Brian Daboll transformed the Giants‘ offense in his first season as Big Blue’s head coach. And the unit is supposed to further improve in 2023 after New York traded for tight end Darren Waller, signed wide receiver Parris Campbell, and drafted wide receiver Jalin Hyatt.
But much of the offense’s success hinges on how well the offensive line will perform. And this is by no means a perfect five-man unit. There are positives, sure — but there are legitimate question marks as well.
Here’s the good and bad news about the Giants’ offensive line heading into 2023.
The good news
Left tackle fixed. Remember when the Giants dealt with poor left tackle play for about a decade, lowlighted by Will Beatty, Ereck Flowers, Nate Solder, and a rookie-year Andrew Thomas? Well, it looks like that issue is finally in the rearview.
Amid consistent improvement following strong 2021 and 2022 seasons, Thomas has become one of the top left tackles in the NFL. He’ll be absurdly expensive at one point as he’s in line to become the league’s highest-paid left tackle (which, right now, is the Texans’ Laremy Tunsil at $25 million per year). But that’s the price you pay for rock-solid talent at the second-most important position on the roster.
Young, cheap talent. The Giants could be starting four offensive linemen on their rookie contract next season. Thomas is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal with the fifth-year option exercised. Starting right tackle Evan Neal and potential starting left guard Josh Ezeudu are entering their second seasons. And projected starting center John Michael Schmitz is a rookie.
This provides the Giants with spending flexibility on the line should they need to address any roster issues before or during the season.
Neal improvement? Neal, the 2022 No. 7 overall draft pick, endured a rough rookie campaign, derailed by inconsistent play and injuries. And there’s a chance the Giants could move off of him or at least demote him if the struggles persist in 2023.
But you can make the argument a year’s worth of experience under his belt, plus the return of offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, could help Neal take a big step forward.
Do you know who also struggled mightily in his first season? Thomas — the same guy who could become the highest-paid left tackle in league history.
The bad news
Lot of wishful thinking. Thomas is a rock-solid left tackle while veteran Mark Glowinski is a serviceable right guard (although this will probably be his final year with the team barring Pro Bowl-caliber play).
But at the other three spots, the Giants are banking a whole lot on player development. Schmitz has never played a down in the NFL and both Neal and Ezeudu are only entering their second seasons. Ezeudu only started two games last year and was on the field for less than half of the offensive snaps (43%).
Ben Bredeson could win the starting left guard job but even he lacks true experience, having only started nine games in three seasons.
If Neal improves, Ezeudu pans out, and Schmitz lives up to the hype, this Giants line could be dominant for a number of years. But right now, there’s a lot of “hoping” that these young guys will develop smoothly.