The New York Giants offense had a very strong season in 2015, finishing eighth in total yardage and sixth in total points scored. Eli Manning thrived during his second season in Ben McAdoo’s offensive scheme and Odell Beckham Jr. continued to dominate opposing defenses. However, the offense was not very balanced, as the rushing attack struggled at times and finished a bit below the league average in terms of rushing yards per game. Some of that can be attributed to the talent in the backfield, but part of the blame has to be assigned to the offensive line. In this article, the state of the offensive line will be discussed. Is the offensive line ready to run block effectively or will the Giants be forced to lean on the arm of Manning again in 2016?
New York Giants 2016 Offensive Line Projection
Like last season, the Giants will probably keep nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, and Weston Richburg are locks to start at left tackle, left guard, and center, respectively. John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse started on the right side last season and they are currently the favorites to start this season. Bobby Hart is the only other potential starter, but he is probably not ready to start yet. Eight other players are currently on the roster competing for the final three spots, and the Giants still might sign a veteran right tackle before the season begins. Depth is a major issue, as an injury to Flowers, Pugh, or Richburg would be devastating.
When Ereck Flowers was selected with the ninth pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, he was projected to play right tackle immediately because he was a relatively raw prospect. However, the injury to Will Beatty forced Flowers to jump to the left side without any time to develop. Naturally, he had some struggles during his rookie campaign, but his future is bright. The Giants are extremely confident that he can be the left tackle for many years to come, as Eugene Monroe reportedly turned down New York’s offer because the team refused to offer him the left tackle position. Expect progress for Flowers during his sophomore campaign.
The Giants have been desperately trying to upgrade the right tackle position, as Marshall Newhouse was atrocious last season. Newhouse played so poorly that Pro Football Focus assigned him an overall grade of 34.6 (out of 100), which ranked him as the 68th-best tackle (out of the 77 that qualified). Newhouse and John Jerry were the main reasons the Giants could not run the ball last season. When both members of the right side of the offensive line are among the worst run blockers in the league, the running backs do not have much of a chance. Newhouse is easily the worst starter on the team and an upgrade by any means is necessary.
Bobby Hart is entering his sophomore campaign after being a seventh-round draft pick in 2015. He will attempt to steal Marshall Newhouse’s starting position this off-season, but it does not look like he is ready to start yet. How many seventh-round draft picks start during their second season anyway? The fact that Hart is being considered at this point is simply because Newhouse was that awful last season and many Giants fans believe that Hart cannot possibly do worse. However, forcing a developmental prospect into a starting role too early could stunt his growth, so the Giants will probably keep Hart on the bench in 2016 as he continues to develop. Furthermore, as I mentioned when the Giants selected him, Hart is probably better suited for the right guard position anyway.
Byron Stingily is the most experienced member of the reserve tackles competing for a roster spot. After being selected by Tennessee in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Stingily played in 20 games (starting in nine) during his four years with the team before signing with the Steelers after Kelvin Beachum tore his ACL. He did not appear in any games in 2015. If the Giants do not add another tackle before the season, Stingily probably has the best shot to make the roster as the fourth tackle.
Like Hart, Jake Rodgers was selected in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The Falcons waived him last September, and the Giants signed him to the practice squad in December. He will need to have an impressive summer to make the roster, as his chances are slim at this point.
Emmett Cleary is the least likely tackle to make the roster. He does not have the experience like Stingily and he is already 26, so he does not have as much potential upside as Rodgers. Cleary entered the league with the Colts in 2013 and has bounced from team to team without appearing in any regular season games. He is likely just a training camp body.
Justin Pugh thrived during his first season at left guard, finally living up to expectations after being a first-round selection in 2013. The Giants noticed his marked improvement, picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract worth more than $8 million. Pro Football Focus awarded Pugh with a very solid overall grade of 85.3 for his efforts in 2015. Expect Pugh to start for the Giants at left guard for years to come.
The fact that John Jerry was not the worst starting offensive lineman last season is a bit alarming. His run blocking was horrible, as he was routinely pushed into the backfield during running plays. Jerry was initially signed as a backup, but injuries to Geoff Schwartz forced him into the starting role. The only saving grace for Jerry is that his pass blocking was average, so he wasn’t entirely horrible. If Jerry can improve and become an average run blocking guard, the offensive line would be significantly better. He will not have much competition this off-season, so Giants fans will have to hope that his training at LeCharles Bentley’s O-Line Performance will pay off.
Adam Gettis has had a difficult relationship with the Giants. He has been cut by the team three times so far, spending most of his time on the practice squad during his limited stints. This time, Gettis has a realistic shot at a backup guard role, as the Giants have no depth at the position. His versatility is his best quality, as he could move to tackle if needed. He also has an edge over Dillon Farrell and Ryan Seymour because of his familiarity with the playbook.
After going undrafted in 2014, Dillon Farrell signed with the 49ers. After appearing in 8 games, he was released from the team. He spent the 2015 season on the Titans practice squad. He is just a training camp body at this point, but he does have an opportunity to make the roster because of the team’s lack of guard depth.
The Seahawks selected Ryan Seymour in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He appeared in 11 games (starting in three) for the Browns in 2014. He is in the same situation as Farrell, as he is just a training camp body for now but could make the roster as a reserve guard with an impressive summer.
During the 2015 season, Weston Richburg developed into one of the best centers in the league. He struggled a bit during his rookie season at guard, but he thrived during his sophomore campaign when he moved to his natural center position. Pro Football Focus awarded Richburg with an overall grade of 89.0, which was the third-highest grade among centers. As he continues to develop, a Pro Bowl appearance is well within reach in the near future.
Brett Jones began his professional career in the CFL, quickly becoming one of the best offensive linemen in the league. He won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award in 2014 before signing with the Giants in February of 2015. His first season with the team ended prematurely, as he was placed on injured reserve in September. Jones will battle with Shane McDermott for the backup center position this summer.
After going undrafted in 2015, Shane McDermott signed with the Cowboys. After being waived in September, the Panthers added him to the practice squad for one week before waiving him. The Giants signed him in November as insurance after Weston Richburg suffered an ankle injury against the Patriots. He has not appeared in the regular season yet, but he played all over the offensive line during the spring. His versatility gives him an edge over Brett Jones, but it should be a close battle.
The Giants are set at left tackle, left guard, and center for many years to come. Flowers, Pugh, and Richburg are a promising trio that could anchor a very solid offensive line if the right side can play adequately. If Jerry can improve his run blocking and become an average right guard, the Giants will be very pleased. However, there is little hope for Newhouse succeeding at right tackle, so that position must be addressed somehow before the season starts. If Jerry and Newhouse play like they did last season, the running game is doomed and the Giants will have to lean heavily on the pass. New York had many holes to fill this off-season, so the offensive line was neglected. The unit must be significantly improved in 2016 for this offense to become championship caliber again.