The Giants had high expectations for Andrew Thomas after selecting him with the fourth overall pick in that year’s draft, however, he experienced an abundance of rookie growing pains. Fast forward to the present day, and Andrew Thomas is now one of the best offensive linemen in the league. This season, Andrew Thomas has surrendered only 3 sacks and 19 pressures in 15 games and seems to be on his way to his first career All-Pro selection.

Evan Neal’s performance this season has caused the Giants’ offense to struggle at times. But a bad rookie season is not synonymous with a bad player. Neal is 22 years old and has plenty of time to grow and develop as a right tackle in the NFL. At 6 foot seven and 350 pounds, Evan Neal has unlimited potential. At times, Neal has looked excellent as a run-blocker this season. With a bit more time to grow, Evan Neal could eventually realize his potential, and begin to dominate in a fashion similar to that of Andrew Thomas.

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll is still confident in his rookie right tackle, despite his struggles this season:

I’d say Evan’s improved since he’s gotten here. Really, all of us can continue to improve and get better in the things we need to get better in – not just Evan, really everybody on our team starting with the coaches all the way down to our players. And that’s what we’ll try to work on. But he’s smart. He’s tough. He’s dependable. He’s done a lot of good things, too.

Brian Daboll on Evan Neal via Giants.com

The Giants are still confident that Evan Neal will develop into a good player, even if his breakout does not occur by the end of the 2022 season. Such a development is not unheard of. Andrew Thomas took major strides forward in his sophomore season before a prolific breakout in year three. The same story could be written for Evan Neal as the rookie reevaluates his performance in the offseason and builds toward a bright future. Currently, though, the New York Giants are fighting hard to earn their first playoff berth since 2016. The focus will be placed on the task at hand as Evan Neal hopes to elevate his game for the postseason.