New York Giants should see further offensive line improvements in 2021

New York Giants, Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants‘ offensive line was inconsistent in 2020. The Giants have had struggles across their offensive line for years now. It is a problem the Giants seemingly cannot fix. However, they are slowly working towards improving the offensive line, investing plenty of assets into the unit over the past two years.

The Giants traded for Kevin Zeitler in 2019 and signed Nate Solder to a huge contract in the 2018 free agency period. These are the two moves New York has made to acquire veteran talent on the offensive line. In 2020, though, the Giants shifted towards a more youthful approach on the offensive line.

New York spent the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on left tackle Andrew Thomas. They then doubled down at the position in the third round, selecting offensive tackle Matt Peart with pick number ninety-nine. But the Giants were not done there. They also spent a fifth-round pick on offensive guard Shane Lemieux in 2020.

These rookies saw plenty of playing time in the 2020 regular season. However, their performance was not always consistently good. However, there are reasons to believe that the Giants’ offensive line will improve further in 2021.

Continuity is key

The New York Giants’ offensive line severely lacked continuity and experience in 2020. Along with the rookies that saw extensive playing time, the Giants started second-year lineman Nick Gates at center, a position he had never played before. Gates was practically a rookie as well.

Taking that into consideration, the Giants had experienced players at only two of the five offensive line positions last season. Right guard Kevin Zeitler is an excellent, veteran player. Right tackle Cam Fleming is also an experienced veteran. However, the rest of the line was comprised of rookies and inexperienced players for the majority of the season.

The Giants also had no continuity along their offensive line. In terms of calling protections and passing off stunts, continuity and chemistry is crucial. No one on the Giants’ offensive line in 2020 lined up next to a teammate that they lined up next to in 2019.

Kevin Zeitler was placed between a brand new center and a brand new right tackle. The absence of Nate Solder left rookie Andrew Thomas as the Giants’ starting left tackle, sandwiching the left guard position between two newly acquired players.

The 2021 season will see the Giants’ offensive line play with far more chemistry and continuity than they did in 2020. There is not likely to be much overturn at all along New York’s offensive line. There could be a change made at the right tackle position, but the other four positions will likely be manned by the same players from last season. Additionally, the Giants made a change at the offensive line coach position midseason in 2020. Hopefully, in 2021, New York’s front line can enjoy the coaching of a singular coach. This second-year together could allow the Giants’ offensive line to grow and develop into a more continuous and consistent unit.

New York Giants: Lawrence Tynes proposes blockbuster deal for Deshaun Watson

The New York Giants are expected to make moves this offseason. It remains to be seen what those moves will be, but the team is on the brink of winning and some new additions could push them into a playoff campaign next year. And one of the biggest players that might be available on the market this offseason is Texans QB Deshaun Watson.

Obviously, the Giants already have a quarterback in Daniel Jones. The Giants have come out and said a number of times that Jones is their QB and that they plan on keeping him around for years to come. But words can be fleeting, and the staff also reaffirmed that Eli Manning would be the starting quarterback for weeks, before benching him in favor of Jones. Could they do a similar thing and make a surprise change at the position despite supporting Jones publicly?

Lawrence Tynes proposes a trade

Super Bowl winning kicker Lawrence Tynes has an interesting take on the idea. He proposed a trade where the Giants would give up a lot, but could get their quarterback of the future.

The Giants would have to give up Jones, plus starters Kevin Zeitler and Evan Engram. It’s a steep price to pay, but Engram has often left fans wanting for more performance wise and Zeitler was involved in trade rumors already earlier last season. In fact, Engram might be the largest one reason why the Giants aren’t in the playoffs right now after his crucial drop against the Eagles cost the team an extra win. Some would argue the Giants should move on from him now while he isn’t injured and his stock is still somewhat high.

Perhaps more concerning, the Giants would have to give up a first round pick for next year as well as two third round picks. Giving up a first round pick in addition to two players is a high price, but may be worth it in the long run if the Giants can advance to the point where they no longer need a high draft pick each year to further a rebuild.

