There’s no hiding the disaster that occurred on the offensive line for the New York Giants this past season. This catastrophe affected the offense as a whole, as this foundational issue caused all units to see a decrease in production compared to last year’s numbers. For an organization that is put in “win-now” mode, this issue has to be treated with priority by the front office and coaches to ensure any chance at success in the near future. For this week’s position review, let’s take a closer look into the offensive line.
New York Giants Position Review: Offensive Line
Future Depends On Ereck Flowers
After being drafted ninth overall in the 2015 draft by the New York Giants, Ereck Flowers hasn’t showed the production or technique that team personnel were expecting. His first year with the team was sub-optimal, as he battled an injury while starting at left tackle fresh out of college, a massive role for someone with no professional experience. This performance was followed by yet another poor season, for the Miami product was not able to show significant improvement in his sophomore season. The 2016 season was his year to prove he was the team’s best option at starting left tackle, but that wasn’t the case. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he finished the season with a grade of 48.4, while his counterpart Bobby Hart at right tackle finished with a grade of 41. Given these ratings, this gives the Giants the worst pair of tackles in the NFL, something that can’t be ignored going forward.
It’s clear now that there isn’t somebody on the roster capable enough of starting at left tackle, so it’s in the team’s best interest to look elsewhere. There’s too much invested in Flowers to completely abandon ship, but his time at the position needs to come to an end. Perhaps the smartest move would be to move him back to right tackle where he played in college and allow someone else a chance to step up and become the next tackle protecting Eli Manning’s blind spot. The Giants are, without question, going to be playing musical chairs with the offensive line this offseason in hopes to provide a quick fix to the issue. But before they can attempt this, they need to first figure out where they’re going to play Flowers in order to properly acquire players at the accompanying positions.
Despite the atrocity at both tackle positions, the Giants finished 20th in offensive line rankings by PFF. The reason for this ranking being higher than one might expect is the interior build of the line. The center and both guards had solid seasons and proved they weren’t the main issue for the front office to worry about. In fact, left guard and 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh had an excellent year ranking 16th in overall lineman rankings with a grade of 85.1. His partner John Jerry at right guard had an impressive year as well. Although his run blocking abilities are a concern, he showed strength at pass blocking which was rated an 84.1 by PFF. Last but certainly not least, starting center Weston Richburg had similar struggles with run blocking, but also proved to be efficient in pass blocking, earning him a grade of 89.1 in the category.
2017 NFL Draft
This year’s draft has a few standout lineman who look ready to take on the challenge of the starting role, but unfortunately for the Giants, it’s extremely unlikely one falls to the 23rd pick. The interior of the Giants’ offensive line could use some depth as well, but it’s not by any means a bigger priority than left or right tackle. This being said, if Jerry Reese and company are going to select an offensive lineman in the first round, it has to be a tackle rather than a guard or center. There’s little talent at the tackle position in the draft this season outside of Cam Robinson (Alabama) or Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), so it’s safe to assume these prospects will be selected in the top 20, falling just outside the Giants’ reach.
The next rated tackle on most experts’ draft boards is Ryan Ramcyzk, the left tackle out of Wisconsin. The projected first round pick has had a number of stellar performances showing off his pass blocking skills as well as demonstrating his ability to open up holes for the rushing attack. Both of those are something this New York offense desperately needs to get the ball moving. With a similar frame as Ereck Flowers, he stands at 6’6″, 300 pounds and has garnered the consensus that he still isn’t even at peak strength. Given an NFL conditioning program, this should be an easy fix and advantage that could bolster his physical talents to dominate in his play. Of course, Ramcyzk comes with his downside as well. He played the 2016 season battling a hip injury and on January 5th had hip surgery that will put him out four months. If all goes right he should be ready to start by the start of the season, which is good news considering he’s most likely going to be the best player at the position by the time the Giants are on the clock.
All the teams in the market for an offensive lineman can thank the New York Jets for completely running up the price tags on potential players. This is due in part to the re-signing of Brian Winters which included a four-year deal worth about $8 million annually. This contract was the first for an offensive lineman this season and has set the bar quite high considering that Winters was significantly overpaid for the output he’s provided. For all the better and big-name players, this means even more money will have to be spent in order to convince someone to sign.
To address the tackle problem in free agency may seem like the best alternative given the Giants are in “win-now” mode, but is it something they can afford? The team still has to handle the contracts of Jason Pierre-Paul, Johnathan Hankins, and multiple linebackers while staying concerned for next years’ breakout player contacts. Although the decision to bring in talent from elsewhere is ideal, it’s also more than likely going to be too expensive to pursue an elite player the team needs. With a lot of notable names in fee agency this year, the market has its options, but will require other players taking pay-cuts or renegotiating current contracts in order to free up space. After all, football is a team sport, and if their eyes are focused on winning a Super Bowl, they have to be willing to not receive as much financial return.