New York Giants: How Saquon Barkley will elevate his game in 2019

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

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.

 

New York Giants: Chad Wheeler Talks Battle With Mike Remmers

New York Giants, Mike Remmers, Minnesota Vikings

It looks like one of the bigger position battles this year for the New York Giants will quite predictably be on the offensive line, which is getting reshaped after poor performances during much of the last season – a factor which played a huge role in the Giants being nearly completely out of the playoff picture by the time the midway point of the season rolled around.

Chad Wheeler is the one who came into the offseason as the established starter at right tackle and that position hasn’t been removed from him just because the Giants signed Vikings tackle Mike Remmers – who immediately was projected by experts to take the job and to likely improve the play on that side. However, Wheeler intends to keep the position battle competitive, and the coaches themselves haven’t just named Remmers the starter yet.

“I’m going to bring my best, he’s going to bring his best. We’re gonna let the chips fall where they fall,” Wheeler told the New York Post.

“Obviously I’m still here. I showed flashes, I guess. I saw some plays where I shined and did well and then other plays were just, I don’t know if I was patient enough or didn’t get off the ball enough or just my set, hand placement, got to get lower in the run game, get my second step down. There’s all these little things I’m trying to become very consistent at so I help our O-line ascend,” Wheeler continued.

Those flashes from last season came when Wheeler replaced the much maligned Ereck Flowers, who the Giants ended their three year experiment with last October. Wheeler wasn’t the best right tackle in the league by any means, and was considered by many to be subpar, but still offered better performances than the player that he had come in to replace. With Remmers coming off of an injury that helped lead to his exit in Minnesota, Wheeler is being given a real chance to improve here and compete for the starting job.

“He just needs to get better with every rep he is presented with. I think he has done that. We like his focus and his attention to detail. He is doing everything he can to get better,” Giants head coach Pat Shurmur stated.

Remmers himself is welcoming the competition. “I mean, honestly, competition makes everyone better. They have some great players here and even though they need that spot, there’s a lot of competition out there still and that will help everyone develop and get everybody ready for the season.”

 

New York Giants: 3 biggest position battles of 2019

New York Giants, JJ Watt

As the New York Giants progress through the OTA period, position battles are starting to catch fire and some unexpected ones have taken shape. The defense will be one of the more prominent units full of competition and opportunity, as the amount of rookies and younger players has increased exponentially this offseason.

Adding players like DeAndre Baker, Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers, Corey Ballentine and more, have made the outcome of the starting team a bit more murky, which is a positive thing.

Nonetheless–

New York Giants top 3 position battles:

1.) No. 2 cornerback spot

The assumed No. 1 corner for the Giants is Janoris Jenkins, but the second spot opposite the veteran is the position up for grabs. Heading into pre-season it was expected the DeAndre Baker has the starting job all but locked up, however, 2019 Supplemental Draft pick Sam Beal has shown he can compete at a high level.

Beal has shown his range and ability in coverage thus far in OTAs, tipping a pass with his recently surgically repaired shoulder that resulted in an interception by Peppers. This will be one of the more exciting battles of the early summer, as the two are fierce competitors with solid attributes.

2.) Pass rusher

Some might have Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden penciled on the defensive line, but I’m not so quick to give them the starting jobs. The Giants recently drafted pass-rusher Oshane Ximines out of Old Dominion. Coming from a small school certainly doesn’t present the best chances in terms of an immediate impact for Ximines, but he has proved to be quick and active so far in camp.

Oshane has advanced moves for a product of a smaller school – GM Dave Gettleman was especially impressed with his counter-punch. I expect Carter to earn a starting role, but Golden is three years removed from his best season, a 12.5 sack effort in 2016. He’s coming off a significant knee injury and shouldn’t be considered a starter just yet, Ximines could steal the job with a bit of development.

