John Michael Schmitz Aims to Take Big Jump in Year 2

Schmitz is coming off an inconsistent rookie season that included four missed games due to injury.
Dec 25, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants center John Michael Schmitz Jr. (61) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dec 25, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants center John Michael Schmitz Jr. (61) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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The good news for New York Giants center John Michael Schmitz (not that he probably cares in this instance) is that he made Pro Football Focus’s list of Top 32 centers in the league.

Barely, but he made it. Schmitz, who is entering his second season, came in 26th out of 32 centers based on his play last season on author Thomas Valentine’s list.

“Schmitz struggled as the Giants' starting center in his rookie 2023 season, earning the lowest overall grade at the position, as well as the worst pass-blocking grade,” Valentine wrote.

“The environment around him wasn’t ideal, and the Giants will hope that their former second-round pick can improve in Year 2.”

Let’s get a few things straight here. First, we have never understood how PFF can grade offensive linemen if they don’t know the exact line call being made. Second, how much of their pass-blocking grade is a result of the guards on either side not doing what he was supposed to, thus bringing down the entire operation?

That said, Schmitz (PFF’s choice for the Giants' 2024 breakout candidate, by the way) did have an up-and-down rookie campaign, and we suspect the shoulder issues he dealt with midway through the year may have played a part in it. He missed Weeks 5-7 with that injury and when he returned, his technique and mental approach began to fade whereby he began losing more snaps than he won. 

As a result, Schmitz did not play with more power throughout his rookie season, and there were some mobility issues that cropped up in his performance. He ended up missing Week 17 with a shin injury.

Schmitz is the first to acknowledge that his rookie season wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been and that he’s been doing something about that this off-season to ensure that his second NFL season is significantly better.

“I feel like for me, just watching back the games through this off-season and honing in on the technique and just the play, every single day, you can't focus on a million different things,” Schmitz said earlier this off-season when reflecting back on his rookie campaign. 

“You've got to pick one thing that you want to get better at each and every day and just hone in on that. If it was footwork one day, if it was hand placement the other day, if it was, I don't know, ID'ing fronts and just the knowledge of the game, that was a big off-season for me of my football IQ and just continuing to get better with that.” 

In his film study, Schmitz discovered his footwork, among other things, needed some refinement.  

“A lot of it was my footwork and that second level blocking for me, maintaining blocks,” he said. 

He also wants to be more of a leader on that offensive line since as the center, he’s tasked with orchestrating the activity of the guys on either side of him.

“I think the biggest thing for me when times are tough, you really know who a true leader is when you hit adversity,” Schmitz said of how he hopes to develop as a leader. 

“All the guys look to someone, and I want to be that for our room and take charge.”

So far, so good according to veteran teammate Jon Runyan Jr.

“It has really been amazing playing next to John Michael,” Runyan said. “If I would've come in here not knowing his background, I would've thought he was a five-year veteran. He comes in here and he takes it seriously. He is on top of his stuff. He rarely makes a mistake, he gets everybody set on the offensive line.”

That kind of dedication and smart play, Runyan believes, should make a big difference for the Giants offensive line this season.

“Having a center like that is awesome. It helps everybody out, the five across. Helps out the quarterback, helps out the running back when everybody is set, so having John Michael in there has been really important.” 



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Patricia Traina

PATRICIA TRAINA

Patricia Traina has covered the New York Giants for over three decades for various media outlets. She is the host of the Locked On Giants podcast and the author of "The Big 50: New York Giants: The Men and Moments that Made the New York Giants" (Triumph Books, September 2020). View Patricia's full bio.