New York Giants Training Camp Preview - OL Zach Fulton

After cutting veteran guard Kevin Zeitler, the Giants brought in former Texans offensive lineman Zach Fulton on a one-year deal for depth. What are they getting in Fulton?
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The New York Giants felt they had no choice but to part ways with Kevin Zeitler, their starting right guard since 2019.

An argument could have been made that they did have a choice, that instead of cutting Zeitler outright for the $12 million cap savings, they could have sought a pay cut.

But the $12 million cap savings they got after releasing Zeitler was too good to pass up (and, in retrospect, needed given the free-agency spending spree the Giants went on).

That all said, the Giants, in replacing Zeitler's veteran presence in their offensive line room, signed 6’5", 321-pound guard Zach Fulton, who spent the last three seasons with the Texans.

Originally a 2014 sixth-round draft pick by Kansas City, Fulton was a salary-cap cut himself this past off-season coming off a forgettable campaign.

He had been a career starter for the Texans at right guard and figures to be the Giants fallback plan should Will Hernandez, a career left guard who the coaching staff has designated to make the transition to right guard, struggle.

What He Brings

To say that Fulton, who also has some experience playing center, had a rough go of things last season would probably be putting things mildly. According to Pro Football Focus, Fulton's 39 pressures allowed were the second-most pressures among all guards in 2020, and his 11 sacks as charged by PFF was the highest total allowed by a guard last season.

Matt Weston of Battle Red Blog summed up Fulton's tenure in Houston as follows:

The former Kansas City guard and center, who became a worse guard in Houston, like every offensive lineman under Mike Develin’s watch, was a poor pass blocker, and his whateverness at the first level, and problems reaching the second level, added to the Texans terrible run game. He and right tackle Tytus Howard never really meshed at all.

If Fulton were that bad, what was it that attracted the Giants? Well, for one, his experience and willingness to accept a Veteran Salary Benefit deal were two big reasons.

Another could be that Fulton is a little bit better in run blocking than last year's tape might suggest, as Nick Falato noted in his Good, Great and Ugly write-up of Fulton.

Last season, Fulton did a nice job in cutting down on his holding penalties from the year prior, dropping from eight in 2019 to three in 2020. This can be attributed to his deploying better technique.

Speaking of technique, that’s where things fell off the rails, at least in terms of the pass blocking aspect of his game. The crux of Fulton's issues in pass protection include balance, footwork, and handling immediate power.

Simply put, Fulton, who is plenty strong enough to win his battles in the trenches, ends up hurting himself with a combination of poor technique that magnifies his athletic shortcomings rather than hiding them.

His Contract

Fulton signed a one-year Veteran Salary Benefit deal worth $1.212 million but will only count for $987,500 against the 2021 cap. If he doesn't make the roster, the Giants will recoup $850,000 in cap space and will be charged $137,500 in dead money against the 2021 cap.

Roster Projection/Expectations

As noted above, Fulton, a low-cost option, will serve as an insurance policy just in case plans at either guard position don't pan out.

The Giants probably would prefer that the young talent emerge and begin to solidify, which is why Fulton projects to work with the second-team offensive line. Still, if injuries or performance issues arise, the Giants at least covered themselves by adding experience on the offensive line. 

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