Right tackle Bobby Hart and right guard John Jerry had their struggles, while left tackle Ereck Flowers wilted as the game progressed. Only center Weston Richburg and left guard Justin Pugh had plus performances.
One week into the season, the calls for changes on the line are already relatively loud. It's likely because this is a problem that dates back a few years, even if the current season is only days old. The Giants started the same offensive line in their 19-3 Week 1 loss to the Cowboys that they started most of last season. It did not go well.
It’s unlikely the Giants, who play the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football in Week 2, will scrap their plan after one game.
“We feel that we’re confident in the guys that we have, and we’re confident in our depth, and if we feel that we need to make a change there, we’ll make a change,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said.
But if McAdoo does decide to make a move, let’s take a look at what it could be:
(Note: These options do not include trades, which are unlikely, or any signings, which would have minimal immediate impact.)
Brett Jones or D.J. Fluker in for Jerry at RG: Jerry signed a new three-year deal this offseason to be the team’s right guard. It would be surprising to see the Giants pull the plug after one week, even if he had a rough summer. They are likely to stick with Jerry longer. But ...
Jones is likely next if they decide to make a change. He’s on the smaller side (6-foot-2, 312 pounds) and could struggle against bigger, stronger defensive tackles (like Detroit’s Haloti Ngata). But at least Jones would be sound with his assignments and the right side might do better picking up stunts and twists, a problem that has irked McAdoo and his staff in recent weeks.
Fluker appears to be behind Jones on the depth chart (based on this summer and preseason), but his size (6-5, 345) and ability to play with power would help the Giants run game if he were inserted into the lineup. He also bring energy.
Fluker or Chad Wheeler in for Hart at RT: This may have the highest probability of happening because Hart is dealing with an ankle injury. He rolled his ankle in the second quarter against the Cowboys but remained in the game. Hart could be seen hobbling around the field at times, trying to keep it loose. Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence took advantage.
If Hart is healthy, he’s going to start. He's 23 years old and had a promising summer. One poor performance isn't going to deter the Giants.
Fluker would likely be next in line, even though the Giants primarily view him as a guard. But Fluker at least played right tackle (mostly with the third team) this summer and could be an asset in the run game. Wheeler is an undrafted rookie who spent most of training camp and the preseason working on the left side. Asking him to play right tackle seems unlikely.
Bench or move Flowers: It’s been clear for a while that Flowers isn’t a starting left tackle. The Giants stuck with him this season anyway in hopes of seeing significant improvement after an offseason during which they raved about his improved work ethic and conditioning. They sold Flowers hard, but the results this summer and in the opener have been uninspiring. Flowers committed a penalty and allowed a sack in the loss to the Cowboys.
There is a belief (including by personnel executives around the league) that Flowers is better suited at right tackle. The Giants can move him there or put him on the bench altogether. It’s debatable whether he's a better option than a healthy Hart.
If Flowers is benched or moved, Wheeler would likely take over at left tackle. He was the second-team left tackle all summer. Whether he would be an upgrade is a crap shoot.
The Giants’ best O-line combo?
There should be little debate that offensive tackle is the weakest spot on the Giants roster -- and that their best tackle is likely playing guard. Pugh was an above-average right tackle before moving inside to guard several years ago. The Giants don’t appear near ready to explore this scenario (it would be unfair to Pugh after moving him back and forth several times in his career), but their best lineup would likely be with Pugh at left tackle, Fluker or Jones at left guard, Richburg at center, Jerry at right guard, and Hart or Flowers at right tackle.
Right now, that’s extremely unlikely to happen. Pugh has barely played tackle this year, even in practice, and the Giants don’t want to entertain that option unless they absolutely have no other choice. But a few more performances like the opener in Dallas and it might creep into the conversation.