The look-on-the-bright side aspect of all this is what comes next is a mystery, which is more palatable than the alternative of knowing for sure.
There are reasons galore to postulate the Giants will not be ready to put a potent offense on the field in less than two weeks. Injuries. Not enough synergy this summer incorporating the newly imported talent. Lack of depth. Lack of creativity. There is no lack of fodder, if doomsaying is what gets you through the day.
It is ludicrous, though, to already brand the adolescent offensive line as a lost cause and to dismiss the point-producing wing of the Giants’ roster as another failure.
Does what we’ve seen thus far encourage anyone to load up on Giants skill players in upcoming fantasy football drafts? No, sir. But what, exactly, have we seen thus far? Glimpses of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney. Less than that with Saquon Barkley. Even less than that with Kyle Rudolph. The bad news is these four offensive forces were almost ghost-like in their invisibility in training camp and the preseason. The good news is all are on the mend, all should be ready soon and two or three of them should be on the field Sept. 12 to see if the Giants can make a dent in the Broncos’ defense.
One shaky half in the preseason finale against the Patriots is not going to wreck the plan to go with a youth movement at offensive tackle, even after Andrew Thomas (22) and Matt Peart (24) leaked too much pressure and got Daniel Jones hit too often. Head coach Joe Judge is unconventional with how he deploys his linemen and veteran Nate Solder, showing plenty left in the tank at 33 after opting out in 2020, will likely be part of a playing rotation, getting snaps for Peart on the right side and, possibly, taking some away from Thomas on the left side.
With all the hubbub about the receivers and running back and tight end missing time in camp, perhaps the absence of Shane Lemieux is too often overlooked. He started nine games at left guard as a rookie last year and, as a fifth-round pick, showed no fear and plenty of attitude.
Lemieux was carted off the field July 29 with what was feared to be a serious knee injury, but the Giants got lucky here. He did not play in any of the three preseason games but will be ready for the season opener. Is he Chris Snee or Quenton Nelson? Of course not. But he is a run-blocking presence and, when he was inserted into the lineup in 2020, Thomas, alongside Lemieux on the left side, began playing better. That terrible pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus? The Giants put no stock in it. Lemieux supplanted Will Hernandez, who could have a new lease on his NFL life at right guard. Nick Gates is smart and serviceable at center.
The trade with the Bengals for Billy Price — sending defensive lineman B.J. Hill to Cincinnati — adds a 26-year-old guard/center who has not lived up to his lofty (No. 21 overall in 2018) draft status, someone the Giants hope they can develop.
“I can’t really worry about comparing our program to somebody else’s,’’ Judge said. “We’re going to coach whoever we have available.’’
Which brings us to the tackles.
What can already be ascertained is that the 2020 pre-draft chatter that Thomas, taken No. 4 overall out of Georgia, was the most NFL-ready to step in and handle left tackle as a rookie was not accurate. He was not as polished as the Giants believed him to be. This does not mean Thomas cannot emerge as a solid player. It does mean he is more of a work in progress.
Jones needs to more quickly process everything going on around him on the field. When Golladay, Toney, Barkley and Rudolph are with him, matchups will be won and Jones will be able to get rid of the ball faster. That will help the offensive line.
In the preseason-ending loss to the Patriots, the average depth for Jones’ targets on pass routes was 5.9 yards, according to PFF. That is alarmingly low.
“I’m never concerned about having short passes,” Judge said. “I think we have some guys who can take the ball in their hands and extend plays with their legs and that’s part of it.”
It is a big part of it, which is why Toney was taken in the first round and Barkley, when healthy, is the centerpiece of the attack. Until they are on the field and in the games, along with Golladay and Rudolph, everything else is just biding time.