The 2021 campaign has to be the year the New York Giants finally get it right with their offensive line unit.
Think of the last four playoff-less seasons and how each year turned out for the Giants offensive line.
Not great, right? I could imagine, in regard to the unit’s performance, each year makes you cringe for the most part.
The last four seasons have encompassed the tenures of Ereck Flowers, Bobby Hart, Patrick Omameh, and the various on-field struggles of Nate Solder.
During last year’s offseason, Dave Gettleman wished to fix the offensive line “once and for all,” and in 2020, the unit still didn’t reach peak levels of success. The group allowed 50 sacks (tied for second-most in the league), was the 31st-ranked offensive line via Pro Football Focus, and then-rookie Andrew Thomas didn’t fully justify the team’s No. 4 overall draft selection of him.
New York is the impatience capital of America, and the impatience among fans has been alive and well when it comes to this offensive line.
No excuses — this must be the year the unit finally comes together and performs at a high level.
A piss-poor performance will render the new weapons useless, ruin Jones’ development
We all like to talk about the shiny new toys the Giants have on offense.
Kenny Golladay finally brings the presence of a No. 1 receiver; Kadarius Toney adds elusiveness and athleticism; John Ross brings pure speed; Kyle Rudolph will allow the Giants to effectively run two-tight end sets.
The unit of weapons is great on paper, but will be useless on the field if Daniel Jones is on his back; if Daniel Jones can’t escape the pocket; if Daniel Jones can’t step up; if Daniel Jones doesn’t even have time to go through his progressions.
We also like to talk about how Jones should greatly develop in 2021.
He’s entering his second consecutive season in the same system and possesses a vast slate of weapons that includes the four aforementioned names, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley (whenever he partakes in regular-season games).
The pending development of Jones is crucial, but will be ruined if the offensive line cannot constantly protect him.
The Giants, with Dave Gettleman manning the front office and Joe Judge doing the same for the coaching staff, did a wonderful job enhancing the talent level within this offensive unit. They’ve upgraded at numerous spots, and overall, have put their starting quarterback in the best position possible to succeed.
This offensive line can’t put all that effort, time, and money spent to waste because of inconsistent performances throughout the regular season.
Continuity must be capitalized on
Ahead of the regular season, the Giants actually possess a legitimate element of continuity within their starting offensive line.
This hasn’t been the case in recent years.
The Giants had a new face in Andrew Thomas last year, a new face in Kevin Zeitler the year prior, a new face in Nate Solder in 2018…you get the point.
In 2021, each of the five projected starting offensive linemen were on the team and worked with one another in 2020.
As of right now, barring injuries, the Giants could be working with a line that includes Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, and Matthew Peart from left to right.
Thomas started 15 games last year and Gates started the entire season. While Hernandez started the first seven games of the 2020 campaign at left guard, Lemieux was the starter in that role for the final nine. Peart notched one start in 2020 but appeared in 11 total matchups from the tackle position.
This unit doesn’t need time to build significant chemistry — it should already be present.
2021 could be the start of a long-tenured unit
The great thing about each of these offensive line components is that they’re all young.
Thomas, Lemieux, and Peart are all entering their second seasons. Gates and Hernandez, on the other hand, are respectively entering their fourth years (Gates will be partaking in his second full season at center).
The first three of the aforementioned names, obviously, are all still on their rookie deals, and the same goes for Hernandez. The Giants inked Gates to a contract extension last year, but he’s only going to count for $3.325 million and $3 million against the cap in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Right now, this is a fresh group and one that isn’t all too expensive.
This means the Giants are in the position to keep this unit together for quite some time. If it impresses in 2021, long-term success in this area could be en route.