A first glance at the Giants’ starting offensive line during OTAs

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The New York Giants have kicked off OTAs, giving fans and analysts a first glimpse at their rebuilt offensive line. The offensive line has been a weak point for the Giants over the course of the past several seasons.

Recently, though, they have begun to make improvements. 2020 first-round pick Andrew Thomas started to shine in his 2021 sophomore season. This year the Giants spent another first-round pick on the offensive line, selecting Alabama tackle Evan Neal at seven overall. These two, combined with a few other new additions, are giving fans hope for the future.

The Giants’ first-team offensive line at OTAs

According to the reporters, today’s first-team offensive line during team drills was as follows:

  • Left tackle: Andrew Thomas (Korey Cunningham filled in as Thomas works back from injury)
  • Left Guard: Shane Lemieux
  • Center: Jon Feliciano
  • Right Guard: Mark Glowinski
  • Right Tackle: Evan Neal

The names are mostly what was expected. However, Shane Lemieux stands out on this list as a pleasant surprise. The 2020 fifth-round pick was a starter on the Giants’ offensive line last year before going down with a season-ending injury. This left the Giants with a revolving door at left guard position that could turn into a camp battle this summer. Shane Lemieux received the first start at OTAs, but he has competition. Behind him are veteran Max Garcia and rookie Joshua Ezeudu. Considering Lemieux’s inconsistency in the past, it is very possible for Ezeudu and Garcia to challenge him for the starting job.

Offensive line practice recap

The Giants threw their two first-round rookies right in the mix today, having Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal participate in team drills with the first team. According to Jordan Raanan of ESPN, Evan Neal “more than held his own” while practicing as the starting right tackle. The Giants have high hopes for the 6-foot-7, 351-pound mammoth-man that they selected in the first round.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas wore a red shirt today and “only participated sparingly in some drills” as he works back from ankle surgery (Raanan). Nick Gates and Matt peart also worked on the sideline in red jerseys as they recover from serious injuries.

Jone Feliciano is taking over as the Giants’ starting center this year. He has familiarity with the coaching staff as a former Buffalo Bills offensive guard. The Giants’ new offensive line coach, Bobby Johnson, shared his nickname for Feliciano: “Dirtbag.” Johnson explained the term of endearment, saying, Feliciano plays football like a dirtbag, and all of his offensive linemen need to play that way, or they will not play at all. Expect to see Jon Feliciano act as the leader on the offensive line who brings a real mean streak.

Mark Glowinski is the presumed penned-down starting right guard on the New York Giants offensive line. The Giants signed Glowinski to a three-year deal giving him an over $6 million salary on average annually. This was arguably the Giants’ biggest splash-signing in free agency this year. Glowinski is an established veteran who performed well in the past for the Indianapolis Colts. No surprise seeing Glowinski with the first team.

A revamped Giants offensive line

The New York Giants’ offensive line looks drastically different than it did a year ago. The Giants’ line is younger and features more established talent than it has in recent years. If this new front line can live up to expectations, that could pave the way for a successful season from Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.

Projecting the Giants’ starting 2022 offensive line after the NFL Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft has officially wrapped up and the New York Giants came away as big winners. They upgraded multiple positions of significant need, including their offensive line. After drafting three offensive linemen and signing six in free agency, Joe Schoen’s revamping of the position group is seemingly complete. The Giants’ offensive line will look significantly different in 2022 from the way it looked in 2021. Here’s a look at what the New York Giants’ offensive line could potentially look like in 2022:

Projecting the Giants’ starting offensive line in 2022

Left Tackle: Andrew Thomas

No-brainer, Andrew Thomas will be the starting left tackle for the New York Giants in 2022. The 2020 fourth-overall draft pick has progressed nicely in his first two career seasons. His PFF pass-blocking grade rose from 54.7 in his rookie 2020 season to 82.1 in 2021. He allowed only 2 total sacks on the season. Andrew Thomas took a big leap in his second season and has a promising career ahead of him as one of the best young left tackles in the NFL.

Left Guard: Joshua Ezeudu

The Giants have some competition at the left guard position. Shane Lemieux could win back his spot once he recovers from his injury, however, that scenario seems unlikely considering the poor performances the Oregon product had turned in throughout his first two career seasons.

