The difference between being a novice to an accomplished performer is a fraction of an inch. Such is life for NFL offensive linemen as they do all the dirty work in the trenches with very little recognition ever given for their effort. The only time you hear a lineman’s name is when they’re playing poorly or if they committed an infraction on the field. The New York Giants are trying to prove this notion wrong by turning their inconsistent offensive line into a strength this season.
Reconstructed New York Giants Offensive Line Ready To Prove Everyone Wrong
Beginnings in 2020
It was the first off-season in Dave Gettleman’s tenure as Giants general manager that he did not have to re-vamp the look of the offensive line from the year before. The G-Men feel they completed the unit’s mass reconstruction project in 2020. Gettleman selected three offensive linemen (Andrew Thomas in the first round, Matt Peart in the third round and Shane Lemieux in the fifth round) in the first five rounds of that year’s draft. Now came the waiting game with their overall development as NFL rookies.
At the start of the season, the Giants offensive line struggled badly in opening holes for the running game and protecting the quarterback on passing downs. Too many possessions were “three and out” as the offense sunk to the bottom in several league offensive categories.
Changes had to be made to the starting unit. In came Lemieux and Peart, suddenly the offense began clicking and moving the football more consistently. Granted, the Giants offensive line is young (average age is 23.6), but this group is willing to do the work on the practice field that gains them an edge on their opponents in actual games.
2021 Giants Starting Five is Set in Stone
With training camp beginning later this month, the starting five is set in stone. Going from left to right, it will be Thomas, Lemieux. Nick Gates, Will Hernandez and Peart. Depth might be an issue in 2021 as the jury is still out on who will be the backups. Still, it is essential to keep the starting unit intact all season long.
Gettleman is pleased to have added several veteran linemen to the mix. The return of Nate Solder, who opted out of the 2020 season, is a welcome sign. His role will be the primary backup tackle as he is proficient at playing either side of the line. Also, the Giants signed Zach Fulton and Jonatthan Harrison who were former starters in the NFL.
Under the leadership of new line coach Rob Sale, the unit understands that protecting Daniel Jones in the pocket is key to a successful season. But there are concerns that the starters are ahead of the curve in run blocking than pass blocking.
On paper, this group has the talent to give Jones all the time necessary to throw the football more effectively. All have good footwork but they lack the hand technique to neutral a defender at the line of scrimmage. But that tactic can be acquired through more game experience.
More on the Giants Offensive Line Starters
The one Giants player who has a high ceiling is Lemieux as he brings a little edge to the unit. The hype surrounding him appears to be legit. Lemieux brings toughness to each snap, but he needs to develop his pass blocking skills to take his game to the next level. Thus, the interior blocking scheme seems to be in good hands for many years to come.
Hernandez has the tools to succeed in the NFL, but he is plagued by missed blocking assignments and getting flagged for too many penalties. Yes, there is room for improvement, but time is running out for Hernandez with the Giants. 2021 is the season where he needs to recapture that dominant blocking style from his rookie campaign.
The anchor of the offensive line is Gates who has become more familiarized with the responsibility associated with the center position. He excels at gaining leverage on an opponent by using a blocking technique that neutralizes them at the line of scrimmage.
Many NFL scouts believe Peart is the steal of last year’s draft. But before he could contribute on the football field, Peart needed time to acclimate himself to the pro game. However, it is not hard to connect the dots between the resurrection of the Giants offense with the insertion of him into the starting lineup.
As for the left tackle position, the Giants are quietly optimistic that Thomas will fulfill his potential this upcoming season. The coaching staff still has confidence in him despite his struggles in 2020. Thomas showed vast improvement as a complete blocker in the second half of his rookie year.
The Giants feel their offensive line has a promising future. But all of that is speculation until they begin to play up to their potential on the football field. 2021 will determine if a solid foundation has been built for the future.
However, the future is now for the Giants.
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