Starting off a career with 2,000 all-purpose yards and offensive rookie of the year accolades is impressive, a statistical production that most veterans are seeking, yet New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley earned it in one season.
Elevating his level of play spells trouble for any defense in his path, and that’s exactly what we should be expecting in the year ahead, but why?
The sophomore slump is certainly a thing, but Barkley has the ability to skip right over the dreaded season and enjoy another successful year. The reason he will — the improvement of the offensive line.
The New York Giants invested heavily in rebuilding the O-line:
A line consisting of Nate Solder in a new system and injured, rookie Will Hernandez, backup Spencer Pulley, a joke in Patrick Omameh, and a turnstile in Ereck Flowers isn’t something to write home about. In fact, it’s more of an embarrassment, or rather the start of a transition to a line worth talking about.
Now, it is built on a solid duo on the left side including Solder and Hernandez, a capable Jon Halapio returning from injury, a top-5 guard in Kevin Zeitler, and a much improved right tackle in Mike Remmers over Flowers and Chad Wheeler.
This line will open up holes big enough for Barkley to swim through, something he surely didn’t experience in 2018. However, Barkley led all 47 running backs with 100-carries in breakaway percentage at 54%, according to PFF. His production was reliant on his ability to break into the secondary and pick up big chunks of yardage, and that’s not a bad thing. Making up for two short runs with a long touchdown carry is acceptable at the professional level.
He gained 54% of his total 1,307 rushing yards on 20 carries he took for 15-plus yards in his rookie year. Adding better offensive lineman will only increase that statistic and allow him to work with more space on the line of scrimmage. I imagine two-yard runs will become four and his breakout potential will remain the same.
The offensive line is the catalyst for a dynamite 2019 for Barkley, and we will be able to witness his greatness.
The offensive line will be a different one this year for the New York Giants, but it looks like center Jon Halapio will remain the starter, which is where he was last season before an injury cut his year short after only a few games. Halapio was ruled out for the year, which would be a punch to the gut for any player but especially one such as him, who was previously a journeyman who had trouble even staying in the NFL at all.
Halapio managed to go from that to the starting center of the Giants, with the team moving on from Brett Jones last year because of their preference for having Halapio at the position instead. Now, the former journeyman is faced with a different challenge: getting healthy again and returning to the starting position, rather than finding another team such as in past years.
“It was hard. I had my days where I would have a ‘why me’ type of feeling. [But] I never really lost confidence because I knew what I was capable of and what I bring to the table,” Halapio told the New York Post last week. Halapio has also said, however, that he feels one hundred percent.
He faces a competition with Spencer Pulley, and there’s no guarantees for anyone based on last season’s status or the expected depth chart. The coaching staff has shown so far that they plan on giving every player the same chance, with Chad Wheeler notably competing against Mike Remmers at right tackle despite the latter being the more well known player in the media.
And it looks like the return of Halapio, as well as the offensive line gaining more experience and new additions in general, should improve its performances greatly this season. Halapio spoke in particular about left guard Will Hernandez, who was only a rookie when starting last year.
“[Hernandez] is light years ahead from when he first started out. Two things that stick out to me are his awareness and his maturity. Having two solid guards like that, big bodied guys in there. The awareness and maturity that they have, and the wisdom, especially with Kevin, it helps a lot for me,” Halapio said, also referring to one of the Giants’ new additions this season, guard Kevin Zeitler.
The combination of Solder-Hernandez-Halapio-Zeitler-Remmers has never been tried before but it’s a far cry from when the offensive line had multiple big name flops in the starting lineup such as Patrick Omameh and Ereck Flowers. Will the new additions turn things around? We’ll just have to wait until the preseason and eventually the regular season to see.
The New York Giants have completely rebuilt the offensive line over the past two years. When general manager Dave Gettleman joined the front office last year, his top priority was to fix the offensive line.
Gettleman fixed the line partially in 2018 but made some mistakes along the way. He signed guard Patrick Omameh to an awful contract, and cut him only seven games into the season. Gettleman also kept Ereck Flowers as a starter for the first two games of the season before cutting him after only five games.
