This Giants rookie is off to an incredible start

New York Giants running back Eric Gray (20) celebrates his rushing touchdown  with center John Michael Schmitz Jr. (61) and wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (84) during the first half against the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants’ offensive line bounced back in their unnecessarily tense thriller against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. One performance up front stands out above the rest; rookie center John Michael Schmitz had a heck of a game.

This shouldn’t come as a shock to many, as Schmitz was drafted in the second round to be the future anchor of the Giants’ offensive line. So far, it seems that Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll have struck gold.

The Giants have struggled to create continuity at the center position

The Giants have had a different starter at center every year, dating back to 2017, when Eli Manning was still receiving snaps. Daniel Jones has received snaps from over five different starting centers since he entered the league; fans may or may not recall names like Spencer Pulley, John Halapio, Nick Gates, Billy Price, and most recently Jon Feliciano at the critical position.

It’s clear the previous regime didn’t care much for a long-term solution at the position. Fortunately, things have changed for the better. When a center as widely touted as John Michael Schmitz fell to the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Giants felt obliged to draft him and put an end to the five-year carousel at the position.

John Michael Schmitz was a stud against the Cardinals in Week 2

Schmitz, as he was in college, is proving to be a stud at the next level. Though it’s only been two games, it’s hard not to be a believer in Schmitz already.

Against a sneakily good Arizona Cardinals defensive line that features the fourth-highest pass-rush win rate in the NFL, Schmitz won a whopping 100% of passing downs. Cardinals DTs Jonathan Ledbetter and veteran Carlos Watkins both recorded sacks in Week 1 against the Commanders. Against Schmitz, they combined for just three tackles.

Naysayers may point out that the Cardinals didn’t play a nose tackle; but what of it? The interior defensive linemen of the Cardinals were neutralized, much to the play of Schmitz.

Without a man over him to defend, it’s Schmitz’s responsibility to chip and double-team guards depending on protection packages. Looking at the data, and by watching the game, it’s fair to say he did an incredible job.

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Schmitz is already improving a weakness in his game

Schmitz’s quick development in passing protection is also notable. At the University of Minnesota, Schmitz was renowned for his run-blocking ability.

In Kyle Crabb’s scouting report for The Draft Network, Crabbs noted, “Schmitz.. offers the kind of stature that would shine in an inside zone and between-the-tackles gap running system. Offering effective punch and pad power as a run blocker.”

The 100% pass block win rate in Week 2 is a welcome surprise and a bright step forward for the rookie center.

The Giants’ intense Week 3 matchup will be the real test

The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, another hearty challenge for Schmitz coming off a great game in Arizona. 49er DTs Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead are off to relatively slow starts this season, and will certainly be testing the Rookie’s ability.

With Nick Bosa’s looming presence, Giants OC Mike Kafka will likely be drawing up designed double-teams featuring 12 personnel to buy QB Daniel Jones and RB Matt Breida more time. This means, in all likelihood, Schmitz will be forced to undertake one-on-ones with Armstead and Hargrave. This is certainly a match-up to watch, as Schmitz’s instant impact is a sigh of relief for Giants fans.