Could NY Giants’ offensive line undo high-powered offense’s promise?

Andrew Thomas #78 of the New York Giants(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Andrew Thomas #78 of the New York Giants(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The NY Giants did little to address what has been an ongoing rebuild of one of the NFL’s most inconsistent offensive lines, a risk that could backfire this season

Few teams invested more in the offensive skill positions this offseason than the NY Giants, both to facilitate quarterback Daniel Jones making significant strides in his development, and taking a step towards breaking a four-year postseason drought.

However, all of the promise from signing marquee free agent wide receiver Kenny Golladay, adding veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph, drafting receiver Kadarius Toney in the first-round of the NFL Draft, and the anticipated return of star running back Saquon Barkley run the risk of being undone by an ongoing thorn in the organization’s side.

The offensive line.

Sure, the NY Giants signed veteran interior lineman Zach Fulton, reserve center Jonotthan Harrison, and veteran tackle Nate Solder is returning from opting out of the 2020 season looking to improve from a disastrous 2019 campaign. But, it remains to be seen just how improved a line of Matt Peart, Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, and Andrew Thomas will be from a unit that allowed 45 sacks a year ago.

Pro Football Focus is bearish on the NY Giants. Very bearish.

According to PFF, the NY Giants bring the league’s 32nd-ranked offensive line into the 2021 season:

"Giants offensive linemen have combined to produce the fifth-worst overall grade in the league over the past two years, and they rank in the bottom eight in both pass blocking and run blocking. Starting left tackle Nate Solder opted out in 2020, whcih hurt the team’s depth up front. First-rounder Andrew Thomas started at left tackle and struggled to a 62.4 overall grade. His 54.7 pass-blocking grade also ranked just 82nd out of 89 qualifiers. Solder is currently in the mix to start at right tackle, a position he hasn’t played since his rookie year in 2011. In his two years in New York, Solder has posted a solid 75.7 grade and a career-low 64.9 mark. He could be a cap casualty before the season.Matt Peart, a 2020 third-rounder,  is competing at right tackle after grading out at 69.7 overall on 150 snaps as a rookie. Peart enjoyed a good career at UConn and is young at the position, so he has starting potential at some point.On the interior, Nick Gates returns after moving to center for the first time in his career in 2020. He managed just a 59.7 grade, though, ranking 29th among centers. Guard is wide open, with several players battling for the two starting spots. Will Hernandez is a three-year starter at left guard, although he hasn’t graded over 60.0 since his rookie season. Shane Lemieux played 504 snaps there last year and struggled to a 32.2 overall grade. Zach Fulton is also in the mix after recording a 63.0 overall grade last season, ranking 44th among 86 qualifying guards.For perspective, former Giants starter Kevin Zeitler earned a 65.9 overall grade, though that’s the only time in his career with a season mark below 73.0. Kenny Wiggins and Jonotthan Harrison also have starting experience, but neither has graded above 62.1 in any season in their respective NFL careers.The bottom line is that the Giants’ offensive line is a massive question mark. They need their young players to develop and their veterans to provide career years just to rank in the middle of the pack for 2021."

Will the NY Giants’ offensive line actually improve?

PFF’s assessment of the NY Giants’ line certainly echoes general manager Dave Gettleman’s comments following the NFL Draft last month that saw New York go six rounds without adding an offensive lineman.

“It really is apparent that we have more confidence in our offensive line than you guys do,” Gettleman said.

The NY Giants certainly hope that Thomas improves and can be an anchor at left tackle, which could elevate the play of the rest of the line.

“I think you’ll see mass improvement from Andrew Thomas,” offensive line guru Duke Manyweather said, during a recent appearance on FanSided’s The Matt Lombardo Show podcast. “I think Andrew Thomas down the stretch in the second half last year found his way and got into groove. That Giants’ offensive line, and team dealt with some adversity last year with injuries and what went on with the coaching change midway through the year, and all the drama that went with that. You add in a coach like Rob Sale, a no-nonsense type of guy, I think with not only Thomas but that entire line will improve.”

If Thomas improves, Lemieux improves dramatically from a rookie campaign in which he produced a meager 32.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, with a 16.9 pass-blocking mark, it would be a significant help to the NY Giants. This offense has the talent in place at the skill positions around Jones to make real strides.

However, if the NY Giants’ offensive line continues to struggle and the offense does not improve after adding Golladay, Toney, Barkley, etc., Gettleman’s misplaced confidence in the offensive line could have long-reaching consequences both on this season and the makeup of the front office for years to come.

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Matt Lombardo is FanSided’s National NFL Insider and writes Between The Hash Marks each Wednesday. Email Matt:, Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattLombardoNFL