A large portion of the NY Giants’ struggles can be attributed to an atrocious offensive line.
The NY Giants have become accustomed to deficient offensive line play and general manager Dave Gettleman has failed to scratch the surface of solving the issue since arriving in New York. The Giants offensive line has been a disaster dating back more than eight years.
Fans watched Eli Manning spend the final years of his prime getting abused at the hands of opposing defensive lines. Gettleman promised to change this upon his arrival with his downhill, “hog molly” mentality.
Yet here we are, three years into Gettleman’s tenure, and the Giants boast one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
The Giants rank last in the league in rushing offense at 56.7 yards per game. To make matters worse, Daniel Jones accounts for more than half of that, rushing for 30.7 yards per game on scrambles or zone reads. Big blue’s running backs have combined for just 72 yards total on the season.
Let that sink in.
One of the saddest realities of this putrid unit is that it will inevitably harm the development of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
The lack of a running game has put that much more pressure on Jones. This has led to a noticeable drop-off in the frequency of play-action attempts from the Giants. Jones has just 20 attempts off play-action through three games.
The simple explanation here could be that teams know the Giants can’t run the ball and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett understands that. However, play-action is often used as a tool to get quarterbacks in rhythm and open windows in zone defenses, regardless of the effectiveness of the run game. Linebackers will always need to respect the run in some capacity. Expect the Giants to implement more play-action in the coming weeks.
Jones has proven his toughness during his time at Duke and throughout his rookie season. However, his ability to read through his progressions and develop a pocket presence will be hurt tremendously if he continues to deal with shoddy pass protection. When a young quarterback faces constant pressure, the feel of the pocket gets much tighter, the throwing windows get much smaller and the game speeds up.
This often leads to struggles and a lack of confidence for young signal-callers.
Saquon Barkley is another casualty of the Giants’ offensive line woes. The former second overall pick remarkably put up monster numbers in his first two years behind subpar lines before tearing his ACL in Week 2 of this season.
It will be extremely difficult for the Giants to assess the futures of Barkley, and more importantly Jones, if this unit does not improve before it is time to renegotiate their contracts. How can a team that has dealt with awful offensive line play for this long justify paying a running back north of $15 million per year?
The answer is they can’t, and Gettleman shoulders the blame for the predicament.
The general manager whiffed on a record-setting deal with Nate Solder that hard-capped the Giants along the line. Solder regressed significantly and opted out ahead of this season. Free-agent signing Patrick Omameh was a disaster in 2018. Veteran tackle Mike Remmers also struggled on the right side last season and never presented a long-term solution.
On top of all of this, Gettleman traded up in the 2019 draft just to waste a first-round pick on troubled defensive back DeAndre Baker instead of targeting one of several talented offensive linemen (Jawaan Taylor, Greg Little, Cody Ford).
This year’s group looks no more promising than the names listed above. Will Hernandez has not made the strides the Giants were hoping for now in his third season, Nick Gates has been horrendous in his first games at center, Kevin Zeitler is on the decline, and Cam Fleming has the looks of a player who will be out of the league shortly.
The entire right side of the Giants’ offensive line struggles run blocking. They lack the strength and explosiveness to get a vertical push, making base inside zone plays difficult to run successfully. They also lack the athleticism necessary to work up to linebackers or gain leverage on outside runs, severely limiting any big-play capability.
Fleming has been a liability in the passing game as well. His lack of explosiveness is evident, leading to a frequent overextended base and inability to change direction.
The jury is out on fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas. Giants fans will have to wait and see what they have in the Georgia product. The rookie has faced some formidable rushers thus far in Bud Dupree, TJ Watt, Khalil Mack, and Robert Quinn, so some struggles are to be expected.
Thomas has shown promise on certain plays in the run game, creating movement on the backside of zone runs. This was his biggest strength coming out of the draft.
It doesn’t help that the Giants tight ends have blocked atrociously as well. Garrett has frequently used two or three tight end sets which have been overwhelmingly unsuccessful. Evan Engram has never shown the desire or physical capability to be a good blocker. Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo have looked no better this season.
Head Coach Joe Judge has already hinted at changes on the offensive line ahead of the Week 4 matchup with the Rams. Rookies Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux could be in line for playing time as well as veteran Spencer Pulley.
The same theme has rung true for years with this team: the Giants will not have any semblance of continuity on offense until this unit improves. New York came into this season with another shaky offensive line and will once again be home on the couch come playoff time, pondering who they will target with their top draft pick.
When Dave Gettleman gets fired he will know that his failure to effectively invest in this unit dug his own grave.