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New York Giants Starting Offensive Line Raises Concerns in Preseason Finale

The New York Giants starting offensive line was the team's weak spot in 2020. Its subpar showing on Sunday night doesn't bode well for 2021.
Giants Starting Offensive Line

The New York Giants starting offensive line was the team’s biggest weakness on paper. But teams in the preseason tend to squash overreactions. In their dress rehearsal for the regular season against the New England Patriots, the unit did the opposite.

With just two weeks until the Giants open the regular season against the Denver Broncos, the offensive line’s struggles are concerning. Although guard Shane Lemieux did not play, the starters looked overmatched against the Patriots starting defensive line throughout their two quarters on the field. The match was the line’s first extended test against a first-team defense. Their performance did not bode well for the regular season. 

New York Giants Starting Offensive Line Raises Concerns in Preseason Finale

Giants Starting Offensive Line Struggles in Pass Protection

From the kickoff, New England’s edge rushers constantly put Daniel Jones under duress. In the first two Giants drives alone, the Patriots hit Jones five times and sacked him twice. While it fortunately did not lead to disaster for Big Blue, consistent pressure is the last thing a turnover-prone quarterback like Jones needs. 

Second-year tackle Andrew Thomas especially struggled, surrendering two sacks, a quarterback hit, and a holding penalty. Thomas repeatedly made mistakes that were reminiscent of the first half of his rookie season. His poor hand placement and technique often allowed defensive linemen like rookie Christian Barmore to beat him to the inside. The Giants starting offensive line’s success in 2021 hinges on Thomas’s progress. Mediocre performances like these will set the Giants offense up for failure.

Run-Blocking Continues to be an Issue

In Saquon Barkley’s only full game of the 2020 season, he rushed for just six yards on 15 carries against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh stifled the star running back because their experienced defensive linemen were able to overwhelm New York’s young unit. In Sunday’s matchup, the Patriots did the exact same thing. Devontae Booker — who played most of the snaps in the first half — only picked up 14 yards on seven carries. Guards Ted Larsen and Will Hernandez rarely opened holes for Booker. Such a lacklustre performance prevented the Giants from establishing offensive momentum early on.

To make matters worse for the starters, New York’s second-string linemen created much more room for Elijhaa Penny — the starting running back in the second half — to make plays. While they did face New England’s backups, it is not a good look for a starting unit that will likely make or break the team’s playoff hopes. Higher expectations for the team overall mean that the offensive line will not get the benefit of the doubt.

Looking Ahead to Week 1: Onto Denver

The Patriots defense is one of the NFL’s better units. Yet, the Giants will have to put up points against an arguably better Broncos defense in their regular season opener. And Denver’s pass-rushing corps might be the team’s strongest unit. Thomas and Matt Peart will need to prevent Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, two of the best edge rushers in football, from pressuring Jones. 

Chubb, Miller, and defensive lineman Shelby Harris are just as capable of making an impact defending against the run. It will be intriguing to see if Lemieux, Will Hernandez, and recent acquisition Billy Price can turn the tide and get the Giants offense going on the ground. 

Despite Denver’s defensive prowess, their inconsistencies on offense make this game a winnable one for the Giants. Since the Giants have a relatively tough schedule, featuring road games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, beating the Broncos is even more important. But it will not happen unless the starting offensive line rebounds from its struggles against the Patriots. 

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