The New York Giants seem to have a bust on their hands with second-year right tackle Evan Neal. Selected with the seventh-overall pick in last year’s draft, Neal has been largely disappointing through his first two professional seasons.
The highlights have been few and far between for Neal as he adjusts to playing right tackle in the NFL — an experiment that looks like it may never work out. Entering the offseason, Big Blue will need to make a decision on Neal as they build their roster for the 2024 season.
The Giants are likely to seek a replacement for Neal at right tackle, or at least bring in additional competition to compete for the starting job. However, with his future as a starter on the team in jeopardy, the Giants could make one last-ditch effort to save Neal’s career through a position change that may bring the Alabama product back to his roots and set him back on the right path.
The Giants could change Evan Neal’s position
Despite his struggles as a pro, Neal has stated that he has no interest in changing positions. Neal said he “stepped out of the womb as an offensive tackle” and plans to continue playing the position going forward.
Despite admitting that Neal “needs to play better,” general manager Joe Schoen indicated minimal interest in switching the 23-year-old’s position on the line. However, as the front office prepares for their offseason evaluations, it might be time to consider getting some film on Neal on the interior.
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Would Neal find more success at left guard?
One possible solution to Neal’s problems would be to move him all the way inside to left guard. Now, many may expect him to move one spot over to right guard, but there are reasons to believe a move to the left side might be even more beneficial for Neal.
During his time at Alabama, Neal developed into a dominant offensive lineman easily worthy of being drafted inside the top 10. He has not played at that level in the NFL, however, that might be due to his discomfort on the right side of the line.
Neal played one season of right tackle in college — his 2020 sophomore season. He finished his collegiate career as one of the best left tackles in the nation, potentially demonstrating more comfortability on the left side of the line.
The left side of the line also happens to be the side that Neal began his collegiate career on. As a freshman in 2019, Neal played left guard, dominating SEC defensive linemen as an interior pass-protector and run-blocker.
Moving Neal to the left side of the Giants’ offensive line could be the team’s best option. Having Neal play left guard would allow him to pair alongside elite left tackle Andrew Thomas, who could help mask any deficiencies Neal may have inside. It would also likely mask and flaws Neal has in pass protection as his sluggish feet and slow lower half leave him vulnerable on the edge against speed rushers.
Neal’s familiarity with the left guard position makes it a strong option for the Giants’ failed first-round pick to attempt to turn his career around. If the Giants want to get the most out of their 2022 first-round draft pick, they should heavily consider giving him a crack at the left guard spot.