Take your pick: constant mediocracy or wildly inconsistent play. Either choice is an accurate description of how the New York Giants’ offensive line performed in 2014.
All and all, the Giants’ offensive line ranked 20th in the NFL in 2014, according to ProFootballFocus.com. It’s a step up from last year’s ranking (28th), but it’s still not good. The line did a much better job of giving Eli Manning time to survey the field than it did of opening up holes for Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. Big Blue ranked 13th in pass blocking and 30th in run blocking, according to those same ProFootballFocus.com rankings.
To address the situation, Jerry Reese selected Miami tackle Ereck Flowers with the No. 9 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and brought in handful of wily veterans to help bolster the unit.
Continuing with our series breaking down Big Blue’s roster position by position, we will now take a look at the front five, the road graders, the first line of defense who will be the backbone for the Giants offense in 2015. The players will be separated into three groups: the Starters, the New Guys, and the Undrafted Surprise.
Will Beatty tore his pectoral muscle in May and will miss 4-6 months with the injury. This news threw a humongous wrench in the Giants’ plans up front. The original plan was to have Beatty start protecting Eli’s blindside, rookie Ereck Flowers getting acclimated to the NFL game by starting at right tackle, which allows former first round pick Justin Pugh to move to his more natural position of guard. But things never seem to go as planned.
Flowers, a rookie who Todd McShay said has tremendous potential but is still raw, is expected to be Big Blue’s starting left tackle from day one now with Beatty out. That’s a lot to ask for a rookie, but hopefully for the Giants experience is the best learning tool Flowers. He played LT at Miami, but stopping collegiate level defensive ends is nothing compared to staring down the likes of JJ Watt and Justin Houston face to face.
Pugh will play right tackle again in 2015; a position he struggled to remain consistent at a year before. Pugh had some horrendous performances, including what he called the “worst” game of his career. But it wasn’t all bad. Pugh progressed throughout the season and held his own against some quality d-ends by the end of the season.
Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry are expected to start at the guard positions. Schwartz played sparingly in 2014 after facing a myriad of injuries, but the Giants’ offensive line performed its best when he was on the field. Schwartz is a monster up front who can really open up running lanes for the backs. Jerry started all 16 games for the Giants last year and his play left more than a lot to be desired. It was like watching Jekyll and Hyde on a football field: he was either amazing or awful – but there was more of the ladder than the former.
Weston Richburg played like a rookie last season, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise because he was a rookie. He looked more comfortable as the season went on, so the Giants need to continue to develop him as their long term center.
The New Guys
Marshall Newhouse is the only offensive lineman New York signed this offseason. Newhouse is a former two-year starter at left tackle for the Packers before losing his starting gig in 2013. He signed with Cincinnati last year as a reserve but got a chance to start at right tackle. But then he got benched for his poor play. This could end up being a great value move for the Giants if Newhouse can find his former form, but at the very least, he’ll provide solid depth and veteran leadership in the locker room.
The Undrafted Surprise
Sean Donnelly has the size to be an effective NFL player. At 6-foot-8, 295 pounds, Donnelly looks the part of your prototypical tackle. However, inconsistent play on the collegiate level dropped his stock to the point where he wasn’t drafted.
But one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, and the Giants are hoping to strike gold with this rookie signing. Big Blue’s offensive line isn’t locked into place yet and a great training camp from Donnelly could earn him a roster spot.