What would the Giants get in return?

It’s looking increasingly like Deshaun Watson is going to move from the Texans, but what would the Giants get with him if they did make a deal?

From the looks of things, they would have an immediate step up at quarterback. Watson last season threw for 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, a huge increase over the poor ratio of touchdowns to turnovers that Daniel Jones had. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl, and while the Texans were far from a winning team last season, there’s other major reasons for that than just their quarterback play and offense.

After the Texans went 4-12, star defensive end J.J. Watt went as far as to apologize to Watson for how the defense wasted one of his seasons.

From 2014 to 2020, the Texans were under the leadership of Bill O’Brien – he became infamous to Texans fans for bad leadership and the move to trade Watson’s top receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for David Johnson and a pair of draft picks. That’s been called one of the worst trades ever, and it contributed further to Watson not being able to win in Houston.

Even under those circumstances, and other poor management decisions from the Texans, Watson had a successful season individually and would be a step up from what the Giants have now. It’s easy to imagine him leading the Giants to success when not surrounded with a dysfunctional organization and placed on an improving roster that nearly made the playoffs this year.

Should the Giants do the deal?

The Giants will likely have to give up a lot if they want to acquire Watson, but at some point, the team has to turn the corner and start winning. There’s multiple ways to turn the corner. Some teams draft big time players and other teams acquire them in free agency or in trades. But there’s only so many chances to do so, and the Giants might not have another chance for a while to acquire a quarterback of this caliber.

It’s not that the Giants need to immediately move on from Daniel Jones – but Jones sitting around the middle of the league statistically for years isn’t going to help the team reach new heights in the long run. A player like Watson, however, could.

They would have to give up a lot, yes. But any team looking to turn the corner with a big trade does. The Giants are going to start losing players to contracts and free agency anyway as Dave Gettleman’s rebuild drags on for more years. They may as well give up some talent preemptively and pick up the kind of player that there’s rarely a chance to get on the open market.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard limited and Kevin Zeitler participates fully

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

Neither team will be completely healthy going into the battle between the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals, and it remains to be seen whether the Giants will have Sterling Shepard for that game or not. Both teams are missing their best player in this one – Saquon Barkley for the Giants and Joe Burrow for the Bengals. But those big name players aren’t the only ones that are injured in some way on either side.

Sterling Shepard is listed on the injury report as having a hip/toe injury and was limited in practice on Wednesday. He was joined on that injury report by Kevin Zeitler, with a concussion. But Zeitler doesn’t look like a risk to miss the game, as he participated fully in practice that day. James Bradberry also missed practice to deal with a family emergency and was encouraged by Joe Judge to take the time off.

According to the injury report, the Giants are expecting to see Bradberry back in practice on Friday.

Shepard has already missed time with injury this season but has appeared in the past four games. During that stretch, he’s been targeted plenty and has had at least six catches each game. And notably, the Giants have won both of their last games with him in the offense.

Both Shepard and Zeitler are expected to play on Sunday despite their presence on the injury report, but it remains to be seen how fast Shepard will play while listed as dealing with multiple injuries.

New York Giants need to see offensive line improve after bye week

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants made a shocking move today, firing offensive line coach Marc Colombo after only ten weeks with the team. According to reports, head coach Joe Judge made the decision to fire Colombo after a verbal altercation that saw Colombo insubordinate the team’s head coach. Now, Dave DeGuglielmo will serve as the team’s offensive line coach.

The Giants’ offensive line has struggled immensely in 2020. But, over the past few weeks, there has been some improvement. According to reports, this is correlated to the fact that Joe Judge has spent more time coaching the offensive line himself.

New York’s offensive line is a point of weakness. Judge and DeGuglielmo now have a whole bye week to work together and try to fix the offensive line’s issues. As the Giants make a late-season playoff push, it is crucial that the offensive line improves after the bye week to keep the Giants in the hunt.

