When the New York Giants drafted 6’8″, 345-pound offensive tackle Evan Neal out of Alabama, running back Saquon Barkley probably had a huge smile on his face.
During Neal’s top 30 visit several weeks ago, Barkley got a good look at just how big Neal was, even going as far as a note his behemoth size.
“Evan Neal, he’s a physical specimen,” Barkley said Tuesday, via the New York Daily News. “He came for the draft top-30 visit. All the draft people kinda were by my locker. He was there and I was like, oh my God, who is that?
Barkley has had the unfortunate challenge of running behind an incredibly poor New York Giants offensive line the past few seasons. Of course, Barkley’s injury history has not done him any favors, but Big Blue continues to rank in the bottom half of the NFL in run-blocking and pass-blocking.
New general manager Joe Schoen has done a tremendous job piecing together the line with draft picks and free-agent signings. The Giants didn’t have too much money to spend this off-season, but he still managed to inject three new potential starting players: Mark Glowinski, John Feliciano, and Max Garcia.
Glowinski and Feliciano seem to be instant starters, but mid-round draft pick Josh Ezeudu out of UNC could push Garcia and Shane Lemieux for starting snaps at left guard.
However, the impact of Neal at right tackle could be the most influential addition. Barkley was already visualizing running behind a human being of his size and athleticism just a few weeks ago.
“I saw him and was like I would not be mad if we would pick him up. I didn’t know he was gonna drop that far (to No. 7 overall), but great. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Barkley’s last electric season came back in 2018 when he was a rookie, putting up over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. Since then, he has failed to get back to his previous form, but having already played a full season coming off an ACL tear, the expectation is that Saquon could finally experience a resurgence.
Looking at the individual players, the Giants added to their OL, Neal grades as a phenomenal run-blocking lineman. His physicality is unmatched, allowing him to move defenders at the line of scrimmage and open up gaps.
Glowinski struggled during the first half of the 2021 season, but in the second half, he performed admirably. He posted the second-best run-blocking grade of his entire career at 70.6, per PFF. The second half of the season saw him land in the 80s on multiple occasions as a run blocker, and coming from a dominant Indianapolis Colts team that features Jonathan Taylor, he clearly has an understanding of what a good scheme looks like.
While the OL is still far from established and settled in, Barkley should be excited about his new pieces in the trenches and what they can do for him in the running game.