ikem ekwonu
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Rolling the dice with DJ for another year? Fine — protect him then.

I hate providing excuses for Daniel Jones.

He’s mostly responsible for his slow development up to this point.

But even the loudest of his critics would agree consistent and dominant offensive line play hasn’t been present to protect him.

Regardless of the head coach in place; regardless of the supporting cast on the field; regardless of the offensive coordinator calling the plays — the Giants quarterback has dealt with dreadful lines since entering the league.

DJ has been around for Nate Solder’s issues, Andrew Thomas’ disastrous 2020 rookie campaign, Will Hernandez’s inconsistencies, and injuries to Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, and others.

I don’t think I need to sugarcoat it for you: this line has been horrendous for much of the last decade. It’s essentially been a weak point of the franchise since DJ and I were in high school.

Having said all of that, if Jones happens to be the 2022 starter, New York needs to improve the offensive line to help protect the young signal-caller.

And what better way to do that than with the multiple first-round picks the organization possesses?

Priority No. 1 — The right tackle spot.

The Giants own the No. 5 and 7 overall draft selections this offseason, the latter of which is thanks to last year’s draft-day trade with the Bears, who moved up to acquire then-Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

Let’s start with that former draft choice though, because why not?

The Giants must — and I cannot stress this enough — must utilize the fifth overall pick on an offensive tackle.

They already have what’s hoping to be their left tackle of the future in Andrew Thomas, who tremendously improved in 2021 and was the team’s top offensive player (don’t argue with me on that — you know it’s true).

But even with that crucial blindside tackle spot (hopefully) secure, the Giants need to address the opposite side. Because the aging Nate Solder isn’t the answer at right tackle and it doesn’t seem like Matthew Peart is either after a disappointing 2021.

The hope is that Jones has the right coaching staff in place (thus far) following the hires of head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. The hope is that he’ll also be able to benefit from the presence of receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney.

Now, it’s time to make sure the exterior of this line is in tip-top shape to further enhance Jones’ skillset. And using the No. 5 pick on a young, fresh, talented tackle instead of breaking the bank for one in free agency would be the more beneficial maneuver for this organization.

Who are the options, you ask?

NFL mock drafts are always fluid — some players’ stocks could rise while others’ could coincidingly fall. So it’s currently tough to say who might drop to the Giants at No. 5 and who may be off the board prior to that prestigious selection.

But Alabama’s Evan Neal, NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross could be choices at No. 5. Additionally, don’t be surprised if Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning impresses scouts and shoots up the draft boards over the next few months.

Priority No. 2 — Interior offensive line

The futures of various Giants interior offensive linemen are in question. Right guard Will Hernandez’s rookie contract is expiring while center Nick Gates and left guard Shane Lemieux are coming off season-ending injuries suffered early in the 2021 campaign.

The Giants will thus need answers, and swiftly.

They could certainly use their No. 7 overall pick on a lineman of that type. Or, they can even trade back, garner additional draft capital, and still choose a guard/center.

Whether it be at No. 7 or later in the first round (I don’t think I would move back past the No. 11 pick, which Washington owns and might use to trade up and take a quarterback), the Giants could consider Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum or Kenyon Green of Texas A&M.

The right side of the line morphing from a Will Hernandez-Nate Solder duo to one that includes any of the aforementioned prospective tackles and guards sounds golden to me, especially if Daniel Jones is staying right where he is.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.