Giants general manager Dave Gettleman put his money where his mouth was, making good on a pledge to upgrade a Giants offensive line that, in the last two seasons, has allowed 47 and 43 sacks, respectively.
Despite the addition of first-rounder Andrew Thomas, who figures to be one of the starting five offensive linemen, ESPN Fantasy Football Forecaster Mike Clay, who puts together annual statistical forecasts for all 32 NFL teams, doesn’t see the Giants offensive line doing much better in 2020.
According to Clay’s 2020 NFL Projections, the Giants offensive line could yield as many as 44 sacks, 42 of which are forecasted to be absorbed by starting quarterback Daniel Jones and two of which will be taken by projected backup Colt McCoy.
I don’t profess to understand the intricacies of how Clay arrives at his projections (though I did have him as a guest on the LockedOn Giants podcast last year, and he did offer an overview of his methodology).
Agree or disagree, there is a lot we still don't know about the Giants offensive line. We still don’t know who the starting five offensive linemen will be, nor do we know what specific trends offensive coordinator Jason Garrett plans to run with the Giants.
But I do understand a reason for potential concern about the Giants offensive line.
First, despite the additions of Thomas, Matt Peart, and Shane Lemieux in the draft and Cam Fleming via free agency, remember that three of those players are rookies (and two—Peart and Lemieux--might not even be starters this year).
Further, outside of the guards, the line’s configuration won’t be set until the team goes through training camp.
That means that while Thomas is likely to be one of the starting five, head coach Joe Judge has declined to say on which side the rookie will play.
And let’s not forget the starting center position. While logically, it makes sense to plug Spencer Pulley in as the starter considering his experience with the position and the fact that he would have a second-year quarterback behind him, Pulley is not a lock for the role.
Lemieux, Nick Gates will likely challenge Pulley, and, if he’s resigned and cleared to resume football activity, Jon Halapio. Of that group, he has the most experience at the position, but don’t expect Judge and his staff to make personnel decisions purely on any seniority.
But there is another factor involved here and that Jones, who is entering his second season. Jones is still getting his feet wet at the NFL level as far as reading more complex defenses and adjusting protection calls.
Although he’s been hard at work, this off-season studying and breaking down film, seeing things live where you have a split second to make a decision is quite a different ball game.
There are things that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett can probably do to mitigate some of the hiccups the offensive line might experience at first.
But here’s the good news. While the offensive line might start shaky at first—that usually seems to be the norm coming out of training camp as it’s rare that the starting unit takes all the preseason snaps together—from the Giants perspective, the key will be about progress.
Are the mistakes that are made in the first couple of weeks of the season disappearing, or are they being repeated?
Are the linemen relatively healthy throughout, or are any of them showing struggles related to an injury?
And what is Jones doing to help keep opposing defenders from knocking him on his back?
These are the key questions that no mathematical formula can begin to measure. While it’s fun to see what Fantasy Football experts are predicting, it’s probably not a good idea to get too worked up over the numbers one way or another.