The New York Giants head into the 2021 season with a big question in the trenches. They failed to address the offensive line in free agency and declined to do so in the 2021 NFL draft, but there is reason for optimism after a few unfortunate factors played a significant part in the demise of the unit last season.
Ultimately, the Giants ranked 31st in pass blocking efficiency but were a tad more proficient in run blocking, raking in the middle of the pack as Wayne Gallman helped sustain one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Averaging just over 18 points per game, only the lowly New York Jets were below them, but the Giants re-tooled their offense and put them in a place where significant improvements are an expectation.
However, none of their weapons matter if Daniel Jones doesn’t have time in the pocket. The left side of the OL is integral to his protection scheme since it’s his blindside. Andrew Thomas struggled to get his footing in his rookie season, giving up double-digit sacks and left guard Will Hernandez didn’t fare much better. Nonetheless, I believe they’re in for a far better campaign this upcoming year, thanks to a variety of reasons.
Five reasons to expect a big improvement from Andrew Thomas and Will Hernandez:
1.) Both played injured in 2020
After Thomas’s rookie season concluded, it was discovered that he had an ankle injury that required surgery. He played the entire year with his injury that he picked up in training camp, which clearly affected his footwork and overall efficiency. He has since cleaned up the injury and should be 100% for the start of the 2021 season, which will help him improve tremendously.
Hernandez also reportedly had an injury, according to his personal trainer, Duke Manyweather. Both players endured far more than just injuries, as they were also behind mentally in the experience category and understanding of Jason Garrett’s schematics.
2.) Lack of in-person training
Due to COVID-19, both Thomas and Hernandez lacked significant time on the training field with the team. When you aren’t able to establish the base concepts and apply them to practice, it makes transitioning them to a live game that much more difficult. The reality is, they didn’t even have the luxury of practicing and creating muscle memory with their new scheme, which initiated a poor start to the regular season.
3.) Hernandez caught COVID
I would be remiss not to mention the fact Will Hernandez was diagnosed with COVID-19 last year, which significantly hampered his stamina and strength. That was a primary reason Shane Lemieux started a majority of the second half, and the Giants had no choice but to ride with him as Hernandez fought his way back.
4.) No pre-season
As stated above, the lack of preseason forced the Giants to transition from training camp directly to the season against live-action. Pre-season is integral to applying new schematics, especially with a new coaching staff trying to corral the team. Why the defense blew past expectations, the offense struggled to get things going, especially with the lack of playmakers and a blocking scheme that was not refined.
5.) No chemistry
Another factor that played a part was a lack of chemistry in the trenches. With new faces at left tackle, center, and right tackle, the Giants barely had any time for their players to experience each other’s tendencies and timing. The chemistry between an LT and LG is extremely important, and aside from the other factors affecting their efficiency, the lack of experience together clearly showed up on tape.