This season was already on pace to be a rough one for the Giants. Sure, there’s a lot to like from a young developing quarterback in Daniel Jones, not to mention the hiring of two-time NFL Coach of the Year Jason Garret as offensive coordinator and even new head coach Joe Judge has given fans some reason for optimism.
With that said there’s also some extremely glaring holes that need to be fixed if General Manager Dave Gettleman plans to have the team contending for postseason success in the near future. Unfortunately everybody who was hoping to hop on the Giants bandwagon will likely have to wait a year, as the Giants lost two players who opted-out of the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of which being in a position group they desperately couldn’t afford.
Nate Solder, an NFL veteran and a starting offensive tackle for the Giants, has a son who is currently in the middle of a battle with cancer (and is in our prayers), making an opt-out inevitable. Solder himself has had a battle with cancer and cited this along with the birth of a new child as his reasons for opting out. While this may have been expected it still puts the Giants in a worst-case scenario.
With the fourth overall pick in the past NFL Draft Gettleman selected University of Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas. Thomas is expected to be the left tackle of the future, eventually expecting to replace Solder, but he didn’t have to be the tackle of the present. Solder, who has admittedly struggled since coming to New York could have held onto the job and acted as a mentor for Thomas before being likely being released or moved over to the right side. Yes, Solder has struggled, but he is still a two-time Super Bowl Champion and a respected veteran, who could have been an asset to Thomas’ development, along with third-round pick Matt Peart.
Without Solder the Giants will likely be forced to have Thomas protect Jones’ blindside, which is something that he has the potential to excel at, but as a rookie, still lies as a question mark.The bigger issue now lies in the right tackle spot, where the only options are Peart, Cam Fleming and Nick Gates. Peart is seen as a high-upside developmental prospect by most. His athletic traits and potential to develop into a quality NFL tackle are evident and to some even obvious. But, he’s not a guy who should be starting as a rookie. Peart played college football at UCONN, which is arguably the worst FBS program in the country, despite this he stood out. Peart could be a successful project with Garret and new offensive line coach Marc Colombo, who helped build and develop the dominant Dallas Cowboys offensive line. But, Peart’s unrefined and his athletic gifts have yet to be harnessed and molded into what he could become. If Pert is forced to start as a rookie he’s a project that is doomed to fail. That leaves Fleming and Gates.
Who starts for the Giants is hard to project and at this juncture. But, there’s reason to believe both players should be starting.
Gates came to the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and has done nothing but impress since then, even earning an overall grade of 77.0 from Pro Football Focus last season when he filled in as a guard. The grade would have made Gates rated as the seventh-best guard in football, but he didn’t meet the minimum number of snaps.
Gates’ great play was recently rewarded with a two-year extension from the Giants. Gates versatility is something the Giants have valued in the past,as he has taken regular season snaps at tackle in the past. As Gates enters his third year with the organization it’s clear he has earned a chance to start for the team.
Fleming on the other hand is new to the organization after being signed during the offseason. At this point Fleming’s a career journeyman playing for his third team in his seventh season, never starting more than six games in a single season in his career. While a veteran presence in that right tackle spot may be nice, is Fleming, an aforementioned career journeyman really the answer to protecting Jones?
While we don’t know who will open up as the Giants right tackle in Week 1 against Pittsburgh, it will likely not be a pretty sight, as he is forced to deal with one of the league’s deadliest pass rushes. But, until then the Giants coaching staff must figure out who is the least of three evils and is best suited to keep Daniel Jones upright this season.