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Is Evan Neal a Better Fit at Guard or Tackle?

Coach Gene Clemons pulls up the tape and makes his case.

When the New York Giants drafted offensive lineman Even Neal, the hope was that they had found their bookend to line up opposite of Andrew Thomas.

However, over a season and a half into the Neal era, many fans have already given up on Alabama product being the answer at right tackle. While it is entirely too early to believe that Neal will not figure it out, it is proper to ask if his struggles are a product of not being a natural fit on the right side.

After all, outside of his sophomore season in Tuscaloosa, his high school and collegiate career was primarily spent on the left side. So although we know he won't replace Thomas, there's no reason why he could not play alongside Thomas.

Left guard is a glaring weakness on the Giants offensive line but someone like Neal could bolster that position and conceal his deficiencies.

The tape has shown that Neal struggles against the speed rush off the edge. At right tackle, he's left on an island, and the results have been poor, but there is more to this game than pass protection, and Neal has done some nice work as a run block that has mostly gone unnoticed.

As a guard, he would no longer be on an island and the speed rush from between the tackles would be much more manageable than the speed rush off the edge. He would solidify the left side of the offensive line and provide the team with a dominant side to run behind.

Let's explore Neal's qualities that we think would make him a Pro Bowl-caliber left guard.

Double Teams

Neal is great on double teams. His size and athleticism allow him to collapse a defender and open up massive lanes for running backs to run through. His double teams never get split, and in many cases over this and last season, Neal was not blessed with a guard who could bring the same level of power and intensity as he does. 

Imagine pairing him with Thomas and watching them collapse the entire left side of the defense. Both are athletic enough to peel off the double team and block a second-level defender, and whoever is left can handle the block on their own.

He would also be a big help on double teams with Schmidt against dominant nose guards.

Individual Movement

Say what you want about Neal, but the one thing you better mention is he can move, and he moves people. As a guard, he's big and strong, which allows him to get movement on those stubborn nose guards who seemed anchored to the ground.

He has a powerful punch that stops a bullrush, and if he catches a defender flat-footed, he can push them into a linebacker's lap or plant them on the ground. One of the other underrated aspects of his game is his ability to pull or climb to the second level. 

There is not a lot of opportunity to do it at tackle in the Giant's scheme, but the guards do quite a bit of it. Neal on trap blocks or kick-out blocks would be devastating. Watching that mountain of a man pull around the corner or run at defensive backs on a screen pass would also be scary.


Most people think that if you play left tackle, then right tackle should be simple, but that's not the case. Most basketball players can not make a layup equally with either hand. Yes, in an empty gym with nobody around them, they may look good, but the story might be different when the bodies start flying. 

The same logic applies for a tackle. Some are just naturally better kick sliding to the left than the right. Neal has never looked comfortable on the right side of the line. Feel and comfort play a large role in success.

A return to the left side, even at guard, is a return to familiarity and comfort. It is a return to confidence. Never forget that most Giants fans were salivating over drafting Neal because of what he did playing on the left side at Alabama.

As a true freshman, he started at left guard, and as a junior, he was an All-American at left tackle. The move would allow him to tap into his natural gifts while also building the confidence that has to be shaken after struggles and injuries.

Final Thoughts

Giants fans need to slow down on throwing players away so quickly. They ran Justin Pugh out of town, and he went on to have a good career as a guard with the Cardinals. Now, many want him to be a part of the immediate future even though he has played poorly.

Ereck Flowers was a young flameout at left tackle who revived his career at left guard. Neal’s ceiling is infinitely higher than both of those players. Like Flowers, he was drafted at 21 and is only 23 now. 

Throwing Neal away instead of exhausting every possibility to get the max out of him would just be history repeating itself for a franchise that has struggled to evaluate offensive line talent.

This move for Neal--regardless of what general manager Joe Schoen said to the media--should not be looked at as a last resort but as a pivot, an adjustment, or a market correction.