Taking a look at some of the different offensive line combinations the New York Giants could field to start the upcoming campaign.
The position group that’s arguably been the biggest low point for the New York Giants over the past couple years is the offensive line. From allowing 47 sacks in 2018 to hindering the development of Daniel Jones, it’s clear there are a number of issues surrounding this group of “hog mollies.”
The Dave Gettleman-led front office signed an offensive tackle in Cam Fleming this offseason and could look to the draft to bolster the front five even more. But, they may also attempt to solve some of their line-related problems internally.
There’s a number of different moves they may make. So with that said, let’s take a look at some of the offensive line combinations the Giants could field to start the 2020 season.
Nate Solder – Will Hernandez – Spencer Pulley – Kevin Zeitler – Nick Gates
Right off the bat, I want to preface that Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler will, without a doubt, respectively fill the left and right guard spots. Same with Nate Solder at left tackle.
Hernandez showed a ton of potential in his first pair of pro campaigns, as the Giants are hoping he’ll be the long-term answer at that spot. Zeitler was also a bright spot on a struggling line last year, so he’ll remain where he is. Solder will be on the left side, at least initially. There’s a chance he could eventually move to right tackle, but the Giants likely won’t give Nick Gates, Fleming, or a potential draftee the blindside duties right away.
But all in all, this combination is an example of what would be an internal fix of the line. No outside resources, no rookies. The organization employed all of these guys last year and each has played with one another.
Fans wouldn’t be overly intrigued with this lineup though. Solder has, of course, struggled mightily in his two years with the team. Spencer Pulley is inconsistent — fourth-lowest Pro Football Focus grade on the team in 2018 (56.7). Gates isn’t a horrible option but doesn’t have a great deal of experience (three starts in his career).
If the Giants don’t draft any sort of offensive lineman in the earlier rounds, expect this to possibly be the starting group in 2020.
Nate Solder – Will Hernandez – Rookie – Kevin Zeitler – Rookie
In this scenario, the Giants decide to use their first pair of draft picks to tremendously bolster the offensive line. In the opening round, they select someone like Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa, who won the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Award in 2019. Many believe Wirfs, or any prospect for that matter, would be a better option at the right tackle spot than Gates or Fleming.
The potential draftee would also start right away and eventually transition to the left side if he were to develop effectively and efficiently.
And then in the second round, the Giants take a center such as Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz or Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz. Both are very talented, but the former may be the better option for the Giants. Biadasz is stronger than Ruiz and possesses much better balance. Not to mention, Tyler won the Rimington Trophy for the nation’s top center last year.
It would likely be a risk to start two rookies on the offensive line right away, but they’d develop quickly by seeing time early and often.
Nate Solder – Will Hernandez – Spencer Pulley – Kevin Zeitler – Rookie
The Giants take a tackle in the first round in this scenario, but don’t draft a center later on and instead carry faith in Pulley. After all, they did start Pulley for nine games in 2018 amid the 14-game absence of now-former Giant Jon Halapio.
If Pulley began struggling, they’d be able to look internally or at the waiver wire for reinforcements. Nonetheless, Big Blue would have Spencer at least start the season at the top of the depth chart.
Nate Solder – Will Hernandez – Spencer Pulley – Kevin Zeitler – Cam Fleming
Gates may have a leg up on Fleming in regards to familiarity with the organization and the majority of the other offensive line counterparts. But when it comes to the coaching staff and playbook, Fleming certainly carries an advantage.
Fleming signed a one-year deal with the Giants this offseason after spending the last two campaigns in Dallas with Jason Garrett and Marc Colombo. The former is now the Giants offensive coordinator while the latter is New York’s offensive line coach.
Prior to his tenure with the Cowboys, Fleming spent 2014-17 in New England with current Giants head coach Joe Judge.
Thus, if no tackle is drafted, the general familiarity with Fleming would possibly prompt this coaching staff to start him over Gates.
Nate Solder – Will Hernandez – Nick Gates – Kevin Zeitler – Rookie
The Giants draft a tackle in the first round here, but instead of snagging a young center in the second, they end up converting Gates to that spot.
During a conference call with the media on Monday, Gettleman said Gates would be a “consideration” at center. He’s not primarily a center, so he wouldn’t be Giants fans’ first choice to fill that spot.
But if he was to perform better than Pulley in training camp, then I’d say go for it, especially if no other options are present.