New York Giants: Revamped coaching staff might be able to fix the offensive line

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants offensive line poses a huge question mark for the team entering the 2021 season. In 2020, the Giants’ offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL. The New York Giants’ pass-block win rate in 2020, according to ESPN, ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. So while the Giants did upgrade Daniel Jones’s weapons in free agency, fans feel like they still desperately need to fix the offensive line in front of him.

The Giants barely touched their offensive line in this year’s offseason period. They added veteran guard Zack Fulton to the mix but failed to add any offensive line talent in the NFL Draft. The Giants are going to rely on their young offensive linemen to take a jump and see some great development this season.

One of the reasons the Giants feel confident in their young linemen is their coaching staff. The Giants feel like their new revamped offensive coaching staff will be able to get the most out of their front line and fix some of their deficiencies.

How the new coaching staff will help the offensive line

The addition of Rob Sale

The Giants started the 2020 season with Marc Colombo as their offensive line coach. Ben Wilkerson served as the assistant offensive line coach. Colombo was fired midseason, though, for insubordination as Joe Judge was unpleased with the offensive line’s performance and looked to make changes. Dave DeGuglielmo was then brought in as Colombo’s replacement before parting ways this offseason.

Joe Judge hired Rob Sale as the Giants’ offensive line coach this offseason. Ben Wilkerson will continue as the assistant offensive line coach. The hiring of Rob Sale is exciting as he is a coach that Joe Judge describes as an “energetic on-the-field coach and he’s someone who has a very strong relationship with his players.” Sale was hired from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he worked as the team’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. His background calling plays and developing schemes could foreshadow a greater role with the Giants in the future.

Coming from the collegiate game, Robert Sale has experience working with young offensive linemen. The Giants will be rolling out a front line that features three second-year players and two third-year players as starters in 2021. Youth means inexperience, but it also means potential, and Rob Sale will try to maximize the potential of these hog mollies.

But Sale and Wilkerson will not coach these linemen alone. Joe Judge rearranged the coaching staff to hyperfocus on the development of his offensive linemen. In addition to hiring Sale, Judge made some other important moves.

Pat Flaherty as an offensive consultant

Former Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty has joined the staff as a consultant. Flaherty served as the Giants’ offensive line coach from 2004-2015, winning two Super Bowls with the team and developing the likes of Chris Snee, David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, Kareem McKenzie, Kevin Boothe, and David Baas.

Judge brought in Flaherty as a consultant for both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. One thing that Joe Judge noted, though, was the assistance Flaherty will bring Rob Sale as he develops the offensive line, saying, “Part of the strength is we’ve got two young offensive line coaches with Rob Sale and (assistant) Ben Wilkerson, and Pat’s a good sounding board for those guys to have.”

Freddie Kitchens as a senior offensive assistant

Pat Flaherty will help coach up the offensive line and so will Freddie Kitchens. Joe Judge moved Freddie Kitchens into a new role this offseason, promoting him from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant. This will give Kitchens more say in the Giants’ offensive playbook and scheme development, but Judge explained that Kitchens will also work closely with the offensive line.

Head coach Joe Judge said that Kitchens’s “primary responsibility is going to be working with the front.” He explained, “tying into having two young offensive line coaches with Rob and Ben, I think Freddie is going to be an asset up front working directly with them and helping bring together the game planning, like all of our coaches will, but working directly with (offensive coordinator) Jason (Garrett) with some of the things that are going to happen up front.”

The collaborative effort

The Giants now have four coaches on staff whose primary objectives are to develop the offensive line along with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. With all hands on deck heading into 2021, New York might be able to see some serious development from their young group of hog mollies. The Giants’ offensive line should benefit greatly from this strong, revamped coaching staff.

New York Giants get first look at projected offensive line in 2021

new york giants, nyg

One of the biggest questions for the New York Giants heading into the 2021 season is their offensive line. Fans and analysts remain skeptical this group can rise to the occasion, simply based on their performance in 2020. The Giants’ staff didn’t allocate a plethora of resources to improve the OL, but they invested three draft picks in 2020 to help bolster the unit.

Drafting Andrew Thomas, Shane LeMieux, and Matt Peart, they expect all three to take a significant jump the season, and there is a high probability they end up starting right out of the gate. Thomas is the anticipated left tackle, Peart must beat out Nate Solder for the starting rate tackle job, and Lemieux, who was ranked as the worst pass-blocking guard in football last year, needs to take a significant step forward.

To start organized team activities, the Giants rolled out an extremely young unit, with an average age of about 22 years old. Letting veteran Kevin Zeitler walk in free agency significantly lowered the average age of each player, and it seems they will stick with Lemieux and Zach Fulton, a free agent signing they made this off-season to help provide some depth in the interior.

New York Giants projected starting OL as per OTA unit:

LT: Andrew Thomas

LG: Shane Lemieux

C: Nick Gates

RG: Will Hernandez

RT: Matt Peart

Reserve options in attendance:

OT: Nate Solder

OG: Zach Fulton

C: Jonotthan Harrison

The scariest part about this group is that if injuries take their toll or inadequacies hit, the Giants don’t have too much depth to work with. Relying on Zach Fulton, Jonotthan Harrison, and Solder doesn’t exactly scream quality.

However, the hiring of Rob Sale, formally the offensive coordinator for the Louisiana football program, should establish some sort of continuity and consistency in the trenches. Aside from acting as the OC for Louisiana, he was also the offensive line coach, showcasing his versatile attributes.

In his second season, Sale helped Louisiana break numerous offensive school records, including total offense, total touchdowns, most rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns, and most passing touchdowns. His influence has proved to be significant, and the Giants stole one of the most underrated assets in college football.

Joe Judge has proven that his hand-picked coaches make a significant impact, and I fully expect this offensive line to take a step forward with Sale 100% focused on their development.

New York Giants: Joe Judge has found promising hire for O-line coach

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants begun the offseason with a need to find an offensive line coach, but that need won’t stay around for long. According to a report from Ian Rapoport, the team has found their candidate and is expected to hire Rob Sale for the position. Sale is currently the offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette, but has career experience at more relevant schools at the college level.

Many Giants fans are already asking the important question – is Sale good for the job? While it’s hard to judge the specifics of a position coach with just publicly available info, since position coaching involves many behind the scenes things such as teaching technique to players, we can look back at Sale’s career history and figure out some things about why the Giants might have hired him.

He was at the University of Alabama from 2007 as a strength and conditioning assistant and offensive analyst, before moving on to take up better roles elsewhere. In 2015, he served as the offensive line coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, one of the strongest teams in the SEC.

Joe Judge, of course, has his own ties to Alabama. He received a good word of recommendation from Nick Saban when he joined the Giants. And players who have played under both head coaches have said there’s some similarities between them.

Judge appears to have carried over some Alabama DNA to the Giants organization, and this hire is bringing in someone else that spent time there and can already work in a similar system. Considering the way things ended with last season’s first O-line coach, Marc Colombo, that better fit should be a big plus for this hiring and gives reason to be optimistic.