New York Giants fans are becoming impatient. It’s only a matter of time before the coaches make some changes to the offensive line.
We’re just three games into the 2020 campaign; 15 days removed from the New York Giants‘ Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And already, it’s become a “same story, different year” type of situation. I like to keep it clean within my articles, hence why I used the word “story” instead of…well…it doesn’t matter.
The losing continues, the inability of the offense to find a rhythm remains, and the offensive line looks the same. The latter-most issue seems to lead to the other two, which is why it stands as arguably the biggest on-field problem this organization possesses.
My opinion is that we need to be patient in regard to this group of “hog mollies,” with a few different considerations in mind. For one, this unit couldn’t effectively build chemistry prior to the regular season. With no in-person minicamp, rookie camp, OTAs, preseason, along with an unusual training camp period, it couldn’t discover the spark it requires.
The offensive line additionally possesses a pair of guys who only carry three games of pro-level experience at their respective positions. Nick Gates never took an NFL snap at the center position until 2020 and Andrew Thomas just entered the league five months ago. Not to mention, the Giants requested that their first-round pick play the left tackle spot in the absence of Nate Solder, a responsibility like no other.
But patience only lasts so long, especially in the New York/Tri-state area. It’s only a matter of time before fans call for changes within this group, and some have already begun to do so.
Swift improvement therefore must be made, a highly significant ask when looking at some of the front-sevens Big Blue has on deck.
This Sunday, the 0-3 ballclub takes on the 2-1 Los Angeles Rams, led by none other than Aaron Donald, the top defensive lineman in the National Football League. Gates will undoubtedly experience a highly difficult matchup, and this tough task may either make him better or further expose his flaws as an interior lineman.
After that, it doesn’t become much easier for this line, a unit that’s already undergone a difficult time protecting young quarterback Daniel Jones and opening up holes for the run game. The Giants then face the Dallas Cowboys, led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith, followed by Redskins rookie edge rusher Chase Young, who has the potential to give the Giants nightmares for years.
Then, the Tampa Bay front-seven comes along in Week 8, with Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and a familiar face in Jason Pierre-Paul.
I won’t go team-by-team, but the moral of the story is that the competition for this Giants offensive line isn’t simple whatsoever, which could hinder its overall progress and confidence.
So if you needed to make changes down the line, who would sit and who would start?
Well, to give you an idea of just how poorly some of the offensive line counterparts are performing, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News was nice enough to tweet out the team’s bottom-five offensive Pro Football Focus grades from this past Sunday’s loss to San Francisco.
Leonard writes that Thomas received the fourth-lowest offensive grade (56.8), while left guard Will Hernandez and Gates received the bottom two (56.4 and 46.0, respectively).
Now, they’re not going to bench Thomas whatsoever. The Giants made a huge investment in him with their No. 4 overall pick back in April. This team must remain patient and realize the situation he’s in as Jones’ blindside blocker. Not to mention, he’s arguably been one of the line’s better performers thus far on the year.
But there’s a possibility the Giants could make changes to Hernandez’s and Gates’ spots. Maybe not now, but if noteworthy improvement isn’t made in a matter of weeks, fans might see Spencer Pulley take over at center. It’s reasonable to believe the Giants would bench Gates before they would bench Hernandez as well, given the reinforcement options. Pulley actually carries experience starting for this team, while Hernandez’s backup — rookie Shane Lemieux — hasn’t taken an offensive snap this year.
Nonetheless, if the Giants’ confidence in Lemieux ascends while Hernandez’s struggles simultaneously proceed, don’t be surprised if this Joe Judge-led coaching staff makes a switch.
Again, Thomas is safe. In all likelihood, Kevin Zeitler is too. But are the Giants sure right tackle Cam Fleming is the season-long answer? The newly acquired veteran allowed two sacks for 12 yards through the first three games, already matching the sack total he allowed with the Cowboys last year.
Rookie tackle Matt Peart would be his replacement, but it’s the same situation as with Hernandez and Lemieux. The Giants’ confidence in Peart would need to reach a specific level for them to make that switch. Nevertheless, if the on-field issues within Fleming don’t fade, that potential transition could arrive in the coming months (or even weeks).
All in all, patience is necessary when it comes to this offensive line, at least in my opinion. But patience isn’t in the vocabulary of all New Yorkers, and there’s a possibility the Giants could soon make a few alterations.