Giants have few opportunities to fix the offensive line

INDIANAPOLIS – Just your luck.

There are two offensive tackle prospects rising to the top of the NFL draft boards, and the Giants, who were pretty bad in 2021, weren’t quite bad enough to be able to secure either of them.

Imagine being as devoid of talent and depth as the Giants are down their offensive line, Owning #5 (and #7) overall picks. and feeling that the top two are out of reach. Almost every year quarterbacks hit early push other players down, but that likely won’t be the case in this draft. And as sloppy as the Giants are in a positional group that has plagued them for a decade, they’re likely to see it Ickey Ekwonu from North Carolina and Evan Neal from Alabama – Tackles, who would be Day 1 starters for them – gone in the first four selections.

“I don’t think you can look at an offensive line and say you have to draft one in the first round,” said new general manager Joe Schoen. “I think you can find offensive linemen throughout the draft.”

The Giants need this to be true. They have nine picks in this draft and they will use some of them to take offensive linemen. It will be a surprise if they don’t use either of their two picks to strengthen that position in the first round. But they can’t force it. If the top offensive linemen on their board don’t justify a top 7 pick, the Giants should either trade down or look elsewhere. It’s not like they’re in many other positions on the roster.

Giants General Manager Joe Schoen speaks to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Michael Conroy/AP
Michael Conroy

When Schoen was assistant general manager at Buffalo under Brandon Beane, the rebuilding of the Bills offensive line included only two draft picks: Dion Dawkins (second round, 2017) and Wyatt Teller (fifth round, 2018). They traded Mitch Morse (a former Chiefs second-round pick) and signed Ryan Bates and Ike Boettger as undrafted free agents. The result wasn’t one of the top five offensive lines in the NFL, but the unit grew solid enough to help Buffalo become a dynamic offensive team.

The current situation for the Giants is bleak. Schoen pointed out that there are only five healthy offensive linemen in the entire roster. He could stretch it. Andrew Thomas, Nate Solder, Ben Bredeson and Wes Martin are signed. The fifth player Schoen could be referring to is guard Shane Lemieux, who played in just one game last season before a knee injury put him on injured reserve. Tackle Matt Peart (ACL reconstruction) and center Nick Gates (multiple leg surgeries) are unlikely to be ready for the start of the 2022 season.

A veteran’s freehand signing is ideal to plug at least one of the holes, but the Giants will buy the bargain basket given their salary caps. The design is cheaper. Expect Neal and Ekwonu to be gone, so what next?

It’s unlikely the Giants would stay put and use one of their first-round picks for an inside offensive lineman, though they need a center and Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is believed to be the best of the group — he’s under 300 pounds too small . He said he had a formal interview with the Giants here at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Zion Johnson, a Boston College guard who played center at last month’s Senior Bowl, met with Giants scouts in Mobile, Alabama, and spoke Wednesday with Bobby Johnson, the Giants’ new offense line coach.

NC State Wolfpack offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu (79)
Ickey Ekwonu likely won’t be available if the Giants pick the #7 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Getty Images

“I was really good talking to him,” Johnson said. “He taught me one of the runs they do and I felt like it was going well.”

The Giants have a gaping hole at one point of attack, and second best to the bubbly Ekwonu and the over-polished Neal is probably Charles Cross, a young man of few words.

The lanky athlete, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound cross, was a two-year starter at Mississippi State and played all but four of his collegiate snaps in left tackle. Competing in Mike Leach’s shotgun air defense system, Cross was asked to pass the block 54 times per game. Can he excel as a tackle capable of putting his hand on the ground and blocking power runs?

Mississippi State offensive lineman Charles Cross (67) falls behind
Mississippi’s Charles Cross may be the Giants’ best shot at improving their offensive line through the draft.
AP photo

“Watch the movie,” Cross said. “I say ‘watch the movie.’ I definitely feel like I can come in and help any organization. I definitely feel like I can play tackle on either side. To be honest, I think I can play all five positions.”

Cross was scheduled to meet with the Giants Thursday night. They’ll have a hard time overtaking Cross in 7th if they go 5th with an Edge Ruser. quarterback Daniel Jones cannot block for itself. Giants have few opportunities to fix the offensive line


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