BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. – If you were paying attention in any shape or form to the New York Giants’ week one matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, you saw, on display, the same old problem had once again plagued Big Blue: the offensive line. Granted, 80% of its personnel is different than last year, and it wasn’t all bad…. but no amount of Miracle-Gro can turn Ereck Flowers into a perennially good right tackle. Forget perennial: Giants fans would even accept an Annual Flowers. The problem is: Flowers will never sustain the climate in the Meadowlands, no matter how many nutrients are in his environment.
Quite frankly, Flowers was bad throughout the preseason and even worse during the Giants’ first regular season game. Not to be out-Swiss-Cheesed, though: right guard Patrick Omameh was ranked even worse than Flowers in week one!
#Giants offensive line grades from week 1:
LT Solder- 67.1
LG Hernandez- 63.1
C Halapio- 65.7
RG Omameh- 48.3
RT Flowers- 49.6#BigBlue
— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) September 10, 2018
The (Recent) Past
This offseason, it was abundantly clear that New York Giants’ new general manager Dave Gettlemen prioritized improving one of the worst units in East Rutherford: the Giants offensive line. He made two major splashes and a personnel move:
- On March 14, 2018, three months after being named GM, Gettleman made Nate Solder (a round one pick in the 2001 NFL Draft and 2x Super Bowl Champion) the highest paid offensive lineman in football.
- A month later, Gettleman and the Big Blue brass drafted Will Hernandez from UTEP in the second round.
- Despite Flowers’ draft profile being on target (“Pass protection needs plenty of work. Footwork gets sloppy and undisciplined, causing base to narrow”), Gettleman gave him another chance to play at right tackle.
While the left side of the offensive line quietly blended in against Jacksonville’s top-ranked defensive line, there seems to be no antidote to remedy the right side of the line. True: at least the intense pressure will not be coming from 37 year old Eli Manning’s blindside. Major problems exist. So, right now, what can the Giants do about it?
Assuming that the Giants would prefer to work with the talent they already have, a possible plug for the right side may come from a combination of left guard Will Hernandez and versatile lineman Chad Wheeler. Desperate times (yes, even after week one), call for desperate measures…
Move #1: Move the undrafted lineman Chad Wheeler up in the depth chart at right tackle and bench Ereck Flowers. Frankly, and quite simply: if Wheeler is worse than Flowers, what is he doing on an NFL depth chart? What’s worse than Flowers’ 49.6 grade from Pro Football Focus in week one? The same company ranked Wheeler as having the the third best pass blocking efficiency in the Pac-12 (2016). He can’t be any worse than Flowers – that experiment is over.
Move #2: Move Hernandez to right guard. What impressed me about Hernandez during the draft process was his versatility, toughness, and his athleticism. With that, he could, theoretically, make the switch to the right side of the line. Did you know he joined boxing gyms in college… for fun?! His spot will be filled (at least in the short-term) by John Greco, the next man up on the Giants’ depth chart at left guard. Greco has eleven years of experience and had protected future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees’ blindside before coming to New York.
— Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan) April 27, 2018
Giants Head Coach Pat Shurmur told reporters in May that his expectation for his guards is that they “play on both sides of the line, especially young ones. That’s part of a guard learning it the right way; he’s going to have to take reps on both sides.” When I asked Hernandez if that switch was something the Giants had asked of him, he replied: “No. I mean, first to start off, the coaches know I’ll play wherever they put me. Second, I’ve been put on the left as of right now. I’m going to stay there…. If [the coaches] want to put me on the right, they’ll do it, if not they’ll keep me on the left….As of right now, I’m just on the left.” That does not completely rule out a Hernandez switch to the right side – the door is still open.
From Las Vegas, and having played college football in Texas, Hernandez is not concerned whatsoever about playing in the frigid New Jersey winters. “I’m actually excited for it. I’m one of those guys that keeps the room at 60-something degrees. I like it cold. I like the cold, so I’m excited for it”. Hernandez is not phased by the cold, but what about the snow? “I’ve seen it before. Just 40 mins outside of Vegas you get snow [at Mount Charleston]. I’ve been around it every single year…. You just have to drive a little further to get to it when you’re in Vegas.”
Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is not doing the same thing repeatedly, it is doing the same thing repeatedly and wishing for different results. Lucky for the Giants, it will not take Einstein to solve their offensive line’s issues: just a Coach McCartan switch-a-roni.
John Jastremski and I discussed this, and MANY other topics on WFAN New York on August 24, 2018.