He wants them to be strong, mean, and most importantly, love football. His “hog mollies”, as he playfully refers to the type of big men he prefers in the trenches, have been glaringly missing from the Giants’ lineups of the last few years.
Since 2012, following their last Super Bowl season, the Giants have mostly constructed the offensive line with older, veteran players and late-round draft picks. Of the three players that were selected in the higher rounds (Justin Pugh in 2013, Weston Richburg in 2014, and Ereck Flowers in 2015), only one remains on the team (Flowers). Both Pugh and Richburg departed via free agency in the offseason.
Many of the Giants’ offensive linemen since 2012 are not Gettleman’s type. They were either too small and playing out of position (as was the case with Pugh and Richburg) or they didn’t live up that to management’s expectations (the jury is still out on Flowers).
The emphasis on offensive lineman that could be placed man-on-man and just dominate whoever is in front them was lacking. Instead, the Giants decided to go with projects and players past their prime. It was this type of decision making that created one of the major downfalls of the last few years, culminating in one of the worst o-lines in the NFL last season.
The Giants entered last season coming off a successful 2016 where they went 11-5 and qualified for the playoffs. The team was heralded by many in the media (myself included) as possible Super Bowl contenders. The defense allowed the second-fewest points in the league. Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning had good seasons in spite of the offensive line’s woes. It seemed like the decision to elevate Ben McAdoo to head coach after the “resignation” of Tom Coughlin was a solid one.
The biggest area of concern going into last season was the offensive line. They did nothing significant to upgrade it during the offseason or the draft. Unfortunately for the Giants, their inactivity came back to bite them.
Injuries were a major contributing factor. The Giants used 17 different combinations with nine different players receiving at least 250 snaps. The lack of cohesiveness never allowed them to feel comfortable with each other. But injuries aside, the play just wasn’t good.
They allowed 180 quarterback pressures that paved for the way for 27 sacks (fourth most in the league). The running game didn’t fair much better. The Giants rushed for 1,549 yards and an abysmal six touchdowns. It’s a rule of thumb that averaging at least four yards per carry is productive so their 3.9 yards per carry just didn’t cut it.
No player epitomized the struggles of the offensive line more than Flowers, a former top-10 pick. Although he improved later in the season, he was still rated as the 54th best offensive tackle which placed him near the bottom.
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The outcome of last season has been well documented and I won’t repeat the obvious but something needed to change. This trend of throwing mud at the wall and hoping it sticks just isn’t going to work if you are trying to build a championship caliber team.
The old regime was gone and in came a new staff with an old school approach to rebuilding the offensive line. Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur wanted to bring in big and angry individuals who can beat the man in front of them, one-on-one if need be. The Giants brought in offensive linemen who fit the mold of Gettleman’s “hog mollies”.
The biggest move was bringing in left tackle Nate Solder to replace Flowers, who was moved to the right tackle spot. In Solder, they found a player who played in seven AFC Championship Games, reaching four Super Bowls with two Lombardi Trophies with the New England Patriots. The Giants are hoping Solder will protect Manning’s blind side as he helped protect Tom Brady for seven seasons. The Giants are so confident they made Solder the NFL’s highest paid offensive lineman.
Another upgrade via free agency came in the form of 6-foot-4, 327-pound mauler Patrick Omameh. Omameh spent last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He wasn’t re-signed because they brought in All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell (whom the Giants was interested in as well). Omameh isn’t an All-Pro but he is a big improvement at the guard spot.
One of the biggest additions to this unit is second-round draft pick Will Hernandez. Hernandez, who stands 6-foot-3 and weights 327 pounds, brings a mean streak reminiscent of the likes of Rich Seubert and Chris Snee. Hernandez is the epitome of what Gettleman envisions when he describes the kind of attitude needed to be a successful offensive lineman in the NFL. He is mean, nasty, and not going to back down from anyone. He demonstrated that when he mixed it up with 6-foot-3, 341 pound Damon “Snacks” Harrison during last month’s minicamp.
They are hoping the much maligned Flowers succeeds at the right tackle position though it may not be as a easy transition as some may think. A training camp battle for the center spot between Brett Jones (who started 13 games last season) and Jon Halapio (who started six games last season) is currently providing positive results as both men seem up to the job.
The phrase “you win in the trenches” is reiterated over and over again by every analyst, coach, and general manager. If you can’t run the ball when the defense knows you are running and you can’t protect the quarterback long enough for plays to develop it doesn’t matter who your skill position players are. They won’t be allowed to accomplish what they must for an offense to be successful. With the additions of these throwback players, the Giants think that success isn’t too far away.