Countdown to Camp: What Will the Starting Offensive Tackle Lineup Look Like?
It is no stretch to say that in 2019 the offensive tackle position was a let-down for the Giants. Unlike the guards, which were the strength of the offensive line, starting tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmer had a very down season.
The results were that running back Saquon Barkley was left to "bring his own block" during outside runs, and quarterback Daniel Jones was never able to get comfortable in a pocket that was crumbling from the outside. Further, the consensus after the season was that the tackles needed to improve before the 2020 season.
In steps new head coach Joe Judge, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, and offensive line coach Mark Colombo and it was a given there would be changes at the position.
Remmers left town and signed a one-year contract with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Giants signed former Cowboys tackle Cameron Fleming to a one-year deal and then drafted University of Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth pick in the 2020 draft. Those two guys join Solder as the linemen competing for the two tackle positions.
Solder is the incumbent left tackle and still has two years remaining on the $62 million contract that he signed in 2018. His first two seasons as a Giant at left tackle have been underwhelming.
Last season was probably his worst as a starting tackle in the NFL. Per PFF, he allowed 11 sacks, some of which may have not necessarily been his fault, but the consistency in his game (which might have been due in part to a suspected sore ankle) was not very reassuring.
With the addition of new offensive line coach Mark Colombo, the Giants are hoping that they can bring the best out of Solder.
There are also questions about whether Solder will continue as the left tackle or maybe make a move to the right side. A move to the right side has served in the past as a reinvigorating experience for many left tackles.
It has allowed them to prolong their career or cover deficiencies discovered while playing on the left side. Obviously, for the amount of money they are paying him, the Giants would love for Solder to produce at a Pro Bowl level.
Thomas is the shiny new toy that everyone wants to see the Giants take for a test drive. According to many draft experts and college talent evaluators, the rookie was the highest-rated tackle prospect.
When an organization invests a top-five pick in you, they usually expect immediate dividends to be paid. You can expect that Thomas will be given every opportunity to earn a starting position. The question for Thomas is if he earns a starting position, will he begin at left tackle or right?
That answer might be more predicated on what happens with the other two tackles, but Thomas has the most scenarios. There's a chance he could begin the season on the bench as the swing tackle and be brought along slowly.
After all, he is a young player who didn't exhaust his college eligibility, so he still has elements to his game that he must clean up. Some pundits believe he should start on the right side with the idea that he transitions to the left side in 2021. Others think the Giants should throw him in the deep water immediately on the left side.
Fleming is the wild card in this scenario. He will walk into training camp with the best knowledge of the offense coming from Dallas the past couple of seasons.
He will also look at this as his best opportunity to grab a starting job and earn a multi-year contract. Fleming has proven that he can be effective on both sides. He was very effective in his three starts last season, and his three starts in 2018. At worse, he's a starting level backup at both positions.
At best he's the reason why Solder gets relegated to the bench. It's a great position to be in for Fleming, but he also knows that the NFL's politics and economics are against him.
Thomas is a high first-round pick and is expected to step in as a Day 1 starter. Solder is one of the highest-paid players on the team, so they will get every opportunity and, most likely, the benefit of the doubt. But Fleming is dangerous and will be a factor in this competition.
This battle will ultimately come down to one question; what motivation does Solder have left to try to be great? If he wants to give the effort, you will most likely see Solder and Thomas on the field together with Thomas starting at right tackle.
If he is indeed done, as many believe he is, Fleming will outplay him, and then you will most like see Thomas start at left tackle and Fleming settle in at right tackle.