Some of the offensive issues the New York Giants have had in recent years can be traced back to a single cause: lack of a competent, cohesive offensive line.
Anyone with a modicum of football knowledge knows success on the offensive side of the ball begins up front. If the guys in the trenches are good, the likelihood of moving the ball on the ground and through the air increases significantly. If the o-line is not so good, then those chances of success go down.
When Dave Gettleman was installed as Giants general manager, he inherited a team that seemed light-years away from their only postseason appearance (2016) since winning Super Bowl XLVI. The Giants have had many question marks for a long time but Gettleman was point-blank about what he thought was one of the team’s pressing needs.
“We’ve got to fix the o-line, let’s be honest. Let’s not kid each other,” Gettleman said.
Gettleman has long been a champion of what he referred to “hog mollies”, a term for offensive linemen he coined as Carolina Panthers general manager. As the Giants director of player personnel (1999-2011), he assembled a strong group of o-linemen. The results were four NFC East titles, seven postseason berths, and three Super Bowl appearances with two victories.
“I believe in the ‘hog mollies’,” Gettleman said. “We’ve had some great groups here, had great groups everywhere I’ve been, and we’re going to get back to that. They do allow you to compete.”
In recent years, the Giants have fumbled on many of their offensive line selections in the draft and through free agency.
Ereck Flowers, a 2015 first-round (ninth overall) selection, allowed an average of 58 quarterback pressures in the four seasons he spent at the Meadowlands. In the same draft, the Giants picked up Bobby Hart in the seventh (226th overall). Hart’s dedication was questioned when he refused to play in the 2017 regular season finale because of an injury he said he dealt with the entire season. Flowers, given a somewhat long leash because of where he was drafted, was cut last season while Hart was waived the day after Gettleman was introduced as GM.
The Giants also whiffed on certain free agent signings like Patrick Omameh. Omameh, along with Nate Solder, was brought aboard to stabilize the Giants offensive line. He began last season as the team’s starting right guard but never seemed to jell and was released. The Giants were Omameh’s fourth team in five seasons.
The offensive line hasn’t been very good in recent years, especially against the run. This is problematic because they have a stud like Saquon Barkley coming out of the backfield. Barkley is capable moving the chains all by his lonesome but the offensive line needs to be better to preserve him for the long haul.
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The offensive line is also important for the passing game, regardless of who’s playing quarterback. Eli Manning has never missed a game due to injury despite being among one of the NFL’s most sacked QBs. However, he is 38 years old and has never been what one would call a mobile quarterback. At times last season, it was painfully obvious No. 10 had no confidence in his line whatsoever. If Daniel Jones is inserted as the team’s starter, a solid o-line will make his translation easier. If the line is shaky, he may get happy feet in the pocket with disastrous results.
Zeitler arrived in the Meadowlands via a trade with the Cleveland Browns. He is a solid, steady player who’s started every game in each of the last four seasons. Both Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur are familiar with Remmers: he was on the Panthers team that advanced to Super Bowl 50 and the Minnesota Vikings squad (2017) that made it to the NFC Championship Game with Shurmur as offensive coordinator. Remmers underwent off-season back surgery and will be the team’s starting right tackle assuming he is ready to go physically.
The Giants are betting on Zeitler and Remmers stabilizing the right side, a source of discontent last season, along with Solder (who had arthroscopic surgery this spring to clean out his ankle after having bone spurs). They are also counting on the continued development of second-year Will Hernandez.
The center position will be a battle. Jon Halapio began ’18 as the starter before suffering a season-ending fractured ankle in Week 2. He says he is 100 percent healthy and ready to reclaim his starting spot. He will face stiff competition in training camp from Spencer Pulley, a third-year player who started nine games last season in Halapio’s absence. In addition, Pulley is on a two-year contract that pays more than Halapio’s one-year exclusive rights free agent tender.
Chad Wheeler filled in for Remmers in the spring and will be in contention for the swing tackle position. Wheeler will face competition from Brian Mihalik, will filled in for Solder. George Asafo-Adjei, a 2019 seventh-round (232nd overall) is considered talented but will need to spend some time on the practice squad to help him transition to the NFL.
The Giants offensive line resembled a MASH unit for much of 2018. This, in part, led to an offense that struggled to move the ball down the field. They do not want constant reshuffling of the deck because of injury (or shoddy performance) in 2019. If Gettleman’s “hog mollies” don’t play well, the offense will suffer regardless of who is playing at the skill positions.