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Yoda must have been referring to the shabby state of the Giants offensive line, right?
Everyone’s favorite green Jedi Master famously said, “Do or do not. There is no try.’’ The next line easily could have been, “Not fixed is the offensive line I fear.’’
It has been nearly a decadelong crusade and the failure cannot be blamed on a lack of trying. There is no doubt the Giants have tried to change the fortunes of this particular position group. This sad tale is not about neglect or ignoring. It is about putting assets and energy into correcting a problem and falling short, time and again.
The new Giants regime, like those that came before, will try in the next few days to correct the problem. Starting with, but not ending with, the first round Thursday night, and on into rounds 2 and 3 on Friday and rounds 4-7 on Saturday, first-year general manager Joe Schoen will look to use his first NFL draft calling the shots to increase the talent level on the entire roster, and, perhaps, send some extra attention to improving that pesky offensive line.
“The offensive line is important,’’ Schoen said. “There’s several other positions that are important for us to go compete. I understand, again, I wasn’t here in the past. I’m not sure exactly everything that went on. We tried through free agency with the resources we have to upgrade the offensive line the best we can. That will continue through the draft. Again, if you want to build it up on both sides of the ball, build it up front. Offensive line, that’s very important.’’
It is a good thing Schoen is not sure “exactly everything that went on’’ the past few years attempting to cure what ailed the offensive line. It is quite a sad story. The first real attempt after the second of two Super Bowl victories in a four-year span came in 2013, when then-general manager Jerry Reese used the 19th overall pick in that draft to select Justin Pugh out of Syracuse. The next year, the Giants used their 2014 second-round pick on Weston Richburg from Colorado State. The next year, the Giants used their first-round selection in the 2015 draft — the No. 9 overall pick — on massive Ereck Flowers from Miami.
Those three high draft picks in successive years were supposed to set the foundation for a new-look offensive line. It did not turn out that way. Pugh proved to be a capable tackle but eventually transitioned to a solid guard. Richburg spent one wasted year at guard before moving to his natural center position, where he played well, but not well enough, and eventually got hurt and then traded. Flowers was dismal, struggling on the field at left tackle and off the field to ever grow comfortable in his own skin in the New York media market.
The failure of Flowers prompted then-general manager Dave Gettleman to open the coffers in free agency in the 2018 offseason on Nate Solder, giving the former Patriots starter a bloated four-year, $62 million contract to save the day at left tackle. Flowers balked at switching sides, got benched and then released. Meanwhile, Solder was a breath of fresh air in the locker room but did not live up to expectations on the field.
There was another wave of draft moves designed to aid the offensive line. Will Hernandez was taken in the second round in 2018, the Giants thrilled this sturdy guard was there for them. In 2020, a first-round pick — No. 4 overall — was used on Andrew Thomas to fill the void at left tackle. That same year, a third-round pick was used on Matt Peart, a developmental tackle with all the physical attributes, only in need of seasoning.
Again, more misses than hits here. Hernandez was as durable as they come but plateaued, never became more than a serviceable starter and was not re-signed. Thomas had a rough time as a rookie but made steady improvement and is now a fixture. The development the Giants needed to see out of Peart never happened.
This is all in the past, and Schoen arrives with a clean slate. He did not have much salary cap space to work with in free agency and came away with a starting guard, Mike Glowinski, and a presumptive starting center, Jon Feliciano. Schoen inherited Thomas, a big plus. He might be able to find a starting guard with what is already on the roster — Shane Lemieux, Ben Bredeson and Max Garcia are options — and he was primed to use one of his two first-round picks this year on a right tackle.
“It’s just the need, the value, where that is,’’ Schoen said. “You just got to make sure it mirrors up or you’re going to be in the same boat. If you try to force it, it’s not the right value, we’re sitting up here next year saying the same thing. We needed a guard, so we reached for him, but the value wasn’t right.
“You have to make sure when those two meet, they mirror each other, that’s when you’re going to make the best decisions.’’