Saquon Barkley will return to the Giants’ lineup, and many expect him to have a bounce-back year.
Daniel Jones will enter year three, and he is expected to have the tools to lead his team to a playoff run.
However, both of those scenarios work if the duo has a good offensive line in front of them. Will they?
Since the spring, speculation has been swirling about the possibilities about the G-Men’s front five. Last month, Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated the Giants’ line the worst (32nd) in the league. PFF ranked the Giants 31st to end last season.
Last season, they made some necessary changes inserting Nick Gates at center, and rookie Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux began to see some significant minutes. Peart graded out higher than Lemieux, whose consistency was an issue.
Andrew Thomas was the No. 1 selection and was planted at left tackle. Thomas showed the rigors of a rookie season, but he started to show some consistency at the end of the season. He’ll be a staple there.
Nate Solder opted out of 2020, and he could have worked with Thomas. Solder was GM Dave Gettleman’s prize $62 million, four-year signing from New England in 2018.
Solder offered to restructured his contract and basically took a pay cut to free cap space. Now, it will be interesting to see if the Giants give the 32-year-old a legitimate shot this summer with an apparent youth movement on the move up front.
Peart and Solder will battle at right tackle, while Lemieux will get the nod at left guard. Will Hernandez, who was a stud rookie in 2018, hasn’t shown the same flash. He may move to right guard to allow Lemieux to make a residence there.
Gettleman did sign veteran guards Zack Fulton and Kenny Wiggins, both of whom will have a chance to win either spot. Ex-Jet Jonothan Harrison could spell Gates at center.
Solder likely will have a shot to stay, mainly for his experience and leadership. Gettleman can be creative in opening some cap space if necessary. He has graded higher than any of his linemates the past few seasons.
Head coach Joe Judge solidified a shaky line coaching position from last year by hiring Rob Sale as the new offensive line coach to work with assistant Ben Wilkerson. Pat Flaherty, who formed a stellar unit under Tom Coughlin from 2007-10, has been brought into the fold as a consultant.
Gettleman has stated that he was happy with the developing chemistry last year and has noted some strong rushing team efforts last year. He feels confident his restructured group can make a difference…remember, he wanted a group of “hogmollies.”
“The perception persists that this group of guys is not good enough,” said Gettleman recently on WFAN. Obviously, I have a different opinion. And we, the Giants, have a different opinion. We have a number of young, talented players. It’s learning how to play the NFL game, understanding that every week you’re gonna play a guy who’s gonna try to rip your lungs out. So it’s a matter of putting on the big-boy pants, so to speak.”
Gettleman apparently has the line has been seeking since he came on board in 2017.
With the Giants 5-3 second half finish that lead to a 6-10 record, expectations will be elevated this season. The group of Thomas, Hernandez, Gates, Lemieux, and Peart/Solder will need to meld it together in August for a September harvest for them.
The focus is on Barkley and Jones, but their success will be dictated by an offensive line that could enter the season with some questions left unanswered.