In the rain’s relentless assault under the Sunday Night lights at the Meadowlands, New York Giants QB Daniel Jones takes a wobbly snap. It’s 4th & 14 on the 38-yard line. There’s 3 minutes and 16 seconds left on the clock. Jones looks left, takes a glance right, and sees an open Darius Slayton. Jones releases the ball. Incomplete. Turnover on downs. The ninth failed drive of the night.
However you want to describe it, last night was truly a night for the Giants’ faithful to burn from their memory. The worst loss in the franchise’s history against the rival Cowboys, 40–0. As relentlessly as the rain pounded Metlife, the Dallas Cowboys’ pursuit of Daniel Jones was even worse. A flood of sacks and tackles for losses left Cowboy fans and fantasy owners, singing in the rain while the rest of the league was asking the same question, “Where is the Giants’ offensive line?”
Can you call this an offensive line?
The Giants allowed seven sacks, 12 QB hits, 10 tackles for losses, and mustered only 171 total yards on offense against the Cowboys. HC Brian Daboll said his Giants were “skunked” last night in the post-game press conference. The Giants’ offensive line was the unit that got “skunked,” roasted, grilled, stanked, or whatever, you want to call it. It’s a gloomy forecast for the season to come.
This unit, led by LT Andrew Thomas off a stellar 2022 campaign, was subject to much criticism during the offseason. Questions at guard, concerns about depth, and a spotlight on second-year RT Evan Neal amplified the pressure. It turns out that the criticism was deserved, and then some.
Mark Glowinski and Ben Bredeson got the nod at guard this week. While Bredeson performed well, it will be difficult to pinpoint a guard performing as poorly as Glowinski. Mark Glowinski scored a 1.0 from Pro Football Focus in pass protection. That’s not a typo. 1.0. He surrendered three sacks and nine pressures in the contest.
The highlight of the night was former third-rounder Joshua Ezeudu, the man who lost the starting role to Mark Glowinski. He stepped in for an injured Thomas at LT in the last two drives and flourished, posting the highest Pro Football Focus grade on the entire Giants offense. Granted, it was garbage time, but the Giants have to consider Ezeudu to step into the starting right guard role to replace Glowinski from here on out.
Rookie center John Michael Schmitz shined at times, but struggled consistently in his first professional start. Cowboys Nose Tackle Osa Odighizuwa gave him fits as Schmitz received only a 42.8 PFF grade in his NFL debut.
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The downfall of RT Evan Neal
As bad as the rest of the linemen were, an entire column could be written on RT Evan Neal.
It’s not working. Neal struggled all last year and now it’s clear the second-year man from Alabaman has not taken the next step. The Giants don’t want to waste a first-round contract, especially on a guy who at times can flash ability. But this is the NFL, consistency is money, speed is king, and it’s clear that those are traits Neal simply does not possess.
Neal is slow off the snap, his technique has yet to improve, and he’s consistently outleveraged. Neal had the lowest Pro Football Focus grade of any tackle in the NFL last season and it’s clear that he’s on track to possibly retain his title.
Neal is running out of time and chances to show he can make an impact on this league. Unfortunately, it’s like watching Alex Leatherwood all over again. Leaving Neal on the field means QB Daniel Jones does not have a reliable option on his frontside. The pressure clearly impacted the game and forced Jones to look like his erratic, pre-Daboll self.
The Giants offense is doomed without consistency on the offensive line
QB Daniel Jones was running for his life last night. He couldn’t count to .5 before a Cowboy defender was in his face throwing him to the turf. This offensive line is an absolute offense-killer.
Jones is a talented athlete at the quarterback position, but it’s clear that even the quarterback-designed runs were failing due to the offensive line generating little push at the line of scrimmage. Without time in the pocket to allow wide receivers like Darius Slayton or rookie speedster Jaylen Hyatt to develop their routes, Jones has no choice but to throw to his check-downs or short route targets like RB Saquon Barkley or TE Darren Waller.
It’s evident that this offense, without a big step forward from its offensive line, cannot compete in the NFL. There’s simply not an “always open” talent on the Giants, which requires Jones to stand in the pocket and read every play. If Jones isn’t afforded time next week against the Arizona Cardinals, more check-downs and offensive drives that feel like getting a tooth pulled can be anticipated.
Injuries could make matters worse
With the news that LT Andrew Thomas is dealing with a hamstring injury sustained in Sunday night’s game, things could not possibly get worse. Right? Wrong. Thomas will be questionable to go next week against the Cardinals as he rehabs his hamstring.
The only true offensive tackle left in reserves, Matt Peart, was also hurt against the Cowboys, leaving no true OT on the roster outside of Evan Neal. The Giants may well have to look towards free agency to bring in a suitable backup.
NFL teams that have invested in their offensive lines have done incredibly well; notably, division rivals Eagles and Cowboys. It’s Week 1, and there are already many changes that need to be made. But if HC Brian Daboll and company address the issues in the trenches, the integrity of the season needs to be considered, and perhaps the Giants’ offseason priorities do, too.