New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman may have missed out on signing All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell in free agency, but he was able to sign a player that upgrades the Giants biggest need when he signed left tackle Nate Solder.
They say a dog is a man’s best friend; well in the NFL a quarterback’s best friend is the man that protects their blindside, and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a great new best friend in Nate Solder.
Despite the fact that he’s never been voted to a Pro Bowl, Solder is one of the best left tackles in the league and by far the best left tackle in free agency.
For the past seven seasons, he’s been the man protecting Tom Brady’s blindside and one of the reasons the Patriots have appeared in three of the last four Super Bowls, winning two of them. The only season in that span in which the Patriots did not make it to the Super Bowl was 2015, a season in which Solder was lost for the season following the Patriots week five 30-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys when he tore his right bicep.
So you can see how valuable he’s been to Brady and the Patriots, and why the Giants signed him to four year $62 million contract.
The 6-foot-8 325 pound Solder is strong, athletic, and has quick feet which is a necessity if you’re going to have a long career at left tackle.
Left tackle is arguably the second most important position in football behind only the quarterback. It was imperative that the Giants upgraded the left tackle position as Ereck Flowers who the Giants took in the first round of the 2015 draft (9th overall) continues to struggle against edge rushers and has been the scapegoat for the Giants offensive woes the past two seasons.
Now blocking for Eli Manning & Co. = @soldernate
— NFL (@NFL) March 19, 2018
Flowers had a decent rookie season, but since then his play has declined as opposing edge rushers and defensive coordinators have picked up on his flaws.
With Flowers struggling, Manning and the rest of the Giants’ offense have struggled as well and have failed to score 30 points since the 2015 season finale.
In 2015 the Giants were eighth in total offense and Manning had the best quarterback rating of his career at 93.6 while throwing 35 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. He also threw for a healthy 4,436 yards.
In 2016, the Giants were 25th in total offense and Manning had a quarterback rating of 86.0, threw 26 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, and threw 4,027 yards.
Then last season they were 21st in total offense but were 31st in points per game at 15.4, and Manning threw 19 touchdowns to 13 interceptions while throwing for 3,468 yards and amassing a quarterback rating of 80.4.
Some of the Giants offensive woes might be attributed to the fact that Ben McAdoo replaced Tom Coughlin as head coach in 2016, but the primary reason is the fact that Manning never felt comfortable in the pocket, or had enough time to get the ball to his playmakers downfield.
Even on the rare occasions he’s had time to throw, Manning seemed skittish in the pocket because he did not trust his protection.
Manning has always been at his best when he’s had a stable offensive line and now that Solder is protecting his blindside, his confidence and performance will improve.
The Giants will need to add a few more pieces to the offensive line which may include drafting Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, but with Solder at left tackle, the Giants offensive line and offense will be better than it’s been in years.
With one of the best tackles protecting his blindside and with the Giants having a great group of pass catchers in Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, there’s no reason not to believe Manning won’t play like an elite quarterback again.
Don’t be surprised if 2018 is one of Manning’s best statistical seasons.