The New York Giants’ entire offensive line was in attendance for optional OTAs this week, a promising sign from last year’s 31st-ranked group. Despite a complete overhaul of their wide receiver corps, the Giants will not find much success in 2021 unless their offensive line takes a massive leap forward. Each of the eight teams that advanced to the divisional round last year had offensive lines that ranked in the top 16.
The Giants elected not to improve their line in the draft this year, trading down from the No. 11 pick rather than select Rashawn Slater or Christian Darrisaw. General Manager Dave Gettleman later explained that he did not see the position as a huge need but stopped short of giving the current offensive line a full vote of confidence.
“Right now, our offensive line is what it is,” Gettleman said after the draft. “The players are who they are and we’re going to move forward.”
In 2020, Gettleman focused almost exclusively on the O-line. New York drafted three players who project as starters for 2021: No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas, third-round selection Matt Peart and fifth-rounder Shane Lemieux. However, those rookies were all rough around the edges, and Daniel Jones was sacked 45 times.
Thomas had a horrendous start to his NFL career. His 57 pressures allowed were 14 more than any other left tackle. In his defense, he faced Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt and Khalil Mack in his first four games while reportedly dealing with an ankle injury — not exactly a good way to ease into a new job. However, with fellow 2020 draftees Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton emerging as Pro-Bowl caliber players, Thomas’ struggles were only magnified.
During the second half of the season, Thomas improved his reaction time and footwork and drifted closer to the league average. Given his success in college, it’s far too early to call him a disappointment. But with the aftertaste of 2015 first-round bust Ereck Flowers still lingering, Thomas has more to prove than anyone on the Giants’ roster.
Lemieux also underwhelmed after taking over at left guard in Week 8, especially in pass protection. Peart started only one game but will likely play a bigger role this year.
Ironically, the biggest precedent for success in spite of an underperforming offensive line comes from the Giants. New York won the 2011 Super Bowl behind another 31st-ranked O-line. With Daniel Jones’ Manning-esque abillity to extend plays without breathtaking speed, the comparisons are obvious and at least a little reassuring.
However, Jones has been sacked 83 times in his first two seasons. It will be hard for him to develop without time in the pocket no matter how many playmakers the New York Giants surround him with.
Image courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
“From Our Haus to Yours”