Three new starters along the offensive line, including the No. 4 overall draft pick, and the New York Giants woes when it comes to protecting the quarterback look just as, if not worse than ever.
Through the first four of the weeks of the season, Big Blue has surrendered the third-most sacks in football (14) as Daniel Jones continues to frantically maneuver the pocket as if he’s avoiding a loan shark. From the eye-test, many have pegged offseason addition, Cameron Fleming, as the weakest link on an overall underwhelming unit. After last Sunday’s outing, you would think that the Giants themselves feel the same.
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Joe Judge Denies Giants ‘Pulled’ Fleming
Fleming found himself on the bench during the final drive of the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, making way for third-round rookie Matt Peart.
However, when asked by the media this week about “pulling” Fleming, head coach Joe Judge fired back, adamantly opposing the notion.
“We didn’t pull Cam Fleming,” Judge proclaimed, adding that playing Peart was pre-planned ahead of the game. The coach later reaffirmed his stance, noting “there was no pulling Cam Fleming” and that “we didn’t take him out or something happened with him in the game.”
While it appears that Fleming will continue to man the job at right tackle for the time being, Judge sounded thoroughly impressed by Peart’s play against the Rams.
“I was pleased with how Matt played when he was in there. There were some things to learn with, some things to build on right there. I think he’s a guy who is a developing player who has a skillset. The more we can keep him involved, the more progress he’ll make.”
Blaming Fleming is a Lazy Narrative
It’s easy to pinpoint the bulk of New York’s o-line struggles on Fleming. Yet, that’s not to say he’s deserving of it.
While Giants fans may roll their eyes at the analytics, the fact of the matter is Fleming is the G-Men’s highest-graded offensive lineman through the first four weeks of the season, per Pro Football Focus.
Cam Fleming is the highest graded player for the Giants offense against the Rams, and is the highest graded OL for the team through 4 games. pic.twitter.com/p9ieFZmHLy
— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) October 5, 2020
Furthermore, even if we disagree with the analytics, are we really going to bag on a guy who has been a swing tackle/backup for the majority of his career?
In reality, if you want to blame anyone, blame the Giants, namely general manager Dave Gettleman. For all his Hog Molly fan fiction Gettleman spews to the media, his reworked offensive line has been nothing but a crapshoot since taking over the helm in New York.
Yes, some things were, and remain, out of the Giants’ hands, mainly Nate Solder opting out of the season and Andrew Thomas enduring growing pains as a 21-year-old rookie. The latter scenario was somewhat expected to happen. Solder’s loss, on the other hand, hurt the unit as a whole, although it’s not like he was producing overly well to begin with.
While we can overlook those two matters for now, what we can’t overlook is the plugging in of a second-year undrafted free-agent into a position he’s never previously played while simultaneously failing to bring in any legitimate competition to push him. This is exactly the case with Nick Gates, who showed promise in 2019 as a tackle/guard combo, but has since fallen flat on his face at center, posting a 47.6 overall PFF grade this season.
The same goes for the team’s handling of Fleming. In reality, if you’re left wanting more from a player who over his six NFL seasons before arriving in New York started just 26 of his 75 career games, that’s on you.
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