The New York Giants should be excited about this unit:
While the New York Giants realized their most glaring weakness against the Dallas Cowboys in week one, they did see the fruits of their efforts on the offensive line flourish. Right guard Kevin Zeitler, who was acquired in the Olivier Vernon trade with the Cleveland Browns, was stellar on the line and presented a calmness that has been absent from the position for years.
New right tackle Mike Remmers struggled but performed far better than Chad Wheeler in 2018. Altogether, the line, including Nate Solder, Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio played at an elevated level the Giants not only wanted but desperately needed.
.@PFF Giants offensive line grades vs. Cowboys: Nate Solder (76.9), Will Hernandez (70.2), Jon Halapio (69.2), Kevin Zeitler (61.4), Mike Remmers (56.0).
70.9 overall in pass block. AND 82.6 in run block that LEADS the 22 NFL Week 1 performances PFF has put in the books so far.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) September 9, 2019
Having a 70.9 pass-blocking grade through one week, veteran quarterback Eli Manning should have more time in the pocket to move through his progressions. Also, the line finished with an impressive 82.6 run grade, which led the league. Head coach Pat Shurmur needs to utilize Saquon Barkley more often who only had 11 carries against the Cowboys.
General manager Dave Gettleman has spent ample resources fixing the starting five up front after years of shoddy drafting by Jerry Reese. Ridding the team of Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart was the first task for Gettleman, who quickly replaced them with Solder and Wheeler/Remmers. I anticipate the Giants finding a young right tackle next offseason, likely in the draft.
With a young and talented offensive front, they will have the ability to replace aging players one at a time rather than have to overhaul the entire unit in just two offseasons. Nonetheless, the Giants are trending positively, and the defensive line is now the focal point.
The Kevin Zielter effect:
One of the more impactful linemen is Kevin Zeitler, who ranked as a top-five guard in the league last season. Aside from his distinct physical traits, he’s mentally healthy, especially after facing adversity in Cleveland in the form of losing. The Giants are progressing nicely, even if it takes them the 2019 season to develop their secondary and gain more cap-space to address positions of need.
The Giants, though, are becoming a run-first team on the back of players like Zeitler. Saquon Barkley, the primary catalyst behind the team’s offensive production, relies on the front five to be efficient. With an improved unit, Barkley should continue to excel in the run game — he averaged 10.9 yards per carry against the Cowboys.
An interesting tidbit, Barkley’s runs primarily came from running between the tackles, which not only shows their ability to create space for Barkley, but it also shows the running back’s improved vision and desire to run vertically rather than bounce it outside.
His progression and star-quality only continue to improve, and the offensive line plays a big part in Barkley’s growth.