Fixing the New York Giants’ offensive line will be no easy task for general manager Joe Schoen this offseason. The Giants have surrendered a league-high 77 sacks this season as their offensive line has been arguably the worst unit in the NFL.
This offseason, adding talent to the offensive line will be New York’s top priority. There will be options in free agency and the draft that Big Blue could target to add talent to the unit. But ultimately, seeing this offensive line improve will rely mainly on the Giants’ in-house talent taking that next step and developing into capable players.
The Giants need their young players to take a step forward
Andrew Thomas stands out as the offensive line’s pride and joy for Big Blue. He’s an elite, franchise left tackle that will be a perennial All-Pro contender for years to come. The Giants were hoping to get the same level of value out of their 2022 first-round pick, right tackle Evan Neal.
Unfortunately, Neal has not panned out so far, turning in a poor rookie campaign and having a disastrous second season that ended prematurely with an ankle injury. Neal may never turn the corner. But if the Giants want their offensive line to improve next season, Neal will need to take a huge step forward.
Neal believes he was born to play offensive tackle, but a potential position change to guard may behoove the young and struggling player.
Another young talent on the offensive line is 2023 second-round pick John Michael Schmitz. The rookie has struggled this season while manning the center position of Big Blue’s offensive line. If he takes a developmental step forward next season, the offensive line will make drastic progress.
Behind the starting five are several other young players that the Giants will want to see develop. Joshua Ezeudu and Markus McKethan are two interior offensive linemen who have struggled in limited action at the NFL level. But, as mid-round picks, they need more time to develop. If they can pan out and become solid contributors or depth pieces, the Giants will have more comfortability in their front-line personnel.
Targeting a veteran offensive lineman in free agency
The market for offensive linemen is always among the most competitive in free agency. But for a Giants team desperate to fix their unit once and for all, they should absolutely be involved in some of the big bidding wars for free-agent offensive linemen.
Among the top options to pursue are guards Robert Hunt and Kevin Zeitler and tackles Jonah Williams and George Fant. Both Hunt and Zeitler would serve as massive upgrades at right guard. Williams and Fant would also both plugin as immediate starters at right tackle, assuming the Giants are ready to move on from Neal or move him into a different position.
Due to the heightened sense of urgency surrounding the Giants’ offensive line, targeting a veteran free agent seems necessary. The majority of rookies who enter the NFL do so with a steep learning curve to overcome. Rookie growing pains are real and they can often hold back a team if they are relying on a rookie to serve as an immediate upgrade.
For that reason, the Giants need to address their offensive line through free agency this offseason, adding a reliable veteran player who can plug and play with an immediate impact.
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Adding talent through the draft?
Over the last four years, the Giants have drafted more offensive linemen in the top 10 than any other team. They account for 25% of top 10 offensive linemen picks and are the only team to spend five top 100 picks on the offensive line. To say that the Giants haven’t invested in their offensive line is inaccurate.
The G-Men have young offensive line talent on their roster. Evan Neal was meant to be a franchise cornerstone. Joshua Ezeudu was an exciting prospect coming out of college, as was his teammate at UNC Markus McKethan.
It’s not time for the Giants to start drafting offensive linemen; it’s time for them to start developing offensive linemen.
Sure, they could add some more talent to the unit through the draft, and they likely will. However, this talent, like all the other talent on this roster, will go to waste if the Giants don’t start properly coaching and developing their offensive linemen. Perhaps bringing in a new offensive line coach is the one true solution to all of these problems.