During Dave Gettleman’s tenure as the New York Giants general manager, six offensive guards started at the two interior spots: Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux, Kevin Zeitler, Jamon Brown, John Greco, and Patrick Omameh.
Though the entire unit struggled last year, there were promising moments regarding the offensive line’s progression moving into the future. With the 2020 season done with, here is a look at the offensive guard depth and a review of the three starting guards’ 2020 year.
New York Giants Offensive Guards Heading Into 2021
- Will Hernandez
- Kyle Murphy
- Kevin Zeitler
- Shane Lemieux
Mixed results came out of the guard position in 2019. Newest Giant Kevin Zeitler played like the best lineman on the front five, while Will Hernandez endured a sophomore slump. With hope for the growth of Hernandez, the Giants did not assess the guard position in free agency.
The Giants loaded up on offensive line depth in the 2020 NFL Draft. They took Georgia Bulldog Andrew Thomas in the first round, UConn prospect Matt Peart in the third round, and Oregon product Shane Lemieux in the fifth round.
Going into training camp, the center void needed to be solved with Jon Halapio not returning. Joe Judge stated in a press conference that he intended on cross-training the offensive linemen for injury and versatility reasons. Though Shane Lemieux took practice snaps at the position, Nick Gates and Spencer Pulley were the two horses in the race for the starting center role. The Giants named Gates the starting center for Week 1’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lemieux was not listed as the backup center; however, this did not stop him from getting snaps later on in the season.
A few days after the Week 7 matchup in Philadelphia, starting left guard Will Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19. Though an unfortunate situation, the Giants penciled in Shane Lemieux to start at left guard in Hernandez’s absence over the next two weeks.
Though Hernandez came back in Week 10, the Giants stuck with the rookie at left guard with Hernandez rotating in at times. This rotation system stayed the same for the rest of the season.
Shane Lemieux saw a huge number of snaps later on in the 2020 season, however, he struggled tremendously. The rookie gave up 25 pressures and five sacks. Like in college, his run-blocking was his strongest suit.
Will Hernandez played average at best in 2020. Hernandez allowed 25 pressures and one sack. The stats may not look that bad, however, his chemistry with rookie Andrew Thomas came into play. The Thomas-Hernandez duo allowed five sacks and 36 pressures in seven games, while the Thomas-Lemieux duo allowed only four sacks and 20 pressures in nine games.
Kevin Zeitler played well but had a down year compared to the rest of his career. His Achilles heel was performing stunts and defending the bull rush. Zeitler allowed 28 pressures and two sacks in 2020.
What Should The Giants Do With Their Guards This Offseason?
The New York Giants have a big decision to make on Kevin Zeitler. His cap hit is $14M for the 2021 season and the Giants can save $12M by releasing him. The real question is: should the Giants really do that?
The positive side of releasing him is more cap space. Saving $12M is a lot for this team, knowing they have to re-sign one of their two interior defensive linemen. The Giants also need to assess other needs in free agency and in the NFL Draft.
The negative side to releasing him is losing the consistent play he provides on the field. After his COVID-19 diagnosis, Joe Judge and the coaching staff turned their backs on Will Hernandez. So if I were to make a bright conclusion, Hernandez’s time may be finished in New York.
Shane Lemieux showed some promise in the running game last year; however, his pass-protection is sub-par. Late-round picks like Lemieux take one to three years to develop as consistent starters on the gridiron. In a year where the Giants need to see the most out of Daniel Jones, keeping a veteran like Zeitler around is not a bad idea.
With the New York Giants likely done with Will Hernandez, they will need to take their offensive guard depth issues into the draft. Even if the Giants cut Kevin Zeitler, they won’t be in the market for one of the top-tier offensive guards like Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff.
The Giants have needs such as wide receiver, edge rusher, and cornerback to address in the first few rounds. There are good depth options in the later rounds such as Creed Humphrey, Quinn Meinerz, Tommy Kraemer, Royce Newman, and David Moore.
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