3.) Right tackle

Mike Remmers was recently signed to a one-year deal to solidify the right tackle position for the Giants. I do not consider him the legitimate starter until he has proven that his surgically repaired back isn’t a hindrance to his abilities. Chad Wheeler was the starter at RT last year and will fight for his right to stay put.

I expect both Wheeler and Remmers to battle it out over the course of the summer. “Big George” out of Kentucky could also be in the mix, but I believe he will need a bit more development before he can withstand premium NFL edge-rushers.

It’s fair to remember, though, that Remmers was forced to play out of position with the Minnesota Vikings, so returning to his natural spot at right tackle should help him find his normal self.

New York Giants: Grading the offseason acquisitions

The New York Giants acquired Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade.

The New York Giants made various impactful offseason moves to help bolster the team in terms of talent and cap space. The cap-space factor won’t kick in until the 2020 season, but several players were added to help elevate the quality of play for the foreseeable future.

Trading away Olivier Vernon and Odell Beckham Jr. played a big part in the turnover of the team and the securing of several new players. We will grade and evaluate all new players with the exemption of draft picks.

New York Giants: grading the acquisitions

1.) OLB Markus Golden

Contract: 1 year, $4.75 Million

The Giants brought in Golden to help supplement the loss of Vernon at the outside linebacker position. Three years ago, Golden recorded 12.5 sacks under defensive coordinator James Bettcher, so the hopes are that he can replicate that same production in 2019.

Coming off a significant knee injury, it’s fair we limit our expectations for the former Cardinal defender, but there’s plenty of value to be had.

Grade: B

2.) WR Golden Tate

Contract: 4 years, $37 Million

The Giants locked up the top receiver in the NFL in the yards-after-catch category this offseason. Tate is a stellar pass-catcher with trustworthy hands, however, his contract is certainly bloated. He was brought in to fill Odell Beckham Jr.’s role, while at a much lower level.

Tate will be a good player on the field and in the locker room, which elevates his value. At 30-years-old, the Giants are investing a lot in a player that will end his career in Blue at 34.

Grade: B-

3.) SS Jabrill Peppers

Contract: 2 years remaining, $3,280,452

The Giants secured Peppers in the Beckham trade with the Cleveland Browns, bringing in a defender that has immense potential. Peppers will cost a fraction of what Landon Collins was asking for in free agency, and he has the skill-set to be even more impactful.

Peppers is a New Jersey native so he will be returning to his home town. What I like most about Peppers are his diverse abilities that range from coverage to stopping the run. He has a similar frame to Collins but is much faster and has better hands. He’s not the type of defender that will fill be a force in the run game, but he can do everything at an average to an above-average level. I imagine Bettcher will utilize him in various different ways in 2019.

Based on his potential, this was a great acquisition for the Giants.

Grade: A-

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4.) RG Kevin Zeitler

Contract: 3 years, $32 Million

The Giants brought in right guard Kevin Zeitler to fill a role on the offensive line that was inhabited by Jamon Brown mid-way through the 2018 season. Brown was a major addition that saw the Giants take a massive jump offensively, especially in the run game. Let’s keep in mind, Brown was ranked as the #62 guard in the NFL last season.

Bringing in Zeitler will improve the offensive front tremendously. He ranked as the #6 guard in ’18. His influence will be impactful and will help Eli Manning operate at his best level. Saquon Barkley will also reap the benefits of his prowess in the trenches.

I believe this was, in fact, the best addition for the Giants.

Grade: A

5.) RT Mike Remmers

Contract: 1 year, $2.5 Million

The Giants needed to upgrade the right tackle spot this offseason and they did so by means of former Minnesota Viking, Mike Remmers.

Remmers is coming off back surgery but is expected to partake in training camp this offseason. Hopefully, the surgery will return him to his former glory as he attempts to fight off Chad Wheeler for the starting job. I believe he will earn the role, and it will benefit the Giants’ offensive line significantly.

