The New York Giants have a glaring issue on their offensive line. Second-year RT Evan Neal has not taken the step forward that was expected of him after a shaky rookie season. In Week 1, Neal was a liability for the Giants’ offense, constantly being beaten by a slew of Dallas Cowboys pass-rushers. As Neal continues to struggle to protect the edge, Big Blue may soon need to consider moving him inside to right guard to help him turn things around.
Why Neal might flourish at right guard
Presently, Neal’s biggest weakness is protecting the edge. Speed-rushers have an easy time blowing past Neal, turning the corner, and sacking Daniel Jones while Neal lags behind. This problem could be mitigated by a move on the interior.
At the tackle spot, there is little help or protection provided in pass protection. Frequently, offensive tackles will be left on an island, one-on-one with an opposing pass-rusher. This can be a daunting task for a struggling right tackle such as Neal.
Neal’s technical flaw is his kickstep. That first step taken out of a tackle’s stance is the key to protecting the edge. Neal is not gaining enough ground on that first step, causing him to be late to the spot and play from behind while pass-blocking.
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At guard, this would not be such a problem as Neal would no longer have to worry about gaining depth and beating pass-rushers to the edge. Instead, he would just need to prepare to face the bull-rush and anchor himself on the interior.
At 6-foot-7, 340 pounds, Neal has the necessary build to anchor against defensive linemen. Additionally, Neal has proven to be a capable run-blocker, despite his struggles in pass protection. He has been displaying athletic limitations at the tackle position, but moving inside to guard could mask these flaws and allow Neal to return to form as a big, mauling offensive lineman.
The Giants need Evan Neal to be better
In their Week 1 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants’ offensive line doomed their game plan from the very start. Dallas totaled seven sacks (with two more negated via penalty), 12 QB hits, and pressured QB Daniel Jones on 62.9% of his dropbacks in Week 1. Five different Cowboys had sacks in the contest.
Neal was frequently turned around in pass protection, surrendering eight pressures and one sack against Dallas. If he does not show signs of significant improvement soon, the bust label will begin to get attached to Neal, the seventh-overall pick in last year’s draft.
Neal’s struggles are making him a liability on the Giants’ offense and ruining the team’s game plan. If Neal cannot begin to hold his own, Big Blue’s season could turn into a sinking ship.