The New York Giants made the playoffs last season, but despite the presence of a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and perhaps the most dynamic receiver in the game, educated fans realize why Big Blue ended a four-year postseason drought.
A rebuilt defense carried the load in North Jersey as impact free-agent signings Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins blended in beautifully with the amazing comeback story of Jason Pierre-Paul as well as perhaps the most improved defensive player in the NFL last season, Landon Collins.
The offense was along for the ride, and more often than not unable to carry its water outside of Odell Beckham Jr. at times.
And things hardly look better this season. At 36, Eli Manning is a descending player, while the Giants are counting on the unproven Paul Perkins to turn around one of the worst running games in the league. Meanwhile, while the receiving corps was supplemented greatly with the additions of Brandon Marshall and first-round tight end Evan Engram, understand pass catchers are always at the mercy of the mechanism that has to get them the football.
All that, however, is just context to the real problem with the Giants: The offensive line.
When you are lacking efficacy in both phases of the game, the one common denominator is almost always an inability to block people consistently up front, and that’s certainly the case with Ben McAdoo’s team, particularly on the outside with tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart.
What’s interesting is that Jerry Reese had the opportunity to address his team’s most obvious flaw in April and chose the luxury (Engram) at No. 23 overall over the necessity, Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who went nine spots later to the New Orleans Saints.
During his post-draft news conference, Reese admitted his team badly needed help up front on the offensive side but not at the cost of ignoring their draft board.
“We wanted to help the offensive line, but we didn’t want to reach for anyone,” Reese claimed.
Many NFL personnel minds will tell you that need is the worst talent evaluator in sports, so if the Giants really believed Engram was that much better of a prospect than Ramczyk, the decision was the correct one for the organization. The glaring hole remains, though, and now the talk has shifted to the youth of Flowers (23) and Hart (22), or more specifically, the fact that the two still have plenty of time to grow.
“Ereck Flowers just turned 23, Bobby Hart is 22 and they’ve played two seasons already in the National Football League,” Reese said on WFAN Radio in New York earlier this offseason. “So it’s almost kind of developmental. They’ve had some ups and downs as young players, but we expect these guys to make a significant jump this season because they’ve been in the league already. Both of those guys could have been in this draft class.”
One has to wonder if Manning sees things the same way. He no longer has the luxury of youth or the time to wait for things to click for players who haven’t looked the part to this point.
Now it’s about throwing darts and finding competition to push the underachieving starters, which starts with veteran D.J. Fluker, who could figure in on the right side. Meanwhile, the crown jewel of the Giants’ undrafted class this year was Southern California tackle Chad Wheeler, and now it looks as if the team plans on trying former Notre Dame defensive tackle Jarron Jones on the offensive side of the football in training camp.
“Right before the end of OTAs, the coaching staff pulled me into the office and said they wanted me to switch,” Jones told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “The next day I was taking snaps at offensive tackle. If you get that vote of confidence to switch positions, I’ll take it.”
Others may look at that “vote of confidence” and see desperation, but Jones wasn’t going to make the team’s deep defensive line, so taking a look at a 6-foot-6 guy with extremely long arms and the frame of a right tackle seems like a worthwhile endeavor on paper at least.
“They see a better fit. They want to take advantage of my size. We have a really good defensive line, and in all honesty, making the team on defense was pretty slim,” Jones admitted. “Our offensive line is good, but they could use a couple more guys. … It could pay big dividends for me.”
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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