The expectations of rookie offensive tackle Evan Neal are nearly as big as the man himself.
Fortunately, the 6-foot-7 Neal is up to the challenge of stepping into what has been a volatile offensive line situation that has seen a different starting right tackle the last few years.
"I'm just going out there and doing what I love, man, just playing ball, just trying to get better, grasp the playbook, just having fun," Neal said earlier this spring. "Doesn't get any better than this."
Well, it could for the Giants, who have been trying to fix their offensive line for what seems like an eternity at this point. In Neal, the former Alabama left tackle who fell to the Giants with the No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft, they are finally confident of having the bookend to left tackle Andrew Thomas.
In Neal, NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter sees a player with an excellent chance of being voted to the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie Team this year.
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"If the Giants are to take a step forward in 2022, the offensive line must improve. Neal's power on the right side points them in the right direction," Reuter wrote. "Saquon Barkley could be in for a rebound year running behind the massive Neal and new starting right guard Mark Glowinski."
Barkley isn't the only skill-position player that stands to benefit from Neal's arrival. Quarterback Daniel Jones, whom the Giants still don't fully know what they have, figures to be the biggest benefactor.
Jones has famously been stuck behind some pretty lousy offensive lines since arriving on the scene in 2019, and that has not helped the team arrive at an accurate evaluation of what they have in the former Duke quarterback.
The hope is that with an improved offensive line featuring Neal, Thomas, Glowinski, enter Jon FEiciano, and projected left guard Shane Lemieux, the team will be able to gain clarity on what they have with Jones and Barkley, two of their most significant looming contract decisions after the 2022 season.
What He Brings
Neal, 6-foot-7 and 360 pounds, is massive--there's no other word to describe him. But unlike most bigger guys, Neal is very light on his feet and quick for his size.
He does a nice job of consistently bending his knees and playing low to gain leverage. At times, he might not look like the most graceful out there, but he does strike with a violent punch and uses his long wingspan to swallow up defenders.
Neal is quick enough to get to the second level, he's physical at the point of attack and highly competitive despite his off-field, laid-back demeanor.
Want an underrated aspect of his game? He's versatile, having played tackle and guard over his college career. He played left tackle last season, so he'll have to reacclimate himself to the right side. He'll also have to smooth out some wrinkles in his game regarding facing counter moves, as he's shown himself to have some balance/re-direction issues.
Overall, the Giants appear to have gotten themselves a good one for their offensive line--a large talent who has been reliable and mostly injury-clean.
Neal is in the first year of a four-year rookie contract worth $24,551,256. The deal includes the first-round option for a fifth season, features a $15.035 million signing bonus and an additional $9,515,796 in guaranteed money.
Neal will count for $4.463 million against this year's cap, 2.2 percent of the team's total cap.
Barring any injuries, Neal will be the starting right tackle on this team. It will also be interesting to see if the Giants send more running plays to the right side, where Neal's big frame is capable of blocking out the sun while also being powerful enough to blow open holes big enough for a Mack truck to fit through.