When the Giants re-signed John Jerry on March 16th, speculation ran rampant as the reason for his rejoining the team. Was he brought back as depth or will be be competing for a starting job? Only Tom Coughlin knows for sure, but as Giants360 prepares for the NFL draft, the question of the starting five next September comes to for forefront. Are these five men already on the Giants roster, or will another big body be added on April 30th? The identity of four of the five offensive line starters are clear:
Will Beatty: While not a “Franchise” left tackle, Beatty is far from the worst left tackle in the National Football League. He suffered in 2014 from having to play next to a rookie line mate in Weston Richburg, but still ranked 14th in the Pro Football Focus (PFF) tackle ratings for the year. Beatty had two particularly bad games, and was called for 6 of his 9 penalties in those games. In 12 of the other 14, he rated average to excellent, and was the Giants best offensive lineman on most. Beatty is a stronger run blocker than pass blocker, and will benefit from having an experienced line mate next to him in 2015.
Weston Richburg: Forced into service earlier than anticipated due to injuries to Geoff Schwartz and Chris Snee, Richburg suffered through growing pains as a rookie. Also playing out of position at left guard, Richburg, a natural center, ranked 62nd out of 78 guards ranked on PFF. He still rated higher than Jerry. Struggling more with run blocking than pass protection, Richburg should see both ratings improve as he moves to his best position and will have spent an off season in a professional weight program. Expect a big jump in his second year as he will anchor the Giants line from the middle.
Justin Pugh: Pugh’s shorter than average arms were the subject of a recent Giants360 article, At Arms Length, that concluded that while a serviceable offensive tackle, Pugh’s best NFL position is guard. Better at pass protecting than run blocking, Pugh rated 40th among PFF tackles, despite an elbow injury that contributed to some of his 2014 struggles. He appeared to be exposed Week 6 in Philadelphia, the Sunday Night game where Pugh gave up 4 sacks to the Eagles, mostly to Connor Barwin, in a game that was reminiscent of Winston Justice’s September 30, 2007, 6 sack surrendering performance to the Giants Osi Umenyiora. Justice appeared to never mentally recover from that game, but to his credit, Pugh bounced back both physically and mentally to log four strong games to finish 2014.
Geoff Schwartz: His much publicized toe injury cost Schwartz, the big 2014 free agent signing on the offensive line, the first 11 games of the season. He returned from the Injured Reserve – Designated For Return list, had two good games filling in for the injured Pugh at right tackle, and then missed weeks 14-17 with an ankle injury. His healthy return will provide a big boost to the Giants line. Viewed as a left guard by the Giants, Schwartz’s best position is right guard, where all of his best career games have been. His versatility maybe be his best attribute, but to form the strongest possible offensive line, Schwartz would best be utilized as right guard.
After these four starters, the fifth man would have to come from among three linemen who each come with question marks. Any of them could fill the spot and provide a fifth body, but only one could potentially emerge as a strong lineman that could develop with the others to give the Giants another dominating line like the one that helped them win Super Bowls 42 and 46.
Brett Jones: Names the Canadian Football League (CFL) Most Outstanding Rookie in 2013 and Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman last season, Jones comes to the Giants as the top linemen in all of Canada. While his awards are encouraging, a quick perusal of previous Outstanding Linemen reveals that none have gone on to find success in the NFL. However, previous winners of the Outstanding Rookie Award include Cameron Wake, Super Bowl 49 star Chris Matthews, quarterback Tom Clements, although he is best known for his coaching work with the Green Bay Packers, and Leon Bright, who returned punts and kickoffs, with some limited success, for the Giants in the early 1980’s. Jones is the first offensive lineman to win the award, which speaks volumes about his talent. In Canada, defensive players must line up a full yard off the line of scrimmage, while that distance is only a football length (11 1/4 inches) in the NFL. This changes the blocking angles significantly and will require Jones to adjust his game accordingly. If he can make the adjustment, he could find the same success he had in Canada, and be a hidden star. If not, he just be a failed experiment at a veteran minimum salary.
