New York Giants Poor Offensive Line, or Is it something else?

Under Gettleman’s tenure, the offensive has ranked 21st in 2018, 17th in 2019, and then dead last in 2020.   The 2020 season saw Nate Solder opt-out due to Covid-19; the Giants spent the 4th overall pick on Andrew Thomas, another pick on 3rd rounder Matt Peart, and yet another selection on 5th rounder Shane Lemieux.   They let Kevin Zeitler walk, who was their highest-ranked linemen in 2019.   

One of the biggest topics among New York Giants fans centers around the team’s offensive line.  This group has been under fire ever since General Manager, David Gettleman, took his post in 2018.   There has been a litany of moves that Gettleman has made to try to shore up this group.   2021 will be the fourth season under Gettleman, and this will be mostly the same group from 2020.  

Here is how PFF (Pro Football Focus) graded the offensive linemen.  Andrew Thomas had a grade of 62.4, with 57 pressures and 10 sacks.  However, 37 of his 57 total pressures came in the first eight games.  Will Hernandez was graded with a 58.1 and allowed 25 pressures and a sack.  Not quite what the Giants envisioned when they selected what they believed to be a perennial Pro Bowl guard.  Center Nick Gates was graded at 59.5 and allowed 16 pressures with no sacks.  Gates struggled with calling blitz converge at the line, although he did improve as he saw what defenses tried to do.   Shane Lemieux was the worst-ranked offensive lineman with a PFF grade of 32.2 when he allowed 25 pressures and 5 sacks.  Matt Peart, who had a grade at 69.7 and 9 pressures and 2 sacks, was recently replaced by Nate Solder at right tackle.  Solder’s grade in 2019 was 64.9, but at left guard.  Solder also allowed an NFL high 11 sacks from that position.  

Now conventional wisdom would say that the offensive line is the reason for Daniel Jones’ poor performance in 2020 (14 Games 3027 Yds 12 TD 18 turnovers).   Without Saquon Barkley last season, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett called only 50 total RPO (run-pass option) plays the entire season.  Teams with mobile quarterbacks, like Arizona and Baltimore, ran more than three and four times the RPO plays.  With Jones’s athletic ability to run with the football, this seems like a low number.   So the blame should not be solely on the offensive line but play calling as well.

Without Saquon Barkley in the lineup, the Giants were blitzed on 45% of their dropbacks.    That could be a combination of Barkley’s absence and the offensive line’s lack of ability to pick up the blitz.  Daniel Jones also saw over 30% of his dropbacks come under pressure.  That pressure led to Jones taking 45 sacks during his dreadful 2020 season.  

Daniel Jones’s 2020 was nothing to write home about.  Even though the Giants were 7th in the NFL in drops with 27.  The Giants ranked 11th in the league in bad throw percentage, with Jones having more than 17% off-target throws.   In addition to Jones making bad throws, Jones also ranked 21st in throwaways and 23rd in on target percentage.  So Daniel Jones has to take responsibility for perhaps holding onto the ball too long and not throwing it away.

So the offensive line woes seem to be a combination of play calling, poor offensive line play, and poor quarterback play.   This combination of coordinator, quarterback, and offensive line ranked 31st in the passing yards and 31st in points for 2020.  There is no place to go but up.  The combination of poor offensive line play, poor QB decision-making, and unimaginative play calling may combine for another long season for the Giants.  Getting back Saquon Barkley may help, as defenses will have to respect his breakout ability.  In the long run, this offense will only do as well as Jones allows it to be– even with a full complement of weapons at Jones’s disposal.