New York Giants Offensive Line Stats

Despite investing a hefty amount of assets into the offensive line this offseason, the Giants’ front unit has not looked improved this year. Granted, there have been slight week-to-week improvements from individual linemen, but overall it has been a struggle for this positional group.

According to Pro Football Focus, through ten games, the Giants are last in pass-block grade (47.2) and 29th in run-block grade (56.9). PFF also states that quarterback Daniel Jones has been pressured on 42.9% of dropbacks this season (second among qualifying quarterbacks). Over the last four games, Jones has been pressured on 41.1% of his dropbacks (tied-fourth most).

New York’s second-year quarterback has been under constant duress this season. When kept clean, Jones has been surgical. In Sunday’s victory over Philadelphia, Jones was 18-18 from a clean pocket for 188 yards and a PFF passing grade of 93.1.

But keeping Jones’s pocket clean has been a struggle for the Giants. Rookie first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas leads all offensive tackles in the NFL in pressures allowed. He has struggled to find his footing in the NFL and has even been outplayed by third-round rookie Matt Peart in his smaller sample size.

The New York Giants found their formula for winning against Washington and Philadelphia the past two weeks. Essentially, the offensive line has to give Daniel Jones time to make plays. When Jones has a clean pocket he can make plays and keep the ball out of harm’s way. This is why fixing the offensive line should be the top priority for the Giants to close out the final seven weeks of the 2020 NFL season, as they push to make their first playoff appearance since 2016.

Should the New York Giants roll with a young offensive line for the rest of the season?

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants‘ offensive line has struggled immensely through the first seven weeks of the 2020 NFL season. Despite this, their best lineman Kevin Zeitler has been brought up in trade discussions. Zeitler is a nine-year NFL veteran that has performed as the Giants’ best offensive lineman over the past two seasons.

Trading away Kevin Zeitler would leave the Giants with yet another huge hole in their offensive line. That hole would be filled by another rookie, Shane Lemieux, out of Oregon. This would place the Giants with two rookies starting on their offensive line, the other being left tackle Andrew Thomas. Nick Gates is also a rookie at the center position, playing this position for the first time in his career.

But should the Giants take things one step further and get as young as possible on the offensive line? New York has three rookies it could start on their offensive line: Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, and Matt Peart. Combining these three rookies with second-year Nick Gates and third-year Will Hernandez would give the Giants an insanely young offensive line.

Why the Giants’ young offensive line could be a good idea

The Giants’ offensive line is bad as it is. Could it really get that much worse? It seems like it could only get better at this point as New York’s front line has allowed Jones to be sacked 20 times through seven games. Considering this, maybe the Giants’ rookies could step in and outperform the struggling veterans.

Additionally, the Giants need answers on these rookie offensive linemen. Are they long-term solutions? The only way to find out is if these rookies get significant game-experience for the final stretch of this season. Allowing these rookies to start on the offensive line would give New York eight weeks of film to evaluate their linemen heading into the 2021 offseason.

The Giants might need to invest further into their offensive line during the 2021 NFL Draft. But if these rookies can prove themselves as legitimate starters, then New York will be able to invest their assets elsewhere.

Will Hernandez will be out in Week 8 as he tested positive this week for COVID-19. This should give rookie Shane Lemieux a chance to start this week. If Lemieux performs well, it could entice the Giants to complete a Kevin Zeitler trade. If New York does that, they should take the extra step and insert Matt Peart into the starting lineup in place of Cam Fleming. This would give the Giants’ rookies eight weeks to prove themselves before the 2021 offseason.

New York Giants: Pros and cons of a potential Kevin Zeitler trade

The 2020 NFL trade deadline is right around the corner. The New York Giants have already gotten active, trading away edge rusher Markus Golden to the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round draft pick. The Giants have had a few other players’ names come up in trade discussions, too. Veteran wide receiver Golden Tate is a trade candidate whose value is increasing. Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler is another name that teams have called about.