Max Garcia and Joshua Ezeudu are new additions that will compete for the starting position. The Giants signed Garcia last month and drafted Ezeudu this week. Ultimately, the Giants’ third-round pick out of North Carolina should win this position. Ezeudu “has the potential and traits to become a starting NFL offensive lineman,” according to PFF. He split time between left guard and left tackle and earned a 77.8 overall PFF grade in 2021. Joshua Ezeudu has quick feet and good size at his position which should help him develop into a starter for the New York Giants.

Center: Jon Feliciano

Former Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Jon Feliciano was signed by the New York Giants this offseason to play center. Feliciano primarily played guard with Buffalo but the Giants plan to move him over to the middle of the offensive line. There is not much competition for Jon Feliciano at center, considering Nick Gates’s injury. If Gates is able to get healthy for the 2022 season, he could potentially compete for the starting center spot. But for now, it seems like a safe bet to say that Jon Feliciano will be the starting center for the Giants this upcoming season.

Right Guard: Mark Glowinski

Arguably the biggest splash signing for the Giants in free agency this offseason was right guard Mark Glowinski. The Giants signed Glowinski to a three-year deal paying him a little over $6 million per year. Glowinski received starting money from the Giants after an impressive four-year run as a starter with the Indianapolis Colts. Glowinski posted a 70.1 PFF grade in 2021, starting 14 games and allowing 2 sacks. The New York Giants needed veteran stability on their offensive line which is exactly what Mark Glowinski will provide them with as their starting right guard.

Right Tackle: Evan Neal

With the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Alabama offensive tackle prospect Evan Neal. This was viewed as a home-run selection by the Giants with their second first-round pick. Evan Neal is a 6-foot-8, 350-pound monster that was once viewed as a potential first-overall draft pick. He only allowed 24 pressures over the past two years between left and right tackle (PFF). Evan Neal will step in as a day-one impact starter for the New York Giants at right tackle.

Joe Schoen already accomplishing big goals as Giants’ new GM

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The New York Giants are entering a new era. The team cleaned the house at the start of this offseason and brought in new management and coaching. New general manager Joe Schoen has quickly gotten to work on fixing the Giants and has already accomplished some big goals in the process.

Joe Schoen already accomplished big goals as Giants’ new GM

Made the Giants more financially healthy

When the offseason began, the New York Giants had around negative $12 million in salary-cap space. Former GM Dave Gettleman was a bit too frivolous with his spending, causing the Giants to go overboard. In a couple of short months, though, Joe Schoen has gotten to work, cutting players and restructuring contracts to get the Giants back in the positive.

Joe Schoen made some difficult decisions this offseason. The likes of Devontae Booker, Riley Dixon, Kyle Rudolph, and others were released to create salary-cap space. Sterling Shepard and Blake Martinez were also both nearly cut before Schoen was able to negotiate new restructured deals with the veterans to clear some space.

To create a better future for the Giants, Joe Schoen has taken a much different approach to roster building. Teams like the New Orleans Saints are known for spending money and pushing cap hits down the road to future seasons in order to build their roster for the short term. The Giants fell into this habit under Gettleman’s tenure. Schoen has broken this cycle, though. This offseason, the Giants have only spent the money available to them, giving out short-term contracts and setting the Giants up for a healthy financial future.

Added stability to the Giants’ offensive line

The biggest weakness on the Giants’ roster this offseason was by far the offensive line. The Giants have struggled to build a competent front line for years which has led to offensive implosion. This offseason, though, Joe Schoen has attempted to rectify this issue. The Giants signed offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski this free agency period. At the very least, these two are average starters that can provide stability to the Giants’ offensive line.

Created insurance and competition at quarterback

The most controversial move for the Giants so far has been their signing of veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Giants signed Taylor to a two-year, $11 million deal (maximum $17 million with $6 million in incentives).

The Giants spent more on their backup quarterback than most expected them to, but it was for good reason. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones is entering his fourth season in the NFL but has yet to establish himself as a long-term answer. Additionally, Jones has missed games with injuries in each of his first three seasons. Danny Dimes missed the final six games of the 2021 season with a neck injury. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon stepped in as the starter and struggled intensely, highlighting how important it would be for the Giants to add a solid veteran backup this offseason.

Tyrod Taylor not only adds insurance to the Giants’ quarterback room, but he also adds competition. Daniel Jones is the expected starter but he has struggled throughout his first three career seasons. Tyrod Taylor could compete for the starting job if Jones fails to show signs of improvement this year.

It is also worth noting that Tyrod Taylor’s contract is a two-year deal. This means that, regardless of what happens to Daniel Jones this season, the Giants have a starting-level quarterback on the roster for the 2023 season. If the Giants are in the market for a new rookie quarterback next year, they already have the perfect bridge quarterback on their roster in Tyrod Taylor.

Giants can replace Will Hernandez with recently cut Buffalo Bills guard

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Given their lack of funds, the New York Giants will have to deploy an intelligent strategy to solve their offensive line this off-season. Currently sitting with negative cap space, new general manager Joe Schoen has a tough challenge ahead of him, having already started piecing together low-cost free agency signings to bolster the trenches.

This week, the Giants signed former Atlanta Falcons tackle Matt Gono, who missed all of the 2021 season with injury but has a bit of potential. Gono can compete for starting snaps but will most likely serve a backup role.

The cost-efficient contracts won’t end there, especially after the Buffalo Bills released guard Jon Feliciano on Wednesday. The Bills approached Feliciano regarding a pay cut, but he declined and decided to hit the open market for a new opportunity. He was set to earn $3.1 million for the 2022 season, and with the potential for more guaranteed money in free agency, Feliciano will be a prime target for teams like the Giants, who don’t have a ton to spend.

Feliciano’s contract had no guaranteed money, so the Bills could’ve released him just days before the regular season started at no expense. Clearly, the veteran interior lineman wanted a bit more job security, so it makes logical sense that former Buffalo assistant general manager Joe Schoen looks at him as a potential solution.

This past season, Feliciano made nine appearances, posting solid run-blocking numbers but inconsistent pass-blocking grades. Feliciano hasn’t allowed a sack in over two years, accruing more than 1000 snaps during that time frame.

There’s a lot to like about Feliciano as a reserve, if not a competitor for a starting gig, having played at right guard, center, and left guard. His best numbers have come on the right side, but his versatility has even more value.

Feliciano is also an aggressive player, showcased by the clip below where he takes out a number of Jets defenders chasing after Josh Allen.

Feliciano‘s pass-blocking grades were far better during the earlier portions of his career with the Las Vegas Raiders, dropping off a bit with Buffalo but still proving to be adequate during the 2019 season one he was a bonafide starter. At 30 years old, Feliciano still has a bit of gas left in the tank, and the Giants should pounce on the opportunity.

Giants News: Andrew Thomas injury update, one cost-efficient guard the team can pick up in free agency

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The New York Giants may need significant support in their offensive line, but they do have one established player in Andrew Thomas at left tackle.

Thomas is coming off his best season as a professional in 2021, allowing just two sacks, three QB hits, and 13 hurries. He posted a 78.9 overall offensive grade and 82.1 pass-blocking grade, according to PFF. While he did miss a few games with an ankle injury, Thomas once again pushed through the issue and played the majority of the season despite serious pain.

Thomas undoubtedly fits the mold of new general manager Joe Schoen and what he prefers in his players, toughness and consistent growth. Despite the Giants struggling to build around him, Thomas has excelled, doing a lot of good work on his own with the offensive line coach position turning over multiple times since is drafting back in 2020.

However, Thomas underwent surgery at the end of the 2021 season to clean out his ankle, but things are progressing well as he begins to resume practicing with some of his fellow teammates down in Atlanta.

Per Dan Duggan of The Athletic, Andrew Thomas is well on his way to being 100% healthy for the 2022 season:

Left tackle Andrew Thomas is making steady progress from the surgery he underwent on his left ankle in late January. Thomas is already out of his walking boot and has resumed training alongside fellow Georgia alums and Giants linebackers Azeez Ojulari and Tae Crowder at an Atlanta area facility.

As aforementioned, the Giants still need to plug spots in the trenches this off-season. Unfortunately, with -$7 million in salary space at the moment, they will likely be shopping in the clearance bin, if not drafting mid-round players to help fill some big roles.

Duggan also theorizes that the Giants could have interest in likely Bills cap-casualty Jon Feliciano, who has experience with the team’s new offensive line coach, Bobby Johnson.

Feliciano played in eight games last season, allowing four QB hits, 12 hurries, and zero sacks. He accrued three penalties over 422 snaps, with his best game coming against the Miami Dolphins at left guard.

Feliciano brings plenty of experience at many different positions, including left and right guard and center. He has 689 total snaps on the left side, 312 snaps in the middle, and 1519 snaps at right guard. His most successful season came in 2019, given the sample size. He started for Buffalo, playing in 947 total snaps, allowing four sacks, four QB hits, and 12 hurries.

