Giants 2021 Position Breakdown: Offensive line

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Shane Lemieux/Andrew Thomas/Nate Solder/Nick Gates Treated Image
Shane Lemieux/Andrew Thomas/Nate Solder/Nick Gates Treated Image

Heading into the 2021 season, the Giants have a much-improved roster on both sides of the ball and are looking to finally make their way back to the playoffs and become a Super Bowl contender once again.

In this series, we’ll break down every position group on the depth chart for Big Blue. This time, we’ll go in depth on the offensive line…

Projected Depth Chart

LT: Andrew Thomas, Jackson Barton
LG: Shane Lemieux, Kyle Murphy, Brett Heggie (rookie)
C: Nick Gates, Jonotthan Harrison
RG: Zach Fulton, Will Hernandez, Chad Slade, Jake Burton (rookie)
RT: Nate Solder, Matt Peart, Kenny Wiggins

- Key Additions/Losses: Cut Kevin Zeitler, Solder returns after 2020 opt-out, signed Fulton

- Top 2020 Performer: Zeitler – 28 total pressures allowed, two sacks allowed, 63.0 run block grade, 68.7 pass block grade, 65.9 overall offense grade

- End of 2020 season rank (via PFF): 31st

What the O-Line has going for them

When you have a PFF grade for a season like the one you see above, there usually isn’t much going for a unit like this unless a massive overhaul was made.

The Giants, instead, didn’t do much of anything to their O-line.

While other free agent spending was made elsewhere, Dave Gettleman decided to trust the process with his O-line and allow the current young talent on the depth chart to continue developing without shaking things up.

So, if there is anything to look forward to this season, it’s maybe the fact that Thomas – who started the year terribly and led all rookie tackles in pressures allowed for the season – finished pretty strong after being shaky. Also, Solder returning gives a veteran presence to a really young line that is still in the works.

Key Concern: Well… everything

No, I’m really not being dramatic. After making so many upgrades to the weapons on offense, the Giants didn’t even draft a single lineman, let alone go out and get one off the free agent market.

And considering what happened last season with a very porous bunch that needed to be rotated throughout games, it doesn’t give much optimism heading into the new season.

Maybe Gettleman is right to trust the coaching and allow these players to develop some chemistry together. But, if it’s the same situation as last year with lack of consistency on the line, then what do the upgrades matter if Saquon Barkley can’t find a hole to run through or Daniel Jones doesn’t have enough time to look through progressions?

The NFC East, especially, is loaded with good pass rushes, so a solid line is crucial. On paper, the Giants are going back into the fire with the same group they had last season, albeit Solder and Fulton. Who knows what to expect?

Player who must step up in 2021: Andrew Thomas

The answer could, once again, be everyone on the line because you don’t get a 31st overall grade by the hand of one person.

But Thomas is the clear favorite to focus on because of his struggles despite being the top tackle taken by Big Blue when they had first dibs at a loaded group. And that group – Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Wills Jr. – all had better rookie seasons than Thomas.

So, even though it is his second season in the league, there’s a lot of pressure for Thomas to take those positive steps at the end of 2020 and immediately follow up on them to start this year. The narrative that the Giants missed on this pick won’t stop until he proves his worth at left tackle.

Sep 14, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (78) blocks Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 14, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (78) blocks Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest Camp Battle: Nate Solder vs. Matt Peart

There are a couple of battles that will be fun to watch in the coming months, but the old veteran versus the hungry neophyte will be the most interesting.

Solder is a year removed from the game but is a Pro Bowler who knows what it takes to start in this league. He will likely move to the right tackle position with Thomas aboard, though, so we’ll see how the transition goes.

But Peart, a third-rounder out of UConn a year ago, is someone the Giants saw as a contender to be the right tackle of the future, opposite Thomas in coming years. And his rookie season showcased glimpses of just that when both were on the field together.

Peart will be looking for more playing time in 2021, while Solder will look to prove his one-year absence didn’t stunt his ability to be effective in the NFL.

2021 Outlook

It’s hard to be optimistic with this unit in 2021. There is still a lot of work to be done, and realistically, this group is what will make or break the offense’s success this season.

That’s a lot of pressure for this young squad, but the Giants have faith and don’t seem worried. Week 1 could be the only indicator of what will really be the tale for the O-line this time around.

Will they continue the trend of lackluster play, leading to poor offense? Or will they break the chain and prove development over new additions was the right call made by New York?