We might finally see Manning protected enough for him to blink twice in the pocket. On a one-year deal, the Giants aren’t giving up much to test the waters with Remmers, especially if they plan on addressing the position with youth in 2020. Nonetheless, a solid signing here.

Grade: B

New York Giants: Kevin Zeitler Is A Key New Addition

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The 2019 offseason saw the New York Giants let go of many big-name players. The Giants traded away their best player, Odell Beckham Jr., traded away their best pass-rusher, Olivier Vernon, and let their best defender, Landon Collins, walk away in free agency.

With all these losses, the Giants needed to acquire some serious talent to make up for it. Luckily, the Giants got some solid compensation for these departures.

The Giants replaced Landon Collins when they received do-it-all safety Jabrill Peppers in the Odell trade. They also signed pass-rusher Marcus Golden and drafted Oshane Ximines to plug the hole Vernon left. But the Giants’ most important acquisition in the 2019 offseason (who will actually start and play in 2019) is Kevin Zeitler.

Kevin Zeitler Stats And Highlights

The New York Giants received Kevin Zeitler in exchange for Olivier Vernon. This was a win-win trade for both teams. Kevin Zeitler was a key component in the late-year success for Baker Mayfield last season. He will also be a key component for Daniel Jones’s future success, as well as Eli Manning’s success in 2019.

Only a small handful of quarterbacks in the NFL can efficiently operate behind a poor offensive line. Eli Manning is not one of those quarterbacks in 2019. He was in 2011-2012, but that was 7 years ago. Manning needs a good offensive line in front of him in order to succeed, but unfortunately, he has not had one in a long time.

Eli Manning was sacked a career-high 47 times in 2018. Kevin Zeitler was the perfect addition to the Giants’ offensive line in order to bring that number down. Zeitler is considered the best pass-blocking guard in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.

Kevin Zeitler allowed only 11 total pressures in the entire 2018 NFL season. That is an incredibly impressive number. To put it in perspective,  Patrick Omameh and Jamon Brown combined to allow 39 pressures in only 14 games last year.

The Giants’ offensive line is one of the most-improved units in the NFL after this offseason, thanks mostly to Kevin Zeitler. The Giants also signed right tackle Mike Remmers this offseason. This additions of Zeitler and Remmers completed the Giants’ offensive line rebuild that general manager Dave Gettleman promised when he got the job last offseason.

This improved offensive line is not only huge for Eli Manning but for Daniel Jones, too. The Duke offensive line was one of the worst-graded offensive lines in 2018 according to Pro Football Focus. When Daniel Jones gets his opportunity to start for the Giants’ having an excellent pass-blocker in Kevin Zeitler will help him tremendously.

New York Giants: 5 important things to watch during OTAs

New York Giants receiver, Sterling Shepard.

The New York Giants will open OTAs on Monday as they look to shake out the roster and provide their rookies with essential experience ahead of the 2019 season.

This will be an opportunity for the younger players to leave their mark, proving they’re worthy of a starting position or a reserve one. There will be plenty of position battles during this period, which will provide answers and excitement.

5 things to watch for during New York Giants OTAs:

1.) Where will Daniel Jones land on the depth chart?

As expected, Daniel Jones is the anticipated QB3 heading into training camp behind Eli Manning and Alex Tanney. While the 6th overall pick starting as a third-string option doesn’t promote the immediate impact narrative some people prefer from top draft picks, it’s better off he starts in a reserve role where he can learn and develop.

The upcoming season will be Jones’ growth season, and he will benefit significantly from it. Learning Manning’s tendencies and preparation procedure will aid him when he eventually takes over. In addition, refining his already solid technique and arm strength will be a part of his progression.

2.) How will the New York Giants use Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate?

Diving into the Giants’ receiver corps presents a ton of questions. It was always rather simple at this time of the year — Odell Beckham Jr. was the main pass-catcher and everybody else was an afterthought.

