Eli Manning was under constant pressure for the majority of his final years at the helm of the New York Giants offense. Yet, despite seeing their Hall of Fame quarterback beaten and battered on a weekly basis, the front office continued to pass on proven talent on the offensive line each offseason in favor of the Patrick Omamehs of the world. In return, Manning continued to be treated like a punching bag.
The organization finally changed their approach upon the insertion of the Hog Molly lovin’ Dave Gettleman as the team’s general manager in 2018. While Manning was never able to fully reap the benefits of the additional talent upfront, second-year QB Daniel Jones hopefully will.
Big Blue’s 2020 projected starting-five offensive line have all been handpicked by Gettleman over the past three offseasons, either through the draft or free agency. That, of course, includes nabbing offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart with two of his first three picks in this past April’s NFL Draft.
Yet, despite the drastic changes along their offensive line, the unit has seemingly taken a hit compared to the rest of the NFL. The Giants’ unit ranks as only the 20th-best offensive line in the NFL heading into the 2020 season, per Pro Football Focus. This on the heels of finishing 17th in PFF’s 2019 regular-season rankings.
With that said, PFF’s Steve Palazzolo acknowledged that New York’s “line is heading in the right direction,” namely due to the addition of their 2020 1st-round pick.
Andrew Thomas is a Huge Upgrade for Big Blue
When Mike Remmers inked a free-agent deal this offseason with the defending Super Bowl Champion, Kansas City Chiefs, the Giants lost their starting right tackle from a season ago. However, chances are his presence won’t be sorely missed in East Rutherford as Palazzolo detailed, especially with the addition of the 4th-overall draft pick Andrew Thomas to replace him.
At right tackle, fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas steps in after Mike Remmers tied for 10th with 40 pressures allowed. Thomas was the highest-ranked tackle on the PFF draft board and was the only player to rank in the top five as both a pass and run blocker in the draft class. Thomas should be able to step in as a solid right tackle and could eventually play on the left side if New York moves on from Solder.
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Nate Solder Must ‘Return to His Previous Form’
Guard Kevin Zeitler is clearly the Giants’ best offensive lineman at the moment, while Thomas is likely the most appealing. However, no one may be more important to Big Blue’s success in 2020 than veteran tackle Nate Solder.
As PFF sorely pointed out to the dismay of Giants fans everywhere, Solder is fresh off the single-worst season his pro career. The former 1st-round pick finished with an atrocious 64.8 overall grade in 2019. To further drive home Solder’s struggles, the tackle allowed a league-high 56 pressures. He wasn’t any better in the run game, posting a 52.9 run-blocking grade, ranking 70th out of 89 qualifiers.
His poor play, matched with the additions of Thomas, Peart and free-agent addition Cam Fleming at tackle has led many to wonder if Solder’s time is wearing thin in New York.
It appears highly unlikely at the moment that Solder makes it through the entirety of his four-year contract, which is set to expire following the 2021 season. With that said, chances are he’ll be sticking around New York for at least one more year, hopefully tapping into his previous form from his New England Patriots days while he’s at it.
Solder graded in the 70s as a pass blocker in all but one full year as a starter, and he was once one of the most dependable run-blocking tackles in the league, so the Giants need him to return to his previous form.
The thought that Solder would ever live up to the excessive amount of money Gettleman threw his way a few years back was never realistic. At the time, he was an aging, regressing tackle, who never earned an All-Pro nod or Pro Bowl berth in his career. That sentiment still reigns true today.
However, if he can prove to be at least solid in 2020 while working alongside Thomas and a much improved overall group, Palazzolo believes the Giants “could sneak into the top half of offensive line units this season.”