The Giants didn’t heavily address the offensive line during the offseason, a crucial decision that’s already costing them.
The Big Blue offensive line underwent yet another issue-filled season in 2020. For what seemed like the 10th consecutive year, the unit of “hog mollies” limited what the quarterback and overall offense were able to accomplish.
So it was interesting how the Giants didn’t make any big moves during the offseason to fix that specific group. They didn’t sign a starting-caliber tackle or interior lineman in the months leading up to the season nor even addressed the unit once with their six draft picks.
The organization believed in who it employed on the roster, and for some time, you could argue that made sense. The original projected starting group of Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, and Matthew Peart all played with one another last year and possessed continuity, a notable prerequisite of offensive line chemistry.
But after two regular-season games, it’s become clear the ignoring of the offensive line is coming back to haunt the Giants in a big way.
Since the offseason, we’ve learned that Peart, a 2020 third-round pick, may not be the type of player many thought he would be. Some were calling him a steal during that draft and believed he would be the long-term future at the right tackle position. Therefore, the fact he couldn’t beat out a 33-year-old Nate Solder (who didn’t play last year) for the 2021 starting job tells a lot.
Peart obviously wasn’t ready for an enhanced role. Who knows if he currently is? Who knows when he even will be?
Further issues subsequently came about once the regular season began.
The Giants placed Shane Lemieux on injured reserve last week due to the left guard’s knee injury. Then on Wednesday, the second-year player underwent surgery to repair the partial tear in his patellar tendon, effectively ending his 2021 season.
Center Nick Gates, who filled in at left guard against Washington last Thursday, exited the Week 2 matchup with a lower leg fracture, a health-related issue that additionally concluded his 2021 campaign.
All of a sudden, a Thomas-Lemieux-Gates-Hernandez-Peart projected unit has become a Thomas-Ben Bredeson-Billy Price-Hernandez-Solder lineup. This isn’t exactly ideal for those who argued this line would develop in 2021 due to the continuity.
Some believed the Giants could’ve used their first-round pick (originally No. 11 overall) on an offensive tackle, and it’s looking like that would’ve been a beneficial move. Without needing to trade up, Dave Gettleman could’ve selected current Chargers tackle Rashawn Slater, who’s recorded an impressive 67.8 Pro Football Focus grade through his first two games.
The Giants could’ve also selected Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood (Raiders) or even traded back to No. 20 like they did and drafted someone like Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw (Vikings) or Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins (Bears).
If the Giants wanted to address the interior, USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker (No. 14 overall to the Jets) would’ve been there for the taking at No. 11.
Or even for depth-related purposes, New York could’ve addressed the interior with a late-round acquisition of Tennessee guard Trey Smith (Chiefs) or Alabama guard Deonte Brown (Panthers) instead of giving up assets for Ben Bredeson and Billy Price via late-summer trades.
The current state of the line
Since moves weren’t made, the Giants are moving forward with a left tackle in Thomas who still hasn’t proved himself after 18 career games, a left guard in Bredeson who may not be consistently reliable, a center in Billy Price who’s recorded an abysmal 28.1 PFF grade through two weeks, a right guard in Hernandez who regressed for much of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and a 33-year-old right tackle in Solder.
An unreliable offensive line doesn’t mix well with a quarterback who can’t protect the football, an offensive play-caller who isn’t creative, and a running back coming off a major knee injury. It also renders the talented slate of receivers obsolete.
Maybe, just maybe, the Giants should’ve addressed the offensive line more this past offseason. If they did, they likely wouldn’t be in the position they’re in now, which isn’t an ideal one.
Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY