It was only the Giants’ first preseason game of 2017, but the consternation the team’s offensive line caused its fan base last season carried over against the Pittsburg Steelers at MetLife Stadium Friday night in a 20-12 loss.
In the face of the unit’s struggles during the 2016 campaign, particularly at left tackle, the position entrusted to secure quarterback Eli Manning’s blind side, Jerry Reese, the Giants’ senior vice president and general manager, balked at selecting an offensive lineman until the sixth round, when he selected tackle Adam Bisnowaty from the University of Pittsburg.
So, the five starters from a year ago trotted onto the field to begin the game and lined up in front of backup QB Josh Johnson—head coach Ben McAdoo opted not to play the healthy Manning—and proceeded to allow three sacks in three drives. The quintet of left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg, right guard John Jerry and right tackle Bobby Hart didn’t help the running backs much either, as the ball barely moved past the line of scrimmage on six rushes during those three series.
An objective analysis discloses the sacks and meager 8 yards on the ground cannot be solely attributed to the offensive line, but in their case, perception is more persuasive than reality.
“It was more than just the offensive line,” McAdoo said after the defeat to the Steelers. “It wasn’t just the offensive line. I’ll have to go back and take a look. There was a mistake on the outside where the quarterback had to eat the ball on one occasion. Then there was one extended play, where we had to throw the ball away. So, we can’t blame the offensive line.”
The running game is inextricably tied to the offensive line and will be critical to the Giants’ hopes of making a deep run this season, perhaps all the way to the Super Bowl. Early on, McAdoo’s assessment of that aspect of the offensive is reserved.
“There’s some good and some bad,” he said. “There’s some bad and there’s some ugly. We need to clean it up and get better.”
Unquestionably, the most scrutinized member of the Giants’ offensive line is Flowers. Now in his third season after being drafted by the franchise with the ninth pick in the first round in 2015, the 23-year-old from the University of Miami has already been characterized by many close followers of the team as a failed pick by Reese. He will continue to be a focal point of fans and media, both in training camp and in preseason games.