Success of Giants’ offense rests with line
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There is no doubt the New York Giants have the talent at the skill positions to be a success on offense.
It starts with two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning at quarterback and extends to three-time Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and No. 2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley at halfback. Sprinkle in receiver Sterling Shepard and second-year tight end Evan Engram and there is plenty of explosiveness for new coach Pat Shurmur’s squad to put up some points.
The question mark is the revamped offensive line, which can best be described as five players trying to form a cohesive unit — basically a new group.
Left tackle Nate Solder was signed as a free agent after spending seven seasons taking care of Tom Brady’s blind side for the Patriots. The signing forced 2015 first-round draft choice Ereck Flowers to move from left tackle to the right side. Left guard Will Hernandez was drafted in the second round in April. Right guard Patrick Omameh was signed as a free agent, while Jon Halapio is transitioning from guard to center.
“Hey, we’re going to go as far as that line will block for us,” Shurmur said Monday after the Giants practiced for Friday’s night annual preseason game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
The line saw limited action in the preseason games against the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. It sprung Barkley for a 43-yard run on the opening play from scrimmage against the Browns to set up a field goal. New York put together a 17-play, 79-yard drive on the second series against the Lions that halfback Wayne Gallman capped with an 8-yard touchdown reception from Davis Webb.
Some of the line play has been good. Some has not, with Manning under pressure in the first game, and the running game struggling in the second.
“We are all aware of the job that’s expected of us, and we’re all ready to step up to the plate and take on that challenge,” said Omameh, who is playing for his fourth team. “It’s just a matter of us continuing to build and improve and be where we want to be when the season hits.”
Shurmur has changed some things in the locker room to help. All the linemen have their lockers in the same area. Last year, the line was divided on two sides of the room, with one group in a corner and the others in the middle of the room.
Hernandez, who brings an edge to the line, understands things are not going to be perfect from the start.
“For me, it’s a we-have-to-do-this-now mentality,” he said. “I think we all have that mentality. We don’t have a year to two to get good or to start doing well. We have to do this now. That’s our mentality. We work at it every day, to make sure by the time we roll up to the first game, we’re ready to go.”
Halapio, who didn’t get into the lineup at guard until the final six games last season, said practicing with the Lions for three days last week helped the line work on its communication. He says it’s harder to predict when it will all come together.
“It’s a process,’ he said. “We don’t to play the whole entire preseason game, so I can’t say there is a timetable. You improve from the prior week. We did that with Detroit compared to the Cleveland Browns. That’s what we are looking for.”
Outside linebacker/defensive end Olivier Vernon has been impressed with how the linemen have bonded.
“That translates well on the field when it comes down to it,” Vernon said. “I think their attitude is one of the things that I’ve noticed, especially going against them in practice and since OTAs. They got depth in that group, too, as well. They have a lot of guys that are working. They’re working, they’re building that chemistry. That’s one thing you like to see in the offensive line group.”