We are at a reoccurring theme here, 0-2. The same start the Giants have had 7 of the last 8 seasons. Yes, I know the Giants won the Super Bowl starting 0-2, but let’s not act like this team is anything like that team and how it was built. This season we have seen multiple concerns on this team, and then some optimism. Many of these themes will reoccur throughout the season, and we hope that others will tend to fade away. The offensive line isn’t just a problem this season, but it has been for almost a decade.
Do you know the last time the Giants had a pro-bowl offensive lineman? 2012, and that was Chris Snee. When was the last time they had a First-Team All-Pro offensive lineman? Same guy, Chris Snee in 2008. In that span of time, the Giants had three pro-bowl linemen (Snee, Diehl, O’hara). In that same time frame, the Giants won two Super Bowls. Their team record was 48-32, and had 0 losing seasons. Now, did the offensive line completely make that happen? No, but did it have a large part if it? Yes.
The Giants had eight different lineman playing on that line in different positions for that 5 year span. If we date back to five years ago to the start of 2015 to now (2020), the Giants have had 20 different offensive linemen start. This is where we start to see an issue.
The Giants have not had a consistent and efficient line since about 2012-2013. Since then, the Giants never truly addressed it effectively. They brought in lineman for cheap salaries, drafted a bust, and waited until the late rounds in the draft to try to implement them as their future guys. This plan has been a total disaster. This poor management and failure to address the offensive line had many results. It diminished Eli Manning’s end to his career. The Giants failed to provide him a reliable and consistent offensive line to be able to be effective in his game. We are starting to see the same thing happen to Daniel Jones. Now given, Jones and Eli made some poor decisions and made mistakes, and what quarterback doesn’t? They also are making decisions with multiple defenders in their face crashing down on them before a play can even develop. If it’s not that, they are getting hit from behind, and most likely coughing the ball up.
You know it’s bad when one of the best running backs in football managed to gain just 6 yards on the season’s debut. I understand, the defensive line of Pittsburgh is lights out, but the fact that Barkley had no where to go anytime and was constantly corralled behind the line of scrimmage before he could make a move is just plain awful. Dion Lewis gained 20 yards on 10 carries last week (average of 2 yards per carry).
How can they fix this? Build through the draft and free agency. I’m not saying just draft lineman, because that obviously hasn’t helped the Giants as of late. Spend a first round pick on a lineman, or at least a second. The Giants 2020 first round pick OT Andrew Thomas has shown he can be an anchor on that line. Sure he’s had some rookie mistakes, but so far I like what I see from him. Many are down on former second round pick Will Hernandez, but I can see upside to him. He has struggled some since his rookie year, but he is a guy that lights a fire on that line. He plays aggressive and he’s not afraid to hit anyone and move them out of the way. I think he is consistent enough to be a part of the future on this line, he just has some growing pains to get over. Nick Gates I do like, but not at center. I think Gates could have been a reliable RT, and could even play guard. I understand center is a new position for Nick Gates, and that almost makes my point even more relevent. Why is he starting at center with 0 career snaps (prior to week one) when we have a center in Spencer Pulley who started 16 games with the Chargers back in 2017 and 9 games with the Giants in 2018? Is he that much better? I don’t really know, but with his experience starting at center he understands more of the calls and the chemistry on that line, where he should be helping on the line, blitz pickups, etc. Obviously RG is obtained by Kevin Zeitler and that will remain the case. He is their best lineman. Cam Fleming is just not very good. He has not shown very much promise on that line. In his four years with New England, he started 20 times. Since joining the Cowboys in 2018 and these last two games with the Giants, Fleming started 8 games.
One thing to consider, this offensive line has three new players on the line, and one of them is playing a new position. They have not had live reps (other than against their own team). These first two games were not only their first test, but like a mid term. These guys had no preseason to face other defenses to understand their assignments, how to change calls on the line, communicate protection schemes, and figure out who they are going to block and need help with. I’m sure they tried to implement this in practice and scrimmages, but you know it’s not even close to being the same. Not only did they play against another defense the last few weeks, but two of the most efficient fronts in the league. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree in week one, Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn in the next. They catch a break this week with injuries being a factor as Nick Bosa and Soloman Thomas are both done for the year.
If the Giants do not address their offensive line soon, they are setting the team up to fail year after year, and that includes Daniel Jones and his progression. Don’t jump ship on the kid just yet, let them build an efficient offensive line around him. We have seen what a good offensive line can do. Think of the offensive line as the foundation to a house. It’s the first layer in the house, it stabilizes the entire structure and keeps it together. Your skill players are the walls of the house, separating the house into different sections. Then the QB is your roof. Sometimes you’ll get a leak in the roof once in a while, but it’s repairable. Once you get a crack or a crease in your foundation, the house is surely set up to crumble…and that’s exactly what we have seen in almost the last decade.
You want this team to be successful? FIX THE OFFENSIVE LINE. It’s been far too long.