Giants: Is it time to label Evan Neal a bust?

New York Giants offensive lineman Evan Neal (73) during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium.
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

It is time to have a conversation about New York Giants RT Evan Neal. The seventh-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has been nothing short of a disaster since joining the team. In the Giants’ embarrassing Week 1 loss, Neal stood out for all the worst reasons possible.

While it may have been too soon to label Neal a bust after just one bad season in the NFL, the narrative may have changed after his Week 1 performance. After failing to show any signs of improvement (and in fact showing signs of regression), Neal might already be worthy of the bust label just one game into the second season of his career.

Evan Neal was horrible on Sunday night

Neal was awful in Week 1. The Giants surrendered seven sacks and a slew of pressures as QB Daniel Jones got brutalized by the Dallas Cowboys’ pass rush. The entire offensive line struggled against a fierce Dallas pass rush, however, Neal in particular looked lost on the field.

According to Connor Hughes of SNY, Dallas had seven sacks (two negated via penalty), 12 QB hits & pressured Daniel Jones on 62.9% of his drop backs. Five different Cowboys had sacks. How many sacks were let up by Neal specifically is not yet known, however, the second-year RT undoubtedly gave up several sacks and even more pressures.

Is it too late for Neal to turn things around?

After a putrid rookie season, the expectation was for Neal to take a big step forward this season. Through one game, that progression seems unlikely. Neal looked like an ever worse version of himself on Sunday night compared to his rookie season.

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As a rookie, Neal surrendered seven sacks and 39 pressures and ranked 39th out of 39 offensive tackles in the NFL with a 44.1 overall Pro Football Focus grade. In all likelihood, Neal will be PFF’s lowest-graded offensive tackle in the league in Week 1 as he was beaten routinely in pass protection by Dallas’ rotation pass-rushers.

The question now is whether or not Neal can still turn things around. Drafted seventh overall in last year’s draft, expectations are high for Neal and he entered the NFL with limitless potential. But if he doesn’t start to flash that potential soon, the bust label may become appropriate for Neal.

The Giants may need to consider making a change

If Neal does not turn things around soon, the Giants may need to consider making a change at right tackle. Neal was a complete liability in Week 1 and his poor performance doomed the team’s offense. Leaving Neal on the field was dangerous for QB Daniel Jones.

Jones took a beating on Sunday night, constantly getting lit up by the Cowboys’ defenders. If Neal continues to play at such a poor level, it may be too risky to leave him on the field. Jones needs to be protected and the Giants cannot leave him in harm’s way. If Neal cannot get better, the Giants will have no choice but to put someone else in the lineup.