Kevin Zeitler was traded to the Giants in 2019. Since then, he has started in all but one game for the Giants. Zeitler has been one of the team’s best players since his arrival in New Jersey. But with the Giants sitting at the bottom of the NFC East with a lowly 1-6 record, there is a chance they start to sell off their best players to the highest bidders. How would the Giants benefit from a potential Kevin Zeitler trade?

Pros

The Giants are a young, rebuilding football team. They invested heavily into their offensive line this offseason, particularly through the 2020 NFL Draft. New York drafted two offensive tackles and one interior offensive lineman in this year’s draft. That interior offensive lineman is Shane Lemieux out of Oregon, and he would be the new starting right guard if Kevin Zeitler were to be traded.

If Zeitler were to be traded, the Giants would be able to give Lemieux a starting role for the final 8 weeks of the season. This would allow them to have plenty of NFL film on Lemieux going into the offseason before deciding whether or not to sign or draft another offensive lineman.

Best case scenario, Lemieux impresses and instills confidence in the Giants that he can be a long-term starter at offensive guard. Worst case scenario, Lemieux struggles and proves not to be the long-term answer, indicating to the Giants that they need to find a new offensive guard in the offseason.

Regardless, Kevin Zeitler is not a long-term answer at offensive guard. He is 31-years-old and has not been the same player this year that he was the seasons prior. Moving on from Zeitler would also free up $10 million in salary cap for the Giants (Spotrac).

Trading away Kevin Zeitler would likely acquire the Giants a day-two pick in the NFL Draft. He is their best offensive player and most valuable trade asset. The Giants would be able to gain draft capital and give Shane Lemieux valuable game experience. These are great benefits to trading away Kevin Zeitler, but there are drawbacks also.

Cons

If the Giants do trade Kevin Zeitler away, their offensive line will be going from bad to worse. The Giants’ offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL despite having Kevin Zeitler in the starting five. Taking him away would put Daniel Jones in harm’s way.

Additionally, taking Kevin Zeitler out of the starting lineup and thrusting Shane Lemieux in there could be bad for the rookie out of Oregon. Lemieux was a mid-round draft pick that is being developed behind Kevin Zeitler at the moment.

If he is ready to take on a starting role, then the Giants would probably be excited to get him out there in some capacity. But Lemieux has not lined up at offensive guard once this season, just a few snaps at fullback. If he is not ready to play, the Giants might risk stunting his growth by forcing him into the starting lineup to face tough competition.

The Giants have about a week to get a deal done if they plan on trading away Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler is a valuable and talented player, but if Gettleman and the Giants want to play the long game, they might benefit from moving on from the veteran offensive guard.

New York Giants unlikely to restart rebuilding before deadline

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The current rebuild for the New York Giants isn’t going as planned, but it doesn’t look like the traditionally patient franchise is going to deviate from their usual trends and blow it all up after this season. Of course, with the trade deadline approaching around the league, this would be the time to start if the Giants were going to head in that direction. But we haven’t seen many moves coming from the team yet and according to a report from the New York Post, we might not see those moves at all.

“Insiders say there will be no fire sale,” the article from Paul Schwartz reports while acknowledging the team might have a couple moves in the near future. That would mean that speculated trades involving Kevin Zeitler or Evan Engram will probably remain in that realm of speculation for now.

It’s rather obvious why the Giants aren’t likely to move Zeitler even if they can get something in return for him. Most likely, they’d like the protection for Daniel Jones to not get even worse. It’s already been subpar with factors such as Andrew Thomas’ slow start playing into it. But without Zeitler, the situation would be worse. And Andrew Luck and his time with the Colts provided a good example of why it’s important to have actual protection for a young quarterback – even if that quarterback can take hits.

Evan Engram likely to be here for the future

On the other hand, the Giants still see a worth in Evan Engram and it appears they think his value is higher than what they can get on the market. According to the talent evaluator that spoke to the New York Post, the Giants could get a fourth or fifth round pick for Engram at most. If that at all.

The more meager potential haul probably won’t be enough to convince the Giants to move on from Engram. While some moves are possible before the trade deadline, the fans will probably be stuck watching Engram for further seasons to come regardless of what they think of him after losing the game against Philadelphia.

