Whether or not they find Eli Manning’s heir apparent, the New York Giants must improve the quality and consistency of an erratic offensive line.
In 2016, the New York Giants overcame adversity and secured the winningest regular season in more than a decade. It won 11 games for the first time since 2005 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
For as well as the Giants played as a team in 2016, there was no masking the flaw that nearly defined their season.
New York’s defense was legitimately elite, as evidenced by its ranking of No. 2 in the NFL in points allowed per game. The offense was erratic, but Odell Beckham Jr. made history by becoming the first Giants player to record at least 100 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 10 touchdowns in a single season.
Unfortunately, the offense was routinely exposed for being unable to create running lanes or provide Eli Manning with adequate pass protection.
New York’s offensive line inevitably suffered from star left guard Justin Pugh missing five games with a knee injury. Pugh alone can change the manner in which the offensive line executes. He provide the Giants with stability along the interior.
True as that all may be, the fact that New York’s offensive line crumbled without Pugh is proof that it must improve its depth.
For as strong as the interior may be, the quality of play at offensive tackle was equally as disastrous. Pugh and Weston Richburg could both be considered stars, and John Jerry played at a respectable level in 2016.
However, Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse formed the worst tackle duo in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, and that must be addressed.
Flowers was consistently exposed at left tackle and may not have the fundamentals or athleticism to play the position long-term. Two years into his NFL career, Flowers has given the Giants more reason for concern than he has reason for optimism.
Flowers was strong against the run, but the Giants must draft a more consistent option to protect Manning’s blindside.
Flowers was given a Pro Football Focus grade below 40 for his pass blocking in 2016—a grade out of 100.
To make matters worse, Newhouse struggled to create running lanes and Bobby Hart was even worse than Flowers in pass protection. That combination of players who are solid in one area and atrocious in another simply will not suffice.
Every player has their specialty, but the Giants have one-dimensional tackles whose development can’t be guaranteed.
The best possible fix for the Giants would be to build through the 2017 NFL Draft. Signing offensive linemen in free agency rarely works out for teams. Moreover, the tone being set by the front office is that of a youth movement.
It would only make sense for the front office to continue to build for the future by finding offensive linemen who can solidify the team’s weakest unit.
No matter how many times drafting an offensive lineman has failed before, the Giants cannot quit on this crucial process.