Feliciano signed a three-year, $14.4 million contract with the Bills in 2021, meaning he has two years left on the contract. However, the Bills would save $3.37 million if they release him this off-season, counting a $1.5 million dead money hit against the salary cap. It seems likely they will move on, which could drop him right into the Giants’ lap, who are already familiar with his services given Schoen, head coach Brian Daboll, and Bobby Johnson, who coached him back with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Unfortunately, Big Blue will have to be cost-efficient with their spending this off-season, and Feliciano does seem to be a perfect fit given his experience with management.

How will they “be back”? 4 ways the Buffalo Bills can avoid a hangover

Everyone assumes the Buffalo Bills will be back to the AFC title game, but we’ve heard that one way too many times in the past.

Toward the end of many NFL playoff contests, a mantra of the damned has become as much of a prevalent broadcast tradition as reminding viewers that Bob’s Burgers or 60 Minutes will be coming up next (except on the west coast, in the latter case). When time is low and the game’s outcome is no longer in doubt, time is often dedicated to the team who will have to wait until September to restart their Super Bowl trek. As the camera lingers on images of the downtrodden runners-up between plays, the announcers will often repeat some variation of the phrase “they’ll be back”.

The Buffalo Bills were the latest to hear the chants, as their magical 2020-21 season came to an end in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. Buffalo was no match for the Kansas City Chiefs’ title defense, falling in a 38-24 final in their first semifinal visit since 1994. During contentious final minutes defined by post-whistle extracurriculars, CBS broadcasters Jim Nantz and Tony Romo waxed poetic on the Bills, they of 13 wins and an AFC East title, assuring fans that the best was likely yet to come for a team that grew by leaps and bounds. The Buffalo locker room repeated the phrase as Kansas City celebrated their return trip to the Big Game.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we will be back,” quarterback Josh Allen said, per team reporter Jourdon LaBarber. “We’re still young and we’re only going to get better. That’s one thing I take from this. We’re close. The results weren’t good tonight but I’m super proud of how our team fought all season and how we bonded together.”

“Give the Kansas City Chiefs credit. They won, they were the better team tonight. But the Buffalo Bills will be back,” head coach Sean McDermott added in a postgame interview with CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn. “This is a learning experience. It’s a tough environment to play. We didn’t play our best game, we didn’t coach our best game, we’ll be back.”

But, if recent history has proven anything, this mantra has only led to more losing.

Losing the AFC title game can certainly serve as a springboard for future success. Kansas City, for example, hasn’t lost a postseason game since they fell to New England in the 2019 edition. But everyone brushed off the Jacksonville Jaguars’ loss to those same Patriots the year before as a mere stepping stone to something brighter. After all, they were armed with a youthful, fearsome defense featuring Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, and many others. It was only a matter of time before they made the next step, no?

In the three years since that epic run, Jacksonville has won a mere dozen games (including a single triumph this season) and will choose first in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Los Angeles Rams appeared ready to take over football after their own run that same season but wound up missing the playoffs in the NFC title defense. A “double doink” derailed the Chicago Bears. Even Super Bowl champions aren’t exempt from such hangovers. Only four years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles looked like a dynasty in the making. Now, they’re one of the least desirable situations in football. Doug Pederson has already been dismissed and Carson Wentz appears to be next.

How can the Bills avoid such a hangover? ESM investigates…

 Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Be Buffalo Bold

What eventually did Buffalo in during the AFC title game was their lack of assertiveness in Kansas City. If you want to beat the Chiefs, you have to be the Chiefs, a team so dedicated to securing the victory as quickly and cleanly as possible that they’re willing to throw with Chad Henne on a 4th-and-1 just two games away from the Super Bowl.

Before things got out of hand at Arrowhead, the Bills had several opportunities to assert their authority on the Chiefs and earn precious points on fourth-and-short situations. However, they opted for the relative safety of Tyler Bass field goals, but they proved meaningless when the defense failed to stop Kansas City’s high-voltage offense. The red dagger came when they chose to narrow the lead to 24-15 on a 26-yard Bass boot when three yards would’ve set first-and-goal in the latter stages of the third quarter. Tyreek Hill immediately made them pay with a 75-yard catch-and-run that set up Travis Kelce’s short score through underhanded mastery from Patrick Mahomes.

