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.

New York Giants: Shane Lemieux set to make NFL debut vs. fierce Tampa Bay defense

New York Giants, Shane Lemeiux

The New York Giants had their first positive COVID-19 case of the season this week. Starting left guard Will Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Giants’ Week 8 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

According to reports, rookie guard Shane Lemieux is expected to start in place of Hernandez this week. This will be Lemieux’s first start of his career. The Giants drafted Shane Lemieux out of Oregon in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Week 8 will be Shane’s first opportunity to prove himself as a long-term starter on New York’s young offensive line.

Lemieux’s Opportunity

The New York Giants have kept veteran guard Kevin Zeitler involved in their trade talks ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. Moving on from Kevin Zeitler would leave the Giants with a major hole at right guard. This hole, potentially, could be filled by Shane Lemieux, depending on his performance on Monday night. If Lemieux is able to perform at an impressive level against Tampa Bay’s fierce defensive front, he could elevate into a starting role and sway the Giants to trade Kevin Zeitler.

Lemieux’s Competition

Shane Lemieux and the Giants’ offensive line have a tall task ahead of them in Week 8. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have quietly built one of the NFL’s best defenses. Their defensive front, in particular, has been special in 2020.

Long-time veteran Ndamukong Suh is continuing to excel in his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Suh will be a handful lining up in front of the Giants’ rookie offensive lineman.

Tampa Bay is allowing the third-fewest yards per game (291.3 yards). The Buccaneers’ defense is allowing only 66.3 rushing yards per game so far this season, the best in the NFL. Wayne Gallman will have a tough time running the ball on Tampa Bay’s defense.

Shane Lemieux and the Giants’ offensive line will not only be challenged in the running game but in the passing game, too. The Buccaneers have totaled 25 sacks through 7 weeks, the second-highest total in the NFL behind only the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.

This will be a “welcome to the NFL moment” for Shane Lemieux. In the first professional start of his career, the rookie out of Oregon will face one of the best defenses in the NFL that features a star-studded front-seven. If Lemieux can manage to hold his own against Tampa Bay, it will bode well for his future as a starter on the Giants’ offensive line.

How will New York Giants supplement loss of Will Hernandez in week 8?

New York Giants, Will Hernandez

As if facing off against Tampa Bay wasn’t a big enough challenge, the New York Giants will travel into week 8 without starting left guard Will Hernandez. The third-year pro tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday evening, confirming that he will miss the Monday night contest against the Buccaneers.

The Giants, who are vast underdogs, have several ways they can supplement the absence of Hernandez, who has been problematic at LG this season through seven weeks. In pass protection, he’s struggling immensely, despite having moderate success in the category in 2019.

Hernandez currently has a 51.7 overall pass-blocking grade, but his run blocking has been a bit better in Jason Garrett’s newly installed scheme. He has always been known as a mauler in the trenches, dominating in the run game, but that simply hasn’t been the case this season, as he’s experienced a decrease in efficiency the past three seasons.

On Wednesday, offensive line coach Marc Colombo suggested that Shane LeMieux will begin seeing reps at guard, which most thought was a correlation to a potential Kevin Zeitler trade at the November 3 deadline.

The New York Giants have to re-think their strategy:

With Hernandez hitting the COVID-19 list, the Giants might not have a choice but to retain Zeitler and shift LeMieux into a starting role at LG for the time being. Of course, Hernandez well fill the voided spot once he tests negative for the virus, but this is a fantastic opportunity for the Oregon product to showcase his abilities.

Shane is best known for his gritty attitude and desire for aggression in the trenches. Colombo stated that his footwork simply wasn’t ready for a starting level job in the NFL, as his over-aggression caused imbalances and allowed defenders to exploit weaknesses. Being more patient in his pass blocking sets is essential, but he should be a force in the run game, which hasn’t been a significant factor in the Giants’ scheme the past few weeks.

Ultimately, the Giants need more support in pass blocking, as their tackles currently rank at the bottom of the NFL in pass block win-rate. Dave Gettleman’s unit currently allows the highest team pressure rate at 43.4%, which is 8% more than any team. With 2.5 years to solve this problem and inject fresh talent, it seems as if the line has taken steps back. It is almost unfathomable to believe that a line that consisted of Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart actually graded similar to the unit we have now with Andrew Thomas and Cam Fleming starting at both tackle positions.

Aside from the obvious deficiencies with the offensive line, the Giants could elect to move Fleming inside to the guard position and start Matt Peart at right tackle. This would allow them to ease LeMieux into his role, giving him gradual reps instead of injecting him into a starting role right off the bat.

That might be a more strategical and safe move than simply replacing him with Hernandez straight up for week eight against a dominant Tampa defense.

New York Giants: Will Hernandez calls out team for poor week 1 performance

New York Giants, Will Hernandez

The New York Giants schedule doesn’t get any easier in week two against the Chicago Bears, as they face off against Khalil Mack on the defensive front and wide receiver Allen Robinson on offense. The Giants have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, with elite defenses and individual players stacking up against them.

In week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Giants endured their fair share of struggles. Including a losing battle against Pittsburgh’s defensive line, the offensive line was thrashed consistently. Their run blocking was virtually nonexistent, and their pass-pro allowed 26 total pressures on Daniel Jones. Jones lead the NFL in pressures in week one, indicating an extremely poor performance from his protection. Success on offense starts up front, and while the Giants do have the talent to have a competitive unit, they didn’t show it in their first week together.

Third-year guard Will Hernandez had a tough time in the trenches against some of the best interior defenders in the NFL. He understands that their performances were unacceptable, and improvement is a necessity against Chicago.

“Anybody who put that on tape deserves to be called out,” Hernandez said, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “We definitely learned from it. We had an attitude of, we’re going to practice hard, and we’re going to show it the next opportunity we get.”

When asked about their preparation for Chicago and the challenge ahead, Hernandez stated:

“Bring it on.”

“Give us the best,” Hernandez said. “We want to be challenged. We didn’t come out here to pick and choose our teams. We want to play the best guys, go out there, match up and kill it as an offensive line all together. We’re not ducking anybody. We’re not watching who we’re playing this week and not next week.”

The New York Giants are prepared:

There’s one thing we can rule out about Hernandez and his teammates; they don’t lack confidence. New head coach Joe Judge wants to face off against the best because that is ultimately how you become the best.

Attacking their opponents head-on and “punching them in the nose for 60 minutes” is the recipe to success, but as a new unit with 13 new starters across both sides of the ball, it was always going to be a tumultuous start for Big Blue. Hopefully, they can see drastic improvements against the Bears.

Hernandez, Giants’ O-Line Putting Poor Week 1 Showing Behind Them

New York Giants, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder

Anyone who watched the New York Giants fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Monday night, had to come away with the fact that the Giants’ offensive line is still a work in progress.

That’s putting it kindly. Head coach Joe Judge tore into the group this week after the Giants could only gain 29 yards on the ground (22 of which came on scrambles by quarterback Daniel Jones) and allowed eight hits and three sacks on Jones.

Guard Will Hernandez, who is coming off a trying season after an impressive rookie year in 2018, says the line is moving forward and planning on getting better every week.

“Anybody who put that on tape deserves to be called out,” Hernandez told reporters on Friday. “We definitely learned from it. We had an attitude of we’re going to practice hard and we’re going to show it the next opportunity we get, which is this Sunday.”

The starting line had only two starters from last year, Hernandez at left guard and right guard Kevin Zeitler. Andrew Thomas, the team’s top draft pick this year, started at left tackle and free agent addition Cam Fleming started on the right side. Many felt part of the problem was communication, which is largely the responsibility of the center. The Giants are operating this season with Nick Gates at center. Gates, swing tackle and plug-in guard, had never snapped the football in a live NFL game before Monday night.

Hernandez downplayed the communication angle. He believes they will get it straightened out over time.

“We’ve got five guys on the offensive line that all are capable, all are willing to make the calls and have the calls down,” he said. “Everybody has it down. It’s just a matter of coming out, going out and doing your job. Everybody doing it, not only doing your job but doing it at a high level. That’s something that we all need to step up for sure, including myself, starting with me. Go out there and just be in sync.”

The former second round pick out of UTEP isn’t angling for perfection , just consistency.

“Any time you come out, there’s always going to be good and bad and good. I think that it can always get more consistent. I’m talking about for me and everybody on the team specifically. Everybody can get better at something. The perfect game doesn’t exist, so the answer to that is yes, it can definitely be more consistent.”

As for Gates, the team still has confidence in him even though they have an experienced center in Spencer Pulley standing in the sidelines.

“Nick’s awesome, man” said Hernandez. “Talk about somebody that can do it all from tackle to guard to center. He’s definitely a guy that was put in there for a reason. He’s not there to see if he can do it, but because he can do it, he’s there. He definitely knows how to direct a huddle. Helps us out, helps the tackles out. He definitely takes charge. He handles the huddle and the play calling very well.”

 

 

 

New York Giants: Will Hernandez talks O-Line, Nick Gates, Marc Colombo

The New York Giants focused on improving their offensive line this offseason with only a few familiar faces still in place, one of them being guard Will Hernandez. Hernandez has started 16 games at left guard in each of his two seasons in the NFL and is the projected starter for the Giants at said position in 2020.

Hernandez envisions the Giants offensive line playing a “big role” in their success this season (quotes per Giants.com’s Dan Salomone).

“The offensive line has a big, big role in our success. We’ll proudly carry the workload and get things done.”

“There’s a new attitude for everything.”

The Giants selected Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth pick and UConn tackle Matt Peart with the 99th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They also selected Oregon guard Shane Lemieux at 150. In free agency they signed former Dallas Cowboys tackle Cam Fleming.

Two weeks ago veteran tackle Nate Solder, a presumed starter at either left or right tackle, opted out of the 2020 NFL season, vacating a starting position. They also have an uncertain center situation with 2019 starter Jon Halapio on the open market.

A prime candidate to fill Solder’s shoes is Nick Gates, who signed a two-year extension with the Giants last week.

Hernandez thinks Gates can play “any spot” up front.

“I think Nick Gates could play any spot on the offensive line.”

The Giants signed Gates as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but he missed the season due to a foot injury. Last season he appeared in 16 games for the Giants, starting three games and making appearances at right tackle and right guard.

Among the many new coaches for the Giants is Marc Colombo. Colombo, a former NFL tackle, was the Cowboys offensive line coach from 2018-19, a position he now holds with the Giants.

Hernandez sees Colombo as someone he can relate to.

“It’s awesome having somebody that’s actually been there, done that. He definitely has a lot of inside information…He’s one of us, one of the guys.”

New York Giants: Can Will Hernandez Bounce Back In 2020?

The New York Giants have consistently had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL for years. In recency, the team has put an emphasis on rebuilding the trenches. That all began in 2018. That offseason, the Giants signed offensive tackle Nate Solder. While that move has not proven to be the best, it was still the first shift towards rebuilding the offensive line.

Later that offseason, the Giants landed another key offensive lineman. In the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Giants selected offensive guard Will Hernandez out of UTEP. Over the past two years, Hernandez has showed promise, but he has struggled to develop into the player he was expected to be.

Will Hernandez’s Promising Rookie Season

Will Hernandez had a promising rookie season. Many believed Hernandez would be off the board in round one, but the Giants were lucky enough to land him in the second. He definitely looked like a first-round prospect as a rookie.

According to Pro Football Focus, Will Hernandez, in 2018, ended eight of his 16 games with a pass-blocking grade over 70.0, and he allowed just 29 pressures from 664 pass-blocking snaps on the year. On 1,027  offensive snaps in 2018, Hernandez committed only two penalties, an impressive feat as a rookie.

A Shaky Sophomore Season

Also according to Pro Football Focus, Will Hernandez was actually a pretty good pass-blocker in 2019. But he struggled immensely as a run-blocker. His PFF pass-blocking grade was a 72.5, while his run-blocking grade was a 45.7. His overall grade was 58.4 as the second-year player out of UTEP played 1068 snaps in 2019.

Hernandez allowed only 2 sacks in 2019 on 728 pass-blocking snaps. That is down from the 5 sacks he allowed in 2018, but his overall grading was much better in his rookie season. As a rookie, Hernandez was still better as a pass-blocker than he was as a run-blocker. His pass-blocking grade in 2018 was 73.1 while his run-blocking grade was 62.9. Overall, his grade was 67.9.

Will Hernandez was not a liability on the Giants’ offensive line last year and he was far from the biggest problem on the line. Much of his struggles could be attributed to his surroundings. Hernandez was sandwiched between an offensive tackle (Nate Solder) that allowed 56 pressures and a center that struggled the entire season.

The Giants have seemingly upgraded at both left tackle and center entering 2020. This could allow Will Hernandez to return to his 2018 form and maybe even surpass that rookie performance. Additionally, the Giants have a new, talented offensive line coach to help Will Hernandez Develop. Marc Colombo did wonders with the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line while he was there, and he will likely help the Giants’ offensive line improve 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: 2 offensive players who are primed for improvement in 2020

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants are heading into the 2020 season with plenty of questions on the roster. Both sides of the ball are undergoing major changes, but the offense is a bit more situated and the defense.

With a reliable receiving corps consisting of Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Corey Coleman, quarterback Daniel Jones has plenty of weapons to utilize. That’s not even factoring Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram. The offensive line is the biggest concern, as they lacked chemistry and efficiency in 2019.

That reality was a driving force behind the drafting of Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick this year. The hope is that he can supplement a tackle position and help build continuity in the trenches.

However, the Giants need some of their younger players to make development leaps.

Here is a look at two New York Giants players who should experience improvement moving forward:

1.) Darius Slayton

Slayton was a wonder for the Giants in his rookie campaign. He posted 740 yards and eight touchdowns over 14 games, leading the team in both categories. While his 57.1% catch rate was a bit low, rookie struggles were anticipated and factored into my expectations. He played in just 66% of offensive snaps and missed two games to start the season.

Slayton’s emergence is a fantastic sign for the Giants who drafted him in the fifth round last year. At just 23 years old, he is not even in his prime yet and has so much potential left to discover.

The biggest sign of improvement was his route running development. From being primarily a straight line receiver with Auburn, he became much more than that in the NFL. Just a few months on an NFL team allowed him to refine and build upon his existing routes. He added a solid slant and corner route to his repertoire. There’s plenty left for him to develop, especially when it comes to timing with Daniel Jones.

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.