Whether this more conservative approach from the Giants leading up to the deadline benefits or hurts the team remains to be seen. We probably won’t know the answer until the future when the results of these moves or non-moves pan out.

The New York Giants already have their rock on the offensive line

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

Continuity on the New York Giants’ offensive line has been difficult to come by. A revolving door at left and right tackle led the team to spend the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft on shoring up the position.

Just two years ago, the Giants featured Ereck Flower at one of the most important positions. Don’t forget about Chad Wheeler and Jamon Brown attempting to hold down the right side.

Since that mess of a protection scheme, the Giants have taken positive steps forward. They attempted to supplement the left tackle position with Nate Solder, which at the time seems like a good idea. Personal issues and a failure to transition from a New England style offense has enabled struggles most didn’t anticipate.

While a majority of the line remains developing, there is one building block that represents consistency.

His name is Kevin Zeitler, and he represents the only positive mark on the line from 2019.

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who featured on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast had great things to say about Kevin Zeitler:

“He is the team leader that you want. I’m going to be honest with you, when we let him go with the Bengals, which I was furious about, that hurt us. And it hurt Cleveland when he left there. To me, I thought that was a great pickup by the Giants.

“He’s the type of guy that you build a championship around. He’s a winner.”

”Kevin Zeitler should be a Pro Bowl player. He plays at an elite level. He’s big, strong, tough, very productive, excellent technician, very dependable… He is the team leader that you want.”

According to PFF, his first season with the Giants was his best to date. He was the highest-rated pass-blocking guard with a 91.7. In his eight seasons in the NFL, Zeitler’s past-blocking grade has landed in the top-15 seven times among qualifying guards.

At the very least, the Giants know they have a stud at right guard. However, it takes a lot more to achieve continuity in the trenches. The drafting of Andrew Thomas should help to some degree, and I believe we will see an improved unit in 2020.

New York Giants: What Will The Starting Offensive Line Look Like In 2020?

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL over the past few years. The team has struggled to find consistent offensive tackle play since investing a top-ten pick in Ereck Flowers in 2015. From Flowers to Solder, the Giants have been disappointed by their recent expensive offensive line investments.

New York is hoping that that trend of disappointing offensive line investments ends after this season. This offseason, the Giants invested heavily in their offensive line, drafting three linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants also signed an offensive tackle in free agency and significantly upgraded their offensive line coach.

Giants fans are hopeful about their offensive line for the first time in a while. Andrew Thomas was drafted fourth overall, signaling a cultural shift by the Giants towards a more traditional team-building philosophy. The Giants are prioritizing the offensive line and finally, for the first time in years, have depth in the positional group.

Projecting the 2020 Offensive Line

 

  • LT – Andrew Thomas
  • LG – Will Hernandez
  • C – Nick Gates
  • RG – Kevin Zeitler
  • RT – Nate Solder
  • Depth – Spencer Pulley, Shane Lemieux, Cameron Fleming, and Matt Peart
  • OL Coach – Marc Colombo

The Starting Five

The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas to be the team’s left tackle of the future. Some have suggested that Thomas should start his career at right tackle, but in my opinion, Thomas should start at left tackle right away.

Nate Solder allowed 11 sacks in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus, the third most out of any offensive tackle in the NFL. To make matters even worse, Solder allowed 57 pressures in 2019. This was the most of any offensive lineman in the NFL. Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle). It is highly possible that Andrew Thomas is the best left tackle on the Giants’ roster despite never playing a snap in the NFL.

Will Hernandez is entering his third NFL season after taking a small step back in 2019. Big Will looked promising as a rookie but struggled to develop as a sophomore. This could have been for a couple of reasons: Hernandez was playing between two bad players, and the Giants’ coaching staff was one of the league’s worst. Luckily for Hernandez, both of these problems seem to have been fixed. This could be his breakout season.

