Giants’ offensive lineman Zach Fulton retires, making him the 3rd player this week to call it quits

zach fulton, new york giants

In a surprise turn of events, New York Giants offensive lineman Zach Fulton has decided to retire after signing a contract with Big Blue on March 25.

Just this week alone, the Giants have watched OL Joe Looney, and LB Todd Davis make the same decision, electing to spend more time with their families than preparing for the 2021 season.

While this decision is undoubtedly admirable for the sake of their families, it has become a very strange trend for the Giants, who’s depth piece are dropping like flies.

Fulton was expected to take on a reserve role this year after starting at right guard for the Houston Texans last season. Coming off the down here, the 30-year-old interior lineman decided he was done with the NFL. This reality for the Giants has been strange, as they’ve become the nursing home of the NFC East, simply signing players to send them on their way into retirement.

One may ask themselves, who’s next?

The New York Giants’ lack of OL depth could prove to be costly this season

New York Giants, Shane Lemeiux

The New York Giants are only on their second day of practice in 2021’s training camp. Already, the Giants are dealing with some injury scares. Starting left guard Shane Lemieux was carted off of the practice field today. This injury scare once again sheds light on the Giants’ lack of depth on the offensive line and how it could cost them in a major way this season.

The New York Giants offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL

The Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. In 2020, according to ESPN, the Giants’ pass-block win rate ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. Despite this, the team made no major moves to upgrade their offensive line in the 2021 offseason.

A peculiar offseason strategy

2021’s free agency period saw the New York Giants spend big on both sides of the ball. New York made multiple splash signings, like Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, and Adoree’ Jackson. The team filled some gaping holes on their roster, yet ignored the glaringly obvious weakness that is their offensive line. The only acquisitions the Giants made on the offensive line were iOL Zach Fulton (who many believe will play a backup role), and a couple of undrafted free agents. The Giants had numerous opportunities to sign or draft starting-caliber offensive line talent and passed up every single chance they were given.

This leaves the New York Giants in murky water during the first week of training camp. As we wait for an update on Shane Lemieux, the conversation about the Giants’ offensive line is sparked once again. Though Lemieux struggled incredibly in his rookie season (ranking 80/80 in PFF grades for guards in 2020), he was still a projected starter entering his second season with plenty of upsides. Shane Lemieux worked hard this offseason, even showing up to voluntary workouts before 6 a.m. to get some extra work before practice.

Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst

Hopefully, Shane Lemieux was dealing with a minor injury that looked worse from a distance than it truly is. However, if that is not the case, the Giants are in a scary situation. The Giants lost their best starting offensive lineman (Kevin Zeitler) this offseason and brought no one in to replace him. They are rolling into 2021 with basically the same unit that gave up 50 sacks (T-2nd most in the NFL) last season. Some fans might not view Shane Lemieux as a big potential loss to the lineup, but the Giants do not have much depth on their roster at that position, to begin with, so any injury on the offensive line could break their season to pieces.

New York Giants: Can Zach Fulton steal a starting guard position?

new york giants, zach fulton

The New York Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. In 2020, according to ESPN, the Giants’ pass-block win rate ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below.

Despite this, the Giants did not make much of an effort to upgrade their offensive line during the 2021 offseason. They have a young bunch of linemen expected to start this upcoming season, all of which are inexperienced and unproven. But one offensive lineman that the Giants did sign seems to be flying under the radar.

New York did not spend any of its draft picks on another young offensive lineman this year. But they did take a chance on a veteran offensive guard by the name of Zach Fulton. Most fans expect Fulton to be a backup/depth option for the Giants while the young bucks stay in the starting lineup. But could Zach Fulton steal a starting guard position in 2021?

Why Zach Fulton could be a starter in 2021

The Giants made a few lowkey moves on the offensive line this season. The signing of 29-year-old Zach Fulton was nothing splashy, but it was a valuable acquisition. Fulton is a seven-year NFL veteran who started his career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014. Fulton played right guard, left guard, and center during his time in Kansas City, starting 46 total games for the Chiefs from 2014 to 2017.

In 2018, Fulton signed with the Houston Texans. He signed on and became the Texans’ starting right guard over the course of the last three seasons. Fulton started 44 games for Houston from 2018 to 2020 before signing with the New York Giants in 2021.

Throughout the entirety of his career, Zach Fulton has been a starting offensive lineman. However, upon signing with the New York Giants, many fans assumed he would be brought in as a depth piece. His career track history might suggest otherwise. Fulton has never been a great, high-level starter in the league, but he has provided two teams with availability and stability on the interior of the offensive line. With the Giants set to start a couple of big, young question marks at left and right guard in 2021, the signing of Zach Fulton makes a lot of sense to provide the team with some insurance.

According to Nick Falato of Giants Country, these are Zach Fulton’s strengths and weaknesses:

  • Strengths:
    • Run blocking
    • Experience
  • Weaknesses:
    • Pass blocking

So Zach Fulton might not be so good in pass protection. But neither is projected starting left guard Shane Lemieux. The Giants’ 2020 fifth-round selection Lemieux recorded a 16.9 pass-blocking grade via PFF in his rookie season as he allowed 25 pressures and 5 sacks on 281 opportunities (8.9%). Granted, Fulton was not much better in 2020, allowing 39 pressures and 11 sacks on 637 opportunities (6.1%). But Fulton’s down-year in 2020 still graded out better than Lemieux’s rookie campaign. Fulton is a proven veteran that can start anywhere on the interior of the offensive line. He might not be a starter in Week One, but if the Giants’ offensive line continues to struggle, Zach Fulton could push his way into the team’s starting lineup before the season’s end.