“Maybe if I had to do it over again, I would have went for maybe one of them,” McDermott said of the costly decisions to kick, per Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN. “But the one before the half, I wanted to get points. We were having trouble coming up with points, and I wanted to at least have something to show for it going into the half, especially knowing they were getting the ball after half. I’ll look back at that and reevaluate that, especially the one after half there, and as an entire team, we’ll learn from the experience.”

Making things all the more tragic from a football standpoint was the fact that the Bills were no stranger to such aggressiveness during this magical season. They tied with Miami for the best fourth-down conversion rate (albeit on only 10 attempts) and pulled one off on their opening possession, later leading to Bass’ first field goal. Hopefully for Buffalo, they took the missed opportunities as the learning experience McDermott alluded to.

 Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Lock the Block(ers)

The Bills are blessed with the multiple talents of Allen, who has proven capable of beating teams both through the air and on the ground. Blessed with such a prime, game-changing force of football nature, Buffalo must do everything in its power to protect him. Allen was sacked 34 times last season, the 10th-worst rate in football, but that tends to happen when you have a mobile quarterback. All in all, the Bills did a decent job, but it still feels like there are ways to improve.

Among the potential departures through free agency is tackle Daryl Williams, one of the most pleasant surprises amongst the league’s contenders. The former All-Pro was signed to an affordable one-year deal but wound up filling in very well for an injured Cody Ford late in the year. Interior regulars Jon Feliciano, Brian Winters, and Ike Boettger will all be free agents, while center Mitch Morse could be a salary cap casualty (over $4.8 million) as the team currently holds under $2 million in cap space.

Buffalo can’t afford any regression when it comes to their blocking help. It’s possible they could use the 30th pick on someone like Creed Humphrey out of Oklahoma to bolster the unit. If the biggest problem on the offense is the fact that the long-sought franchise quarterback has too much protection, you know you’re doing something right.

Lower the Flags

While the Bills tackled numerous streaks of futility in 2020, one unfortunate streak kept on rolling. With 102 penalties (941 yards lost) during the regular season (sixth in the league), the Bills ranked in the league’s top-ten flag drawers for the third straight season. While Buffalo’s penalty ledger was relatively clean against Kansas City (38 yards on a quartet), the final stages of the season were marred by post-whistle extracurriculars that only built the rivalry between the Bills and Chiefs further. Should the Chiefs prevail in their Super Bowl endeavor two Sundays from now (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS), no one would be surprised to see the Bills in the traditional opening Thursday night slot for the defending champions come Week 1 of 2021.

It was great to see the Bills stick up for each other once things got chippy in the final minutes, but it left a sour taste in Allen’s mouth. One of Buffalo’s last possessions ended with Allen taking a late hit from Chiefs lineman Alex Okafor. Allen tossed the ball at Okafor’s facemask, leading to the first of several late-game melees.

“The way it ended doesn’t sit right with me with how chippy and ticky-tack it got. I’m disappointed in myself,” Allen said per Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. “I let my emotions get to me there. That’s not how you’re supposed to play football.”

 Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Figure Out the Rushing Stampede

The Bills have formed one of the most explosive passing attacks in the league through Allen, Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and others. But that doesn’t mean they have to solely rely on aerial antics to pull off wins. Over the past two seasons, the Bills are a mediocre 5-5 when Allen throws the ball at least 40 times. Two of those victories came in too-close-for-comfort showdowns with the New York Jets, while two of those losses came in the AFC playoffs (2020 Wild Card at Houston, 2021 AFC title game at Kansas City).

Sophomore rusher Devin Singletary regressed in several major rushing categories, working alongside the roller-coaster rookie antics of Zack Moss, who missed a majority of the postseason after leaving the Wild Card tilt on a cart. The two united for 1,168 yards and seven total touchdowns but struggled to maintain consistency. It’s good that the Bills have a relatively consistent rushing tandem, but they have to develop some true traction to avoid the risk of the offense becoming too shallow. Once Moss got injured, the Bills turned almost exclusively to passing. Singletary earned his first carry of the Divisional round late in the second quarter. Allen put up 88 yards against the Chiefs, but Singletary and T.J. Yeldon mustered only 32 on nine carries.

In another report from Parrino, McDermott flat out noted that “we got to be able to run the football better” after the AFC title game. If anyone in the NFL can do it all, it may well certainly be Allen, but that’s no reason to force him into such a situation.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags