Dave Gettleman showing faith in Giants offensive line by not addressing group in 2021 NFL Draft

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Ralph Vacchiano
·4 min read
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Andrew Thomas sets up to block Bud Dupree
Andrew Thomas sets up to block Bud Dupree

The rebuilding of the Giants over the last two years has been an impressive feat. They’ve made some brilliant free-agent signings and earned early praise for most of their draft picks in that span. They’ve surrounded their young quarterback with dangerous weapons and built one of the better defenses in the league.

And yet their future success still comes down to the same two questions Dave Gettleman was facing on his first day as Giants general manager back in 2017:

Do they have the right franchise quarterback?

And is that quarterback safe behind the Giants offensive line?

Those questions were Priority 1 and 2 back on Dec. 29, 2017 when Gettleman was hired. They had an aging Eli Manning then, and Gettleman knew the importance of finding a worthy successor. And Mr. Hog Mollie insisted that successful teams are built from the trenches, which was a problem because the offensive line he inherited was just not good.

Now, 3 1/2 years later, Gettleman is as committed to quarterback Daniel Jones as ever, and he believes the rebuilding of his offensive line is nearly complete. But the truth is he just can’t offer evidence to support that.

His answers to both of those critical questions are based on faith.

That was crystal clear about the offensive line with the way the Giants virtually ignored this crucial position in both free agency and this draft. They had other priorities in the first three rounds, which led many to believe they’d finally grab a tackle or guard in Round 4. But when they passed again to take Elerson Smith, a developmental edge-rushing prospect from Northern Iowa, instead, it was clear the Giants were comfortable with what they’ve already got.

“Whether you draft a position or not has nothing to do with how happy you are with that position,” Gettleman said. “It has everything to do with the draft value at the time you're picking.”

OK, sure. But as “Trader Dave” knows, there are ways to maneuver to find the players he needs, if he really wanted. But he didn’t act out of desperation at all. That certainly signals he’s OK with the line as is.

“It’s really apparent that we have more confidence in our offensive line than you guys do,” Gettleman said. “We’re happy with the group we have.”

Should he be? That’s an open question. To be completely fair to Gettleman, there is far more talent and potential on this line than the Giants have had in years. He drafted left tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall last year, got right tackle Matt Peart in the third and right guard Shane Lemieux in Round 5. Center Nick Gates appears to be an undrafted gem. And there’s even potential in left guard Will Hernandez, a second round pick from 2018 who ended up benched for most of the end of last year.

But that group showed only flashes of being decent last season. Their overall performance was mostly awful. And what did the Giants do about it this offseason? They brought back 33-year-old Nate Solder after he opted out of 2020 after a shaky 2019 and asked him to switch to right tackle where he’ll replace steady veteran Cam Fleming. They cut arguably their best lineman in guard Kevin Zeitler and replaced him with former Texans veteran Zach Fulton.

And, unless they add a veteran between now and training camp (which is certainly possible) … that’s it. They looked at one of their biggest weaknesses from 2020 and somehow seemed to make it worse.

Unless, of course, Gettleman is right. And that’s really what he’s counting on. He believes in the talent he acquired. He thinks Thomas and Peart are the tackles of the future. He thinks Gates can be the long-term answer at center and Lemieux can turn into another Rich Seubert at guard. It’s unclear what he thinks of Hernandez at this point, but if he’s right about four-fifths of that line, it will be pretty good.

But that’s a pretty big “if”.

And it’s the same for Jones, as everyone knows. The Giants took a risk when they drafted him sixth overall in 2019 and put their future in his hands. The returns from his first two seasons haven’t been good, but he’s also been surrounded by a terrible team. At the least the Giants showed a commitment to getting him weapons this offseason, signing Kenny Golladay and John Ross in free agency and drafting Kadarius Toney in the first round.

Add in the healthy return of Saquon Barkley, and Jones will be set up for success (as long as the offensive line doesn’t get him killed).

But again, that’s only if Gettleman is right.

That will be the story of this upcoming season. Gettleman added to a defense that was already pretty good and acquired a sizeable stable of offensive weapons. But it appears he’s going to ride with the quarterback and offensive line that he’s got. If he’s right about them, he’s probably built the Giants back into a playoff contender.

If he wrong … well, this is a mess that someone else will eventually be asked to clean up.