John Jerry: Jerry is the worst signing of the Giants 2015 free agent period. Brought back because of his considerable starting experience (61 career starts) and Coughlin’s preference for veteran depth on the team, Jerry rated above average just 3 times in his 16 starts last season. His run blocking was particularly atrocious, and while his pass blocking rates average to above average, it doesn’t make up for the liability he presents in the run game. Jerry ranked 66th among guards in 2014. Reviewing his historical PFF ratings, this is Jerry’s clear pattern across his five year career, and therefore, one that is unlikely to improve. If Jerry sees significant snaps in 2015, it will hinder the growth of the Giants offense.
Marshall Newhouse: Another veteran free agent signing, Newhouse was also added due to starting experience (36 career starts) and his familiarity with Ben McAdoo’s offense from his three season’s in Green Bay. Newhouse was the starting left tackle for the Packers 2011 and 2012 teams that amassed a 26-6 record, but he game up 9 sacks in each season, was benched in 2013, and allowed to leave as a free agent last season. After one year in Cincinnati, Newhouse was again on the market and signed with the Giants, presumably to serve as the swing tackle on the line. He is another player who will limit the offense if forced to play significant time.
Of the remaining linemen on the roster: Michael Bamiro (T), Emmett Cleary (T), Adam Gettis (G), Eric Herman (G), Tony Kropog (T), Brandon Mosley (G), and Dallas Reynolds (C/G), the only recognizable name is Mosley, and the only thing needed to know about him is he couldn’t beat out Jerry for the starting job last season. Herman is best known for his four game suspension to start last season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Reynolds is a journeyman re-signed to compete for a backup spot on the roster.
It’s been Giants360’s position since December that Jerry Reese will use pick 9 to add an offensive tackle who will open the season on the right side and push Pugh to guard, however, having more familiarity with the draft, there doesn’t seem to be a top 10 pick worthy at the offensive tackle position. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is most frequently associated with the Giants in mock drafts, and is seen as the most complete lineman in the draft, however, he is more of a guard than a tackle, and the Giants already have one of those in Pugh. Andrus Peat, from Stanford, is a left tackle prospect with suspect motivation and some technique issues, who may struggle in his first NFL season. Others who are seen in the first half of the first round, but not the top 10 are Pitt’s T.J. Clemmings, LSU’s La’el Collins, and Ereck Flowers, from Miami (FL). None regularly crack the top 10 on the mock draft circuit.
Reese will be working off of the Giants painstakingly created draft board, not one cobbled together by Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock, or even the highly respected Gil Brandt. These rankings may look nothing like the “Draft boards” you’re seeing on “Path to the Draft” or hearing about on Sirius NFL radio. My preferred source of draft information, Nolan Nawrocki, does not release his book until April 15th, I will read the offensive linemen reviews fast and furious when my copy arrives.
If the draft simulators online are any indication, impact defensive linemen and both inside and outside linebackers drop off in the draft much faster than offensive linemen. Talented tackles and guards are available in the second and third rounds, while few impact defenders remain. This could indicate that the Giants will take a defender at 9 and wait until pick 40 or even 74 to add an offensive lineman.
When the season opens in September, if we look at the Giants starting offensive line, and again say “Hello, Jerry,” it could be another season of fits, starts, and frustration for the Giants offensive line, and leave us with an expression on our face like Wayne Knight’s in today’s featured image.
The Giants360 Facebook account grew by more than 400% last week since it was reactivated. Liking it guarantees that you will see our content on your Facebook page and be able to interact with your author and our growing staff of talented writers. Why not go like it right now?
We are also about to cross the 19,000 mark on Twitter (@Giants360) as we continue our march towards 20k followers. Major events are sent directly from our timeline to yours on what’s becoming the biggest and most interactive Giants community anywhere. Are you a part of the growing Giants360 family?
Giants360. All Giants. All Year Round.