Omameh and Flowers were two of the worst offensive linemen in 2018. Gettleman replaced each of them with acquisitions in the 2019 offseason, such as Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers. The left side of the offensive line is solid already so it has not been adjusted, but that is not the only part of the line to remain untouched.
The Giants revamped the right side of the offensive line but left the left side and the center as is. Gettleman is taking a gamble at the center position and sticking with in-house talent. Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley both started games at center in 2018, and in 2019, they will have a competition to see who will get the starting job.
Why Jon Halapio Might Start
Jon Halapio showed flashes of being an excellent center at the beginning of the 2018 NFL season. Unfortunately, Halapio suffered a gruesome leg injury in Week 2 that caused him to miss the rest of the season.
Dave Gettleman reminded the media that Jon Halapio was playing best out of any of the offensive linemen before he went down with his injury. He is not wrong either. Halapio was not necessarily playing at an elite level, but the entire offensive line was playing so poorly that he stood out as the best of the group.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jon Halapio had a 69.4 overall grade before suffering the injury. Through 2 weeks of the season, Halapio had the 2nd best pass blocking grade (87.5) among centers with a minimum of 80 snaps. He was also the highest graded offensive lineman on the Giants through those weeks and the 6th highest graded center in the NFL.
Jon Halapio should have the edge in the competition for the starting job based on his solid performance at the beginning of last season. However, his health is a major question mark, and the man he is competing with does not share this same concern.
Why Spencer Pulley Might Start
The Giants signed Spencer Pulley to a contract extension this offseason. Pulley signed a three-year, $9.6 million deal with Big Blue. This contract could keep Pulley around as the starter or as a long-term backup. If Pulley does not win the starting job, he will be a solid depth player.
There is still reason to believe that Pulley might win the job, though. Pulley played in 13 games for the Giants last year and started 9 of those games. Spencer Pulley certainly is one thing: durable.
Pulley played in 16 games in each of his first two seasons with the Chargers and played in 13 games in 2018 with the Giants. Sometimes, availability is a player’s most important trait, and that is the case with Pulley.
The Giants are likely hoping that the flashes Halapio showed at the beginning of the 2018 season lead to him being the team’s starter. Spencer Pulley was one of the lowest graded players on the Giants in 2018 according to Pro Football Focus, so he will probably serve best as a reliable backup.
The New York Giants have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL for years. Former Giants general manager Jerry Reese did not have an eye for offensive line talent.
A prime example of this is the Giants 10th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, Ereck Flowers. Flowers let up 180 pressures from 2015 to 2018 before being cut midseason by the new general manager, Dave Gettleman.
Dave Gettleman came to the Giants in 2018 and his mission was to rebuild the offensive line. In his second year with the Giants, the offensive line rebuild seems to be complete.
The New Offensive Line:
Left Tackle: Nate Solder
The Giants had issues with Ereck Flowers at left tackle from 2015 to 2017. Finally, during the last offseason, the Giants made a change at the offensive line’s most important position. Dave Gettleman signed Nate Solder to be the highest paid offensive tackle in the NFL in 2018, Gettleman’s first season as general manager of the Giants.
Nate Solder struggled mightily in the first half of the 2018 NFL season. Fortunately, Solder turned it around in the second half of the season. Over the second half of the year, Solder allowed only one sack and 13 total pressures. Solder is the captain on the offensive line. The 31-year-old veteran will need to contribute a few more seasons of the level of play he demonstrated in the second half of 2018 in order to live up to that historic contract.
Left Guard: Will Hernandez
Will Hernandez is one of the most promising young players on the Giants’ roster. The Giants drafted Big Will in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He already looks like a steal of a draft pick who should’ve been selected in the first round.
He made the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Team for his dependable play. Hernandez earned the league’s second-highest grade for a rookie interior offensive linemen and was only penalized two times across 1,027 snaps.
Center: Jon Halapio
In week two of the 2018 NFL season, the Giants, unfortunately, lost center Jon Halapio to a season-ending leg injury. Halapio was playing solid football at the time he went down. Dave Gettleman himself said that Halapio was playing the best out of anyone on the offensive line before he got injured.