This year, things are different, and it will be interesting to see how the Giants utilize Shepard and Tate. Both have the ability to line up in the interior and exterior, which should create mismatches and unpredictable routes. Tate is the best receiver in the league in terms of yards-after-catch.

Look for head coach Pat Shurmur to find ways to get him open in the middle of the field so he can use his elevated play-making ability to pick up extra yards.

3.) Chad Wheeler vs Mike Remmers

It’s expected that former Vikings right tackle Mike Remmers will emerge as the starting player for the Giants after signing a contract recently. However, he’s coming off back surgery and there are plenty of questions that need to be answered, physically. There’s a chance Wheeler rightfully earns the starting job after flashing decency at times last year.

He’s by no means a great option, but the Giants did go out and secure a top 6 right guard in Kevin Zeitler this past offseason in the Olivier Vernon trade. If Remmers shows he has healed fully from the surgery he will be the starter hands down, but that’s not the case until we see him in training camp.

This is one of the better position battles of the offseason.

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4.) The cornerbacks unit

The cornerbacks will present a great position war this training camp period. Featuring several new players in DeAndre Baker, Julian Love, and Corey Ballentine, there are plenty of positions open for the taking.

Most have Love penciled in as a slot-corner option alongside Grant Haley, but I imagine he will fight for a starting role on the outside. Baker, the top corner in the draft, theoretically has the second starting job opposite Janoris Jenkins locked up, but I wouldn’t rule out the feisty Love from earning reps. Nonetheless, it’s an uphill battle for him.

Ballentine has lengthy arms and NFL speed/agility — he’s an underrated talent that will compete hard but will likely be a reserve option. I anticipate 2019 being a developmental year for him. Don’t forget about Supplemental draft pick Sam Beal either – he missed all of 2018 with a shoulder injury. His talents have yet to be evaluated on the field, meaning he has as good a chance as anybody at securing starting reps.

5.) Eric Dungey could be a surprising sleeper

Syracuse quarterback, Eric Dungey, was signed as an undrafted free agent this offseason period. He’s an extremely athletic player that doesn’t have the most sound throwing abilities but could replicate Taysom Hill of New Orleans. He has a solid frame at 6’3″, 220-pounds.

Dungey threw for 2868 yards in 2018 with another 754 in rushing. He earned a total of 33 touchdowns over the course of the season, proving to be a capable playmaker. The Giants were intrigued by his athleticism and ability to get into the endzone. Look out for him to move around the field and play a bit of tight end and quarterback in a reserve role.

 

New York Giants: Chad Wheeler To Have Fair Shot At Keeping Spot

New York Giants, JJ Watt

With the New York Giants bringing in reinforcements in the form of veteran right tackle Mike Remmers, it might look like the offensive line battle is already decided. Right tackle has been a position of need ever since things failed to work out with former first round draft pick Ereck Flowers, who is now on the Jacksonville Jaguars, and last season it looked like Chad Wheeler would be a stopgap until a real solution can be found.

That solution could be Mike Remmers, who is only on a one year deal but still seems like the best option at this point for the Giants going froward. Remmers is more experienced, having played for the Vikings most recently and starting 64 games for multiple teams over a career that began as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and overall has a much better resume than the still very new and very raw Wheeler.

However, the starting job isn’t going to go to Remmers just by virtue of resume.

Last week when the Giants were still looking into signing Remmers, Wheeler was the one named the starter at right tackle. According to offensive line coach Hal Hunter, if someone wants to take the spot for themselves, they’ll have to dethrone Wheeler.

“If you’re the best player at that position at anytime, we owe it to the organization, the team, for you to be in that lineup. We all compete. They know, they understand they’re competing every single day. Chad, right now, is starting off as the first right tackle, and it’s up to him to hold the position. It’s up to everybody else to beat him out,” Hunter said.

