With the New York Giants trading Olivier Vernon for right guard Kevin Zeitler on Friday, four of the five starting offensive line positions are solidified.
It has been a busy week for the New York Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman. First, they informed three-time Pro-Bowl safety Landon Collins that he would not be receiving the team’s franchise tag, making him a free agent.
Then on Friday the Giants made two moves to bolster their offensive line by re-signing center Jon Halapio and trading Olivier Vernon for one of the best guards in football, Kevin Zeitler.
According to Pro Football Focus, Zeitler allowed just one quarterback pressure for every 58 pass blocking snaps. You know that this is music to Eli Manning’s ears.
Zeitler will be the Giants starting right guard, drastically shifting narratives. What was once considered the Achilles’ heel of the team, the offensive line, is beginning to be one of their strengths.
With Zeitler now in tow, four of the five starting offensive line positions are solidified.
The Giants signed Solder to a four-year, $62-million contract last offseason with the hopes that he could protect Manning’s blindside and give Manning time to find receivers downfield. But he struggled mightily, especially in the first half of the season as edge rushers blew right by him.
Solder would improve as the season progressed and the belief is that now that he’s been in the Giants’ offense for a year—one showcasing more five and seven step drop backs than his time with the Patriots—he’ll enjoy a more productive 2019.
The Giants got one of the best value picks of the 2018 draft when they took Will Hernandez in the second round (34th overall). Hernandez had first-round grades and last season he should why he was one of the best guards in the draft. He started all 16 games as rookie and it was clear early on that he was the Giants best lineman. With the natural progression players make from year one to year two, the sky is the limit for this young hog molly.
The Giants were so confident that Halapio would be a solid center that they traded Brett Jones prior to the start of last season. But Halapio’s season came to an abrupt end when he suffered fractures to his right leg in the Giants 20-13 Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Halapio rehabbed vigorously and the Giants rewarded him by bringing him back for 2019.
In trading for Zeitler, the Giants now have another physical offensive lineman that will make life easier for Manning while opening holes for Saquon Barkley. Zeitler is only 29 and will be able to help the Giants for years to come.
Kevin Zeitler led all guards this season – allowing a pressure just once on every 58.0 pass-blocking snaps. pic.twitter.com/eamqvflBDC
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2019
In acquiring Zeitler, four of the five starting positions are set. The only question is, “Who will be the starting right tackle?”
Last year’s starter, Chad Wheeler, has one more year on his contract, but he’s best suited as a backup.
With Gettleman committed to building a strong offensive line, he may seek one of his former players when he was a GM of the Carolina Panthers and offer Daryl Williams a contract. Gettleman drafted Williams in the fourth round (102 overall) in the 2015 draft.
Williams had his best season in 2017 when he started all 16 games and was voted Second-Team All-Pro. A torn MCL in training camp limited Williams to only playing in the Panthers season opener before he was put on IR. Williams will be highly motivated to get back to his All-Pro form in 2019 and if the Giants can somehow acquire him, the Giants have the chance of having one of the best offensive lines in the league.
If the Giants are unable to snag Williams, they may address the right tackle position in the draft by taking someone such as Alabama tackle Jonah Williams in round one. Or, instead, wait until round two with the purpose to take Kansas State tackle Dalton Risner.
No matter who starts at right tackle for the Giants next season, the line will be vastly better than it was at the start of the 2018 season.
Longtime New York Giants fans will remember that back in 2003 they had one of the worst offensive lines in football in finished the year 4-12. By the start of the 2005 season, they employed one of the best lines thanks to drafting Chris Snee and signing free agents Kareem McKenzie and Shaun O’Hara. The Giants finished that season 11-5 and were NFC East champions.
Fans should be optimistic that perhaps history is slowly but surely set to repeat itself.