In week one, Jon Halapio had Pro Football Focus’s third-best pass blocking grade (85.2) among centers with at least 50 offensive snaps.
Jon Halapio will likely be the starter in 2019 unless Spencer Pulley is able to outperform him in camp. If Halapio can show that his first week and a half of the 2018 season was not a fluke, he will win the starting job.
Right Guard: Kevin Zeitler
The Giants acquired guard Kevin Zeitler via trade with the Cleveland Browns in the 2019 NFL offseason. The Giants traded their best pass-rusher Olivier Vernon in order to acquire Zeitler. It is never easy to trade away your best pass-rusher, but the Giants got arguably the best offensive lineman on their team in exchange for Vernon.
Kevin Zeitler is one of the best guards in the NFL. He is a highly efficient pass-blocker, allowing only 11 total pressures in 2018. The Giants’ starting right guards in 2018, Patrick Omameh and Jamon Brown, combined for 39 total pressures. Zeitler will be a huge improvement for the Giants in 2019.
Remmers has a strong connection with the Giants’ front office. He used to play for the Panthers when Dave Gettleman was their general manager and he used to play for head coach Pat Shurmur when he was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings went to the NFC Championship game in 2017 with Mike Remmers at right tackle. He was switched to guard in 2018, suffered an injury and struggled, but returning to his natural position of right tackle with the Giants should lead to better performance.
The New York Giants have been making moves on the offensive line lately, and the latest of those is bringing back center Jon Halapio for another season. Halapio was the one that won the starting job at the position last season and resulted in the trade of Brett Jones to the Minnesota Vikings, which fans would late regret once the season was underway.
Not because of poor performances from Halapio, but because Halapio suffered a season-ending leg injury very early in the season and the Giants were forced to make a change on the offensive line early on, hurting the blocking play.
Halapio was an exclusive rights free agent and is signing a new deal at the same time that the Giants are acquiring a new talent to play next to him, former Browns offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler, who is 6’4″ and definitely looks the part as a physically imposing addition to an offensive line that desperately needs to improve if the team is going to have a turnaround season, was acquired in exchange for pass rusher Olivier Vernon, and will save the Giants a bit of money with the salary cap.
It’s easy to see Halapio taking back the starting job over Spencer Pulley, who started nine games last season after being claimed from waivers, and in that case he would likely be playing next to second year guard Will Hernandez and new addition Kevin Zeitler. With the Giants making a trade for a guard, it seems that last season’s trade acquisition at the position, Jamon Brown, is the odd one out and will walk in free agency rather than getting a new deal.
Time will tell if the offensive line improves. But things are shaping up well, and the Giants are getting back someone who should be at least a minor upgrade from last season’s starters at the position.
The NFL’s new league year begins on March 13th. That is the day that NFL teams can officially sign free agents and make trades. Until then, teams can only communicate with their own players and impending free agents.
With the new league year coming up, the New York Giants have gotten to work resigning their free agents (or letting them walk for nothing). On Wednesday, the Giants made a few decisions on their exclusive rights free agents.
One of the Giants’ top in-house free agents this offseason was their kicker, Aldrick Rosas. The Giants officially tendered Rosas on Wednesday. This move brings him back next season at the minimum salary.
This move was a no-brainer for the Giants. Aldrick Rosas was arguably the best kicker in the NFL last season. Rosas had a 97% field goal percentage in 2018, making 32 of his 33 attempts. Aldrick was Pro Football Focus’s highest graded kicker of the season with an 88.7 overall grade.
Week 13 was Rosas’s best game of the season. He won Special Teams Player of the Week. In week 13, Rosas went 3/3 on field goals, including a game-winner in overtime. Aldrick even nailed a 57-yard field goal at the end of the first half, which was a franchise record for the longest field goal in Giants history.
If Rosas can perform like this again in 2019, expect him to get a proper long-term extension next offseason.
The Giants signed Corey Colemanback in November after he had been cut by the Buffalo Bills. Coleman has had a tough time staying on a roster. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2016 but played there for only two seasons. He never even made the Bills’ 53 man roster.
Once the Giants signed him, Coleman got limited playing time. He played in 8 games and caught 5 passes for 71 yards. Coleman also fielded 23 kickoffs. He showed the potential to be a great kick returner for the Giants in the future.
According to Ian Rapoport, Corey Coleman showed enough flashes in his short stint to warrant a longer look from the Giants. Along with Rosas and the others, Coleman received his tender on Wednesday worth $2.025 million. The Giants will be hoping to turn Coleman into a legitimate receiving threat in 2019.
The Giants’ starting center at the beginning of the season went down with a season-ending injury in week 2.
GM Dave Gettleman has noted on multiple occasions how well Jon Halapio was playing prior to breaking his leg. According to Pro Football Focus, Halapio had the 3rd best pass blocking grade (85.2) from week 1 among centers with at least 50 offensive snaps.
Jon Halapio will likely be the Giants’ starting center in 2019. This is why he received an exclusive rights tender to keep him around for the 2019 NFL season. If Jon Halapio can prove that his 2 weeks of solid play in 2018 were not a fluke, Halapio could potentially play his way into a long-term contract extension in 2019.
The Giants tendered exclusive rights free agent Elijhaa Penny as well. Penny was the Giants’ fullback in 2018. Penny is a solid receiving fullback who can contribute as a blocker, too.
He was Pro Football Focus‘s 4th highest graded fullback in 2018 with an overall grade of 68.6. He is a versatile fullback who performed well in 2018. Penny could be the fullback for the Giants for years to come if he continues to play at this level.
The New York Giants have a crucial offseason coming up for the future of their franchise. They will have to make multiple tough decisions in 2019, such as who to cut and whether or not to find a new quarterback. Along with that, they will need to decide who they want to resign and who they want to let walk in free agency.
When The Giants Can Start Signing Players:
The 2019 New League Year is on March 13 at 4:00 p.m. This is when all contracts expire and players officially become free agents. Teams can negotiate new deals with their players beginning on March 11. March 13 is the first official day of free agency. The Giants will need to have made decisions on their soon-to-be free agents by that date.
New York Giants With Expiring Contracts:
The Giants have 25 players with expiring contracts this offseason. Among those 25 players are multiple starters. Players such as Landon Collins, Cody Latimer, Jamon Brown, B.W. Webb, Jon Halapio, Aldrick Rosas, Curtis Riley, Corey Coleman, Elijah Penny, Josh Mauro, and Zack DeOssie are starters on the 2018 Giants who will be free agents this offseason.
In addition to the starters just listed, plenty of depth players have expiring contracts also. Mario Edwards, Kerry Wynn, Russell Shepard, John Greco, Nathan Stupar, John Jenkins, Scott Simonson, Bennie Fowler, Alex Tanney, Kristjan Sokoli, Jordan Williams, Antonio Hamilton, Spencer Pulley, and Alonzo Russell are depth players for the Giants with expiring contracts.
Key Players For The Giants To Resign:
Among these 25 players are a couple of Pro Bowlers and key starters. Landon Collins is a former all-pro who will be looking for a big payday this offseason. In addition, Pro Bowl kicker Aldrick Rosas will look to get paid handsomely after being the best kicker in the NFL in 2018. These are two key, extraordinary players that the Giants will look to resign.
Aside from the Pro Bowl caliber players, the Giants will need to resign a few other starters this offseason. A pair of solid offensive linemen will need new contracts in 2019, Jamon Brown and Jon Halapio.
Jamon Brown was acquired by the Giants during their bye week in 2018. He was a massive improvement over their former starting guard, and quickly became a fan favorite. As soon as Brown stepped on the field for the Giants, the teams started to win and Eli Manning started to play better. Jamon Brown is a player that the Giants must resign in 2019.
Jon Halapio is a quality center who went down with a leg injury in week two of the 2018 NFL season. He was playing the best out of any of the team’s lineman through the first two weeks, and Dave Gettleman was quick to point that out in his post-season presser. The Giants plan to move forward with Halapio as their starting center, so expect to see him get resigned in 2019.
Entering the 2018 season, the New York Giants had several open competitions for starting roles. This included free safety, slot corner and surprisingly, center. Brett Jones is the incumbent, and proved himself to be one of the best pass blocking centers in the league. Last year, he had the 8th best pass blocking efficiency score according to ProFootballFocus metrics. However, while Jones could be trusted to keep the middle of the pocket clean, he struggled to create holes for his running backs.
Starting in Spring camp, the Giants have given journeyman Jon Halapio opportunities to start at center. Halapio spent the first four years of his career bouncing around practice squads. He finally got an opportunity to play last season after the Giants offensive line fell apart (though was it every really together?). Halapio has been granted this chance based on the perception that he will be an impactful run blocker, someone who can clear lanes for Saquon Barkley. Does perception match reality? To find out, I watched every run blocking snap Halapio (RG #75) participated in last season. Let’s take a look at the film.
Film Review on New York Giants’ Jon Halapio:
Halapio displayed the ability to maintain his block when handling a defensive tackle one-on-one. He rarely overpowers his opponent, but is able to win the battle just enough to allow the running back to generate positive yards on the ground. Further, when he has a clear shot at a linebacker, he occasionally was able to execute his block in the second level.
Week 12 Q1 1:58
Jon Halapio does a good job of making sure the defensive tackle isn’t able to penetrate and cut Wayne Gallman off before Gallman runs off the edge of the line. Halapio wasn’t over powering, but did the job well enough to help spring Gallman.
Week 12 Q2 10:26
This was one of the few instances where Halapio successfully came off a double team of a defensive tackle and quickly got to the second level to take on a linebacker. This enabled Darkwa to gain positive yards running behind Halapio.
Week 13 Q1 1:46
This was one of the only times Halapio over powered a defensive tackle one-on-one. He does a great job of creating a big hole for Gallman to gallup through.
Week 13 Q2 11:45
The Giants run right behind Halapio pulling to his left. Halapio does a great job of blocking the linebacker to allow the runner to cut back right behind him.
Week 14 Q4 6:23
On this draw to Gallman, Halapio easily overpowers Damien Wilson and is able to push him to the ground before the linebacker can attempt to tackle Wayne Gallman.
Week 15 Q4 14:19
This is another example of Halapio quickly coming off his double team to take on a linebacker. This gives Gallman a clear running lane to sprint through.
Week 15 Q4 9:08
On the goal line, Halapio buries the defensive tackle to allow Darwka to run the ball in for a touchdown.
So far, Halapio has shown the ability to occasionally over power the defensive tackle. While showing glimpses of being able to win one-on-one battles is encouraging, the plays highlighted above were more outliers than the norm. Halapio rarely displayed the power one would expect to see from a strong run blocker. The plays below are examples of Halapio losing one-one-one battles with defensive tackles.
Week 13 Q1 15:00
Halapio does a poor job of moving the defensive tackle in front of him. Darkwa didn’t help by running right into the line instead of between Flowers and Engram, but could have gained more yards if Halapio was able to do a better job of creating a running lane for him to run through.
Week 15 Q3 5:41
This play makes you wonder if anyone knew what their assignment was. Even with a little help from Jones, Halapio struggled to hold his block against the defensive tackle. Even if he did, this play was doomed, but his inability to take out the defensive tackle didn’t help.
Week 16 Q2 12:41
The defensive tackle Halapio was responsible for wasn’t directly involved in the play, but this illustrated how easily it can be to overpower Halapio. The defensive tackle shakes him off like he’s a rag doll to assist his teammates on the play.
Week 16 Q2 4:45
Covering all of the breakdowns in run blocking on this play would require a whole separate article. Since this article focuses on Halapio, we’ll focus on his inability to even get two hands on the defensive tackle before handling his responsibility in the second level. Whomever thought it was a good idea to ask Jerell Adams to take on a defensive tackle should probably be fired (oh wait..).
In Pat Shurmur’s offense, backs and receivers will have ample opportunities to make big plays on screens. He wants to get his playmakers the ball out in space. For these types of plays to be successful, it’s imperative that the linemen can excel at taking on linebackers and defensive backs in the second level. This is the one facet of Halapio’s game that stood out the most; he struggled mightily to block at the second level, especially when he had to navigate through some traffic to identify the man he was responsible for.
Week 12 Q1 11:43
Halapio is responsible for pulling to his left and taking out the linebacker. He attempts to dive at the Redskin linebacker and completely whiffs, allowing the linebacker to make the tackle on Darkwa.
Week 13 Q3 11:52
This play is similar to the previous play discussed. Halapio pulls to his left and barely makes contact with the Raider linebacker before falling down. He makes a weak attempt at clearing a hole for Darkwa to run through.
Week 14 Q1 :08
Coming off of the quick double team of the defensive tackle, Halapio is late getting to the second level and is forced to pull down the Cowboy linebacker for a penalty. Halapio was replaced by John Greco shortly after this play.
Week 14 Q3 12:11
Halapio is late again coming off of his double team to block the linebacker. He also reveals a bad habit at diving at linebackers instead of getting in proper position to block them with the right technique. This run was blown up from the start when Brett Jones got pushed three yards back into the backfield, but it still doesn’t absolve Halapio of not handling his responsibilities.
Week 14 Q3 11:39
We are starting to see a consistent theme with Halapio when he’s asked to quickly double team a defensive tackle and then get to the next level; he constantly struggles to find the linebacker he is responsible for. On this play, he’s unable to block Sean Lee, who makes the tackle on Shane Vereen.
Week 15 Q2 2:00
This was one of the few big runs the Giants had all season, but got no help from Halapio on this play. He’s late getting out to block Malcom Jenkins, who eventually tracks down Vereen from behind.
Week 15 Q3 3:55
Even though Halapio has a clear shot at Kendricks coming off of his double team, he isn’t able to apply a clean block to help spring Gallman up the middle. Kendricks is able to assist in taking down Gallman after a short gain.
Week 16 Q1 4:37
This is the second holding penalty Halapio got called for when attempting to block a defensive player in the second level. He’s in good position to block Bucannon, but isn’t able to block him cleanly.
Week 17 Q4 6:10
Again, Halapio displays a bad habit of using shoulders, instead of his hands, to block a linebacker. He whiffs on his responsibility to block Zach Vigil.
After watching every run snap Halapio took, it’s clear he is not going to be able to consistently create running lanes for the Giants backs. He rarely exhibits the power required to win one-on-one battles with defensive tackles and constantly struggled to handle his blocking responsibilities when blocking linebackers and defensive backs.
It’s healthy for any organization to force players to compete for their starting role. Brett Jones hasn’t proved himself enough to have his starting role handed to him, and he needs to continue to develop as a center. However, one thing we know he does well is pass protect and that is the one attribute Giants fans should value in their offensive lineman. Brett Jones gives the Giants offense the best chance to succeed.
The New York Giants have re-signed former New England Patriots offensive lineman Jon Halapio. With the start of legal tampering in free agency today, the Giants have been on the move, locking up a key depth player on the line.
General manager Dave Gettleman has made it apparent that he’s focusing on the offensive line this offseason, which attests to the signing of Halapio.
Who is Halapio?
The 26-year-old guard was a sixth-round pick in 2014 by the Patriots; starting in 43-games at Florida. He spent 2016 and the first four-games of 17′ on the Giants’ practice squad before making his debut on Oct. 22. Unfortunately, his first NFL game resulted in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
His first career start was on Nov. 23, at Washington. He replaced an injured D.J. Fluker after he went down with a toe injury (was placed on IR). In the six-games that Halapio started, he showed resiliency and grit. The running game saw improvement and Eli Manning saw himself with more time than usual.
This ultimately gained Halapio enough traction to earn himself another season with Big Blue. Hopefully, he can earn a starting spot on the team and offer great value to a team with minimal cap-space.