The center position is by far the biggest question mark on the Giants’ roster in 2020. There will be a positional battle at center during training camp and preseason. In my opinion, Nick Gates is the top candidate for the position. Gates finished the 2019 season with a 77.0 overall grade and only 1 sack allowed in 290 snaps (Pro Football Focus). However, Spencer Pulley could win the job based on seniority and past experience. Gates has never played center before but has been impressive in limited snaps at offensive guard and offensive tackle.

Despite never making the Pro Bowl in his career, Kevin Zeitler has been one of the best pass-blocking offensive guards in the NFL. Also according to Pro Football Focus, Zeitler finished with the sixth-best grade among guards and posted a strong 75.0 pass-blocking grade — the sixth-straight year he’s achieved that mark. Zeitler is a lock for the Giants’ right guard position and should get a contract extension after his contract expires next offseason.

Solid Depth

Nate Solder is likely to move over to right tackle, but if that does not go well, the Giants have solid depth pieces behind him. New York signed Cam Fleming this offseason to be a swing tackle or backup offensive tackle. They also drafted Matt Peart out of UConn in the third round. Peart is not likely to be ready for NFL action in his first season, but he has a lot of potential down the road as a starting offensive tackle.

An Improved Coaching Staff

The hiring of Marc Colombo was huge for the Giants. Colombo has helped maintain the Dallas Cowboy’s offensive line’s status as one of the best in the NFL. Cowboys players have stated that Colombo’s relatability in his youth helped the offensive line grow and gravitate towards its coach.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being around a lot of people in this game. But Marc is in the front of the class. That’s the ultimate compliment I can give him. You get inspired by Marc every day you’re around him.” – Jason Garrett on Mar Colombo via ESPN

 

New York Giants’ Offensive Line Ranked 20th In The NFL By PFF

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Jon Halapio, Mike Remmers

If you ask any New York Giants fan, they will tell you that their team had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. In 2019, the Giants’ quarterbacks were sacked 43 times. However, Pro Football Focus disagrees.

According to PFF, “the Giants weren’t as bad as the perception last season.” The Giants’ offensive line finished 17th in PFF’s regular-season rankings for 2019, which is about average. Now, heading into the 2020 NFL season, Pro Football Focus has ranked the NFL’s offensive lines once again. This year, the Giants rank 20th out of the 32 NFL teams.

Is 20 Too High or Too Low?

The New York Giants did invest a lot into their offensive line this offseason. Dave Gettleman and company spent the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. PFF had Thomas as the highest-ranked offensive tackle on their draft board. Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle).

Andrew Thomas is a significant improvement for the Giants at left tackle. Nate Solder, the man who has played that position for the last two years, had a career-worst season in 2019. Solder allowed a league-high 56 pressures and 11 sacks last season while also ranking just 70th out of 89 qualifiers with a 52.9 run-blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus.

It is surprising that the Giants’ offensive line ranked 17th in PFF’s 2019 rankings despite Nate Solder and Mike Remmers allowing a combined 96 pressures. However, there was a solid performance on the team’s front line that might have boosted the ranking. Right guard Kevin Zeitler continued to be a consistent, reliable offensive lineman. Zeitler earned a 76.4 overall grade ranked seventh of all offensive guards.

The Giants’ other offensive guard, though, did not perform as well. Will Hernandez regressed in 2019 after a promising rookie season in 2018. However, PFF did mention Big-Will as a potential breakout candidate entering his third season.

The center position is arguably the biggest question mark on the Giants’ roster right now. Jon Halapio struggled at that position last season and held the team back significantly. Now, entering 2020, there is a position battle brewing. Spencer Pulley, Nick Gates, and rookie Shane Lemieux will all be competing to earn the starting center job. An improvement at that position could be what puts an end to the Giants’ offensive line struggles.

The Giants have made improvements to their offensive tackle positions and there are reasons to expect a solid outing from the offensive guards in 2020. It is fair for PFF to rank the team’s line at 20th overall at this point, but if there is an improvement at the center position, the Giants could rise through the rankings.