New York Giants: A look at the position battle brewing at left guard

joshua ezeudu, new york giants

The New York Giants have a position battle brewing at left guard after spending one of their third-round picks on a new offensive lineman out of North Carolina. Acquiring Joshua Ezeudu should inject more talent into the position. Big Blue signed Pro Bowl alternate Max Garcia this off-season as well to compete with a Shane Lemieux, who is coming off a season on injured reserve after partially tearing his patellar tendon during training camp.

After selecting Evan Neal 7th overall to fill the right tackle spot, the Giants are confident they have plenty of talent to build a competent OL.

New York Giants have a position battle brewing at left guard:

Shane Lemieux:

Back in 2020, the Giants featured Shane Lemieux at left guard over 484 snaps. He posted one of the worst pass-blocking grades in football at 16.9, per PFF. He gave up five sacks, six quarterback hits, and 14 hurries to go with three penalties. Overall, Lemieux was arguably the worst guard in football, but he didn’t get an opportunity to take a step forward in 2021 due to injury.

The Giants will allow them to compete for the starting job this upcoming off-season, but they added plenty of talent to push him. The odds are stacked against him, but Shane will have a fair opportunity to earn reps.

Max Garcia:

Max Garcia spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals, playing in 864 snaps, most of which came at right guard and center. He spent 565 steps at RG and 297 at C, mostly playing at an average level. He allowed five sacks and 15 QB hurries, but his versatility is valuable for the Giants. In fact, Garcia started the season in tremendous form playing both RG and C, but he fell off gradually as the season continued, specifically in the pass-blocking department.

Despite being a Pro Bowl alternate, Garcia is a fringe starter moving forward, or at least that’s what he should be considered. Garcia‘s best season came at left guard back in 2016 with the Denver Broncos when he allowed four sacks and 22 hurries over 1,074 snaps. Given that LG is his best position, the Giants are hoping they can get maximum value out of him for a season.

Joshua Ezeudu:

The Giants drafted Joshua Ezeudu with the 67th overall pick on Friday night, injecting even more talent at left guard. Ezeudu has great size at 6’4″ and 308 pounds, but he has plenty of developmental needs. Mainly, he lacks explosiveness at contact and has sloppy hand placements at times, all of which are coachable. However, Ezeudu features plus athleticism and great footwork, containing the ability to reset and mirror any pass rush moves.

With the right coaching, Ezeudu can easily become a good starter for the Giants at left guard, which is likely what they’re hoping given the position battle that is brewing. In addition, the flexible lineman has experience at multiple positions, including tackle, giving him the versatility to move around if the Giants need him to supplement any injury concerns.

The New York Giants might have a big problem at left guard

New York Giants, Shane Lemeiux

In just the first week of training camp, the expected starting offensive guard for the New York Giants, Shane Lemieux, suffered a knee injury that has kept him out ever since. Slowly rehabilitating and working his way back from the injury, Lemieux is still projected to be the Week 1 starter against the Denver Broncos. However, the knee issue he is facing is far more significant than originally reported.

Head coach Joe Judge indicated that Lemieux’s injury wasn’t notable and that the team had dodged a bullet. Nonetheless, it was discovered that Lemieux was dealing with a partially torn patellar tendon, which doesn’t bode well for the second-year player who struggled considerably during his rookie season. Shane is still committed to starting the regular season and fighting through the injury, despite the pain and the potential for a complete tendon tear.

Last season, Lemieux allowed five sacks, 14 QB hurries, and 25 pressures as one of the worst graded pass-blocking linemen in the NFL. The Giants trusting him with a starting job and injecting minimal competition was optimistic, to begin with, which led to them trading a fourth-round pick for Baltimore Ravens interior guard Ben Bredeson, a 5th round and 7th round pick.

Bredeson played in just five games last year, with all but one snap coming at in-line tight end. However, the fourth-round pick from 2020 out of Michigan had a stellar preseason at right guard, allowing just two hurries and two pressures over 182 offensive snaps.

The former Michigan stand-out has experience playing right and left guard, giving him a bit of versatility for a team that is still looking for a bonafide starter on the left side.

The Giants have a big decision to make in less than two weeks: either starting an injured player who struggled in his rookie season or plugging in a newly acquired lineman who doesn’t even know the playbook. The Giants will have to provide him with a crash course to prepare to potentially make a Week 1 appearance.

Ideally, the Giants will have Lemieux start against Denver, and Bredeson prepare for Week 2 against Washington, as the Giants play that upcoming Thursday night on a short week.

The issue at left guard is a bit more strenuous than previously thought, especially with the news regarding Lemieux’s injury. The Giants seem to be scrambling but at least have a long-term fix. There’s no guaranteeing Bredeson will pan out. The front office might’ve been a bit too confident considering the turnover they just experienced in the trenches.

New York Giants: Pros and cons for the offensive line ahead of the 2021 season

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge indicated that quarterback Daniel Jones wouldn’t play in the team’s first preseason game of the year against the Jets. Sitting Jones is a smart decision; avoiding potential injury as the offensive line looks to build chemistry with the regular season starting in less than a month.

That could be perceived as a major reason for concern. Deciding to sit your quarterback because the OL is in murky water suggests the team isn’t entirely convinced of their adequacy. However, plenty of teams refrain from playing their starting quarterbacks in the first preseason game.

Nonetheless, the Giants have a weaker unit than most, having ranked dead last in pass-blocking efficiency last season, per PFF.

New York Giants pros and cons list:

Pros:

-A young group

-Offensive tackles with potential

-Cheap contracts

-In-person training and a full pre-season

There is a reason for optimism regarding Jones’s protection scheme. Ultimately, three of their potential starters were drafted last season, and with COVID-19 making such an impact on the campaign, the unit didn’t have much time to train in person and build chemistry before being thrown into the fire. Facing off against one of the best defenses in the NFL in a Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers surely didn’t brew much confidence.

Having a full off-season to work collectively under a new coach in Rob Sale should spur improvement. Last year’s experience for Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, and Matt Peart will prove to be essential, but cutting Kevin Zeitler could end up biting the team in the butt.

It is hard to believe they will be worse in 2021, but based on a variety of reasons, expecting them to be above average is extremely optimistic. One injury to a starter and the Giants will be in a tough situation, so adding depth is essential.

One opportunity the Giants should consider is the trimming to the 53 man roster. NFL teams always provide a few surprising cuts, so Big Blue could find themselves a solid depth piece in the trenches in just a few days when rosters begin to thin out. That will be a situation to keep a close eye on.

Cons:

-Inexperience

-Lack of depth

-Awful 2020 performances

-Every position is a major question mark

-The success of Daniel Jones relies on the OL

The Giants’ offensive line has just eight years of experience overall, indicating vast greenness for a unit that desperately needs to protect their quarterback in his most important season. With Jones’s rookie window shrinking and the Giants investing heavily at the wide receiver position, it is now or never for them to see his peak potential.

Just referencing their individual performances from last year raises a few eyebrows. Andrew Thomas looked like Ereck Flowers at times but had a much stronger second half of the season. A lot can be attributed to former OL Coach Colombo, who was fired mid-season for interrupting some of the rookies’ development and changing their technique.

As stated above, there is a reason for optimism, but the con list is filled with unpredictable circumstances. We know they have talent at each position, meaning it comes down to the coaching staff and their ability to iron out some of their deficiencies.