Giants: Is there still time for Evan Neal to prove his worth this season?

New York Giants offensive tackle Evan Neal (73) blocks San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) during the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Only three games remain on the New York Giants’ schedule before the conclusion of the 2023 regular season. This season has not gone as planned for Big Blue as they have tumbled their way to a 5-9 record with improbable odds of reaching the postseason.

Among the failures this year is the offensive line. The unit has been historically bad this season, and that is in large part due to the lack of development from some of their younger players, namely RT Evan Neal.

After a disappointing rookie campaign, Neal was expected to take a big step forward in 2023. However, the former seventh-overall draft pick continued to struggle and now, as the season draws to a close, it might be too late for him to prove his value as a starting-caliber player entering the offseason.

It’s been a disaster season for Evan Neal

Neal has appeared in just seven games this season as he’s been held back by injuries throughout the campaign. When he was on the field, however, Neal was struggling to show signs of promise. He committed five penalties while surrendering 30 total pressures and two sacks en route to a 39.8 overall Pro Football Focus grade — an even lower mark than the grade he earned last season.

After suffering an ankle injury in Week 9, Neal has been absent from the lineup, losing valuable time to turn things around and prove his worth to the coaching staff. Instead, the offensive line has seen marginal improvements in Neal’s absence, highlighting how much the second-year right tackle has held back the unit.

As the end of the season nears, the offseason will be decisive for the Giants as they aim to rebuild their offensive line. Neal’s future with the team is coming into question following another disastrous season plagued by injuries and poor pass protection.

Neal could return to the lineup this week, however, giving him three games to show signs of improvement and earn himself some leeway entering the offseason.

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Who could replace Neal in the Giants’ starting lineup?

If Neal cannot prove his value in the coming weeks, the Giants will need to look at options to replace him at right tackle.

Likely holding a top pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft, offensive tackle will be a potential target in the first round. Two elite prospects — Penn State’s Olu Fashanu and Notre Dame’s Joe Alt — will be among the top prospects on the board when the Giants make their selection. Grabbing one of those two prospects would likely result in Neal’s removal from the starting lineup, however.

Of course, a position change could still be in the cards for Neal. His struggles at the tackle position could potentially be mitigated with a move inside. Perhaps Big Blue will give Neal a chance to compete for the starting guard spot — a position he played during his freshman year in college at Alabama.