Shane Lemieux, the former Oregon offensive lineman, looked like he could become the next David Diehl, a Giants fifth-round draft pick who played offensive line and emerged as a surprise starter as a rookie.
Well, not quite. Whereas Diehl, who like Lemieux sported No. 66, was a starter from Day 1, Lemieux's NFL debut came about when Will Hernandez, the team's starting left guard, tested positive for COVID-19.
Once Lemieux, then a rookie, stepped into the starting lineup, he never left the field, even after Hernandez recovered from the virus. Some believe that was because the virus wiped Hernandez out physically, but Lemieux's play had much to do with that changing of the guard.
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Once inserted into the lineup, Lemieux lived up to his reputation from his days at Oregon as being a powerful run blocker. Perhaps by no coincidence, the Giants running game that season also started to perform better on runs between the tackles late in the season.
The following season, Lemieux, having clamped on to the starting job, only made it through 17 snaps, unable to play thanks to a knee injury suffered early in training camp that turned out to be season-ending.
Entering 2022, Lemieux is fully healthy and seems ready to go--he did not sport the red medical jersey, so many of his teammates had during camp. And he's looking to pick up where he left off at the end of his rookie season, but with some added improvement to his game.
What He Brings
As previously noted, Lemieux's presence on the offensive line immediately helped the running game and was a significant factor in the team's four-game winning streak during his rookie campaign.
Lemieux has a natural feel for every aspect of run-blocking. Some think that pulling is what he does best, but he’s got a lot more in his arsenal.
His combo blocks brim with power and efficiency. His solo run blocks create clean standoffs and space. He is also extremely alert, and his blocks are so clean that he easily separates from one block to pick off another defender.
Lemieux showed he could adjust on the move within the pit chaos without the game ever seeming too fast for him, and his run blocking was clean.
On the flip side, Lemieux struggled with pass blocking, though again, to be fair, he improved with each passing week as his recognition of what was being thrown at him also improved. Part of that might have been due to a need for additional strength to better hold up against bullrushes and other moves defenders threw at him. Another aspect was simply working to improve his punch, awareness, and balance.
To his credit, Lewmiuex worked on all that after his rookie campaign, but the season-ending knee injury kept everyone from seeing the fruits of that work. Still, there was enough of Lemieux on tape to like, which is why he appears to be the incumbent at left guard ahead of 2022 training camp.
Lemieux is in Year 3 of a four-year rookie deal with $3,642,140. He is due to count for $981,785 against the team's cap this season, or 0.5 percent. In the unlikely event he doesn't make the 53-man roster, the Giants would save $985,000 and be charged with dead-money hits of $86,785 this year and next year.
Lemieux worked with the starting offensive line during the spring, suggesting he is the incumbent. That said, there will still be a competition, as the team did bring in some veterans along the offensive line's interior.
For Lemieux to hang onto the job, he must show that his pass protection skills have taken a quantum leap. If that happens, the Giants, with Andrew Thomas at left tackle, will have a solid young left side of their offensive line for the next decade.