‘Everybody else’ includes both Remmers and George Asafo-Adjei, the latter of which was drafted in the seventh round this year and was believed to be good competition for Wheeler before the Remmers signing shifted the balance on the offensive line a bit more.

Of course, it’s something of a long shot for Wheeler to win the job over the more experienced veteran, especially since Wheeler’s play during the 2018 season was only considered acceptable because it was better than worse alternatives. More options, however, is always a good thing – and so far, it looks like the Giants organization does consider Wheeler to be a legitimate option on the list of players competing for the right tackle position.

The New York Giants’ Offensive Line Rebuild Is Complete

New York Giants, Mike Remmers, Minnesota Vikings

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.

Right Tackle: Mike Remmers

After much speculation, the Giants finally signed Mike Remmers on Saturday. Remmers agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Giants worth $2.5 million, with $1 million fully guaranteed and a max value of $4 million through play-time incentives, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source.

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.

New York Giants: What Options Remain At Right Tackle?

The New York Giants have holes all over their roster. After a wild free agency period, the Giants managed to create more holes and fill barely any of them. One gaping hole on the roster is at the right tackle position.

After missing out on premier right tackle Daryl Williams in free agency, the Giants were not left with very many options. The Giants need to upgrade the right tackle position as soon as possible. However, their options are running thin.

Free Agency

If the Giants want to sign a right tackle in free agency, they will need to do it soon. The market has really dried up over the past two weeks. The Giants met with a free agent from Minnesota, Mike Remmers. According to his agent, the meeting went well and the team will likely sign Remmers, however, nothing was imminent.

Since then, we have not heard a peep. This leaves some fans wondering when this contract will get done or if it will get done at all. If the Giants are unable to sign Remmers, who would they turn to?

There are a few veteran right tackles sitting on the free agency market. One name the Giants could consider is Jared Veldheer. According to Pro Football Focus, Veldheer is an immediate-impact free agent who played well in 2018 before going down with an injury. He earned a 62.4 overall PFF grade which is much higher than Chad Wheeler’s overall grade of 47.4.

If the Giants end up missing out on Mike Remmers, it would be wise of them to turn their attention towards Jared Veldheer or a prospect in the draft.

NFL Draft

A lot of speculation has begun surrounding the Giants’ 17th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The pick was acquired via trade from the Cleveland Browns. Many fans and experts have been predicting that the Giants will draft a right tackle at 17 in their respective mock drafts.

A few great tackle options will be available at 17. Names to keep an eye on include Cody Ford, Jonah Williams, and Dalton Risner.

Cody Ford played right tackle for Oklahoma and did a phenomenal job protecting the Heisman Trophy Winner, Kyler Murray. Ford is an excellent pass blocker. He only allowed 8 pressures in 2018 as a full-time starter. Cody is an extremely athletic offensive tackle. He was impressive at the NFL Combine and consistently showed elite agility on tape. This athletic ability might cause a team to move Ford to guard, but if he were to be drafted by the Giants, he would play right tackle.

Jonah Williams is similar to Cody Ford in the sense that teams will consider moving him to guard. This is because Jonah is a bit undersized for the offensive tackle position. Despite this, Williams was a consistently great player during his time at Alabama. Jonah played left tackle in college, however, he could be moved to the right side since the Giants already have Nate Solder. Williams allowed only 10 pressures in 2018 and was also Pro Football Focus’s 3rd ranked run-blocker. Williams has been mocked all over the place from the top 10 to the top 25. If he slides to 17, the Giants will have to consider drafting him.

Dalton Risner is a technically sound offensive tackle prospect out of Kansas State. Risner allowed only 28 pressures on 1,489 pass-blocking snaps in his college career and could step in and start immediately at right tackle for the Giants. He did not face the same type of elite defensive talent that Cody Ford and Jonah Williams faced, however, he was still an elite collegiate offensive tackle. Risner could be an absolute steal for the Giants at 17, or if he falls all the way to the second round (which he might).