5. Offensive Line Struggles
Offensive line struggles have plagued the NY Giants for years. During the waning years of the Jerry Reese era, the team neglected to add viable offensive linemen in the draft and missed on most of those they did add. Dave Gettleman has attempted to address this area of need via free-agent acquisition, trade, and the draft.
Last season, the moves that were made did not pay the dividends that were hoped for. As a result, Gettleman went back to addressing the line. He added veteran Cam Fleming via free agency and drafted a number of offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft such as Andrew Thomas in the first round, Matt Peart in the third round, and Shane Lemieux in the fifth round.
Prior to the season, Nate Solder opted out do to the COVID-19 pandemic, which left a hole at the tackle position. Additionally, the team moved on from Jon Halapio and Mike Remmers, which opened a spot for a new starting center and right tackle on the team.
When the dust settled following the preseason, the NY Giants decided to go with a starting offensive line that comprised of Thomas at left tackle, Will Hernandez at left guard, Nick Gates at center, Kevin Zeitler at right guard, and Cam Fleming at right tackle.
There were concerns over what the results would be, as Thomas was a rookie, Gates had never played center, and Fleming had spent his career mainly as a backup guard. The results from the Steelers game were not very encouraging.
While first-round pick Andrew Thomas looked very good in his first NFL start and Will Hernandez performed well, the remainder of the offensive line was extremely suspect. The line would three sacks to the Steelers pass rush, and they repeatedly had guys running free to the quarterback.
As bad as the pass protection looked at times, it was infinitely better than the atrocious excuse for run blocking provided by the Giants offensive line. The GMEN were able to muster only 29 yards on 20 carries, a putrid average of only 1.5 yards per carry. Sadly, that number was inflated by a 13 yard rush by Daniel Jones who led the team in rushing with only 22 yards.
Meanwhile, Saquon Barkley rushed 15 times for only six yards, as there were often multiple defenders in the backfield before he ever received the handoff, and the offensive line struggled to create any holes for Barkley to run through.
Cam Fleming looked completely lost all game, as the Steelers frequently targeted the right side of the line. One play, two pass rushers burst through on each side of Fleming without him even getting so much as a hand on either. The result of the play was a sack of Daniel Jones. Fleming struggled even worse in run blocking, leading the Giants to employ three tight end sets in an attempt to get positive rushing yards.
The Giants will need to address these issues along the offensive line. Again, some of the problems may very well be the lack of time together. However, if they cannot correct the issues quickly, the run game will be non-existent, making the Giants offense one-dimensional. If that happens, defenses will be able to pin their ears back and go after Jones, which doesn’t bode well for the passing game.
I look for the coaching staff to make some adjustments along the line and employ some new blocking schemes heading into their matchup with another top defense in the league in Chicago. Hopefully, they are able to make the appropriate adjustments to help the offensive unit be more productive.