The New York Giants did not make any major moves to shake up their offensive line this offseason, which has led to much scrutiny among critics. Many felt they needed to upgrade at the tackle position after a challenging season in which QB Eli Manning lost faith in his pass protection.
A lot of the heat has focused around their two young tackles, Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, who vastly underperformed in their sophomore seasons.The analytical website Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants’ line 20th out of 32 last season and were quick to point out how poorly the two young lineman hurt the Giants’ offense:
“The Giants may have fielded the worst pair of tackles in the game this season, but the interior trio was solid, particularly when LG Justin Pugh was in the lineup. Ereck Flowers began the season with three solid games, surrendering just five total QB pressures and no hits or sacks over that time, suggesting that he had turned a corner from his ugly rookie season—but then he went in the tank, and was horrendous down the stretch. After the aforementioned three games, he allowed 54 total QB pressures in his final 13 games, with 10 penalties adding to his woes. On the right side, Bobby Hart surrendered 46 total QB pressures himself, and if anything, those numbers flattered his performance; when he was beaten, it tended to be immediately and result in severe pressure.”
If the Giants are worried, they’re not showing it. For players with two full accredited NFL seasons, they are still very green by many standards. Flowers is just 23 and Hart 22. Both players were drafted two years ago as 21 year-olds with high upsides. The team is not giving up on them and still believes they will realize their expectations.
“(They’re) almost kind of developmental,” GM Jerry Reese said. “Those guys could have been in this draft class.”
“We still have high hopes for Ereck,” said Marc Ross, the Giants VP of Player Evaluation. “He’s young. The guy started two years in the NFL and the guy is still young. He really should be coming out in this draft. So to say that you are going to throw a guy away for having inconsistencies his first two years in the NFL, I don’t think that is very fair to Ereck. We think he’s going to get better; he’s going to take a big jump. He does everything possible to get better; he’s in here every day working his butt off, so we have high hopes for him.”
Reese did take a tackle in the draft, albeit in the sixth round. The choice was one no one saw coming – Pitt’s Adam Bisnowaty, a 6’6”, 320-pound rough and tumble player who is known for his toughness. He reminds the Giants of another sixth round selection – David Diehl. They even gave Bisnowaty Diehl’s number 66 jersey.
“I am a nasty football player. I get after people,” Bisnowaty told reporters after the draft. “That is something that I am very proud of – I am out there and I am physical every play, making sure that the guy across from me wants to quit. Everything I do on the field is nasty and physical and I take myself off the field with the preparation and I take that to the next level, so that when I get out there it is all football.”
In a recent interview, Diehl, now a FOX Sports television analyst who also does work for the Giants, said he sees the Giants’ tackle situation straightening itself out this season.
“When people are asking me going into this year who could be the pleasant surprise,” the former Giants lineman told NJ Advance Media this week, “I honestly think either Ereck Flowers or Bobby Hart could be the comeback players of the year this season.”
“You can really see that that transition for offensive lineman coming from college to the pros, it’s taking a little bit of time. I think those are two guys (Flowers and Hart) with the experience that they’ve had, they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them, but I think they’re on the right path.”
In the free agent period after the draft, Reese signed USC’s Chad Wheeler (6’7”, 306) and Jessemen Dunker (6’4”, 318) of Tennessee State. Both went undrafted but will challenge for a roster spot this summer.
Camp will open with the offensive line pretty much the same as where it left off last season. Weston Richburg will be the center with Justin Pugh and John Jerry the guards flanked by Flowers and Hart at tackle.
Free agent D.J. Fluker, a former first round pick out of Alabama by the San Diego Chargers could unseat Hart at RT. Pugh, who played several seasons at tackle before being shifted to guard, said recently the team has not lined him up and tackle this spring and he believes they don’t plan on it going forward.