Evan Neal was brought into the Giants from Alabama to help solidify what has been a struggling offensive line. The results haven’t always been perfect, and the line as a whole has struggled along the interior, but the seventh-overall pick has certainly shown flashes of dominance.
The 6’7″ standout has been graded out at an average of 49 by Pro Football Focus. Games against speed rushers have ultimately led to his early career struggles.
New York hasn’t been concerned though.
Neal’s next matchup will be with one he’s quite familiar with: the first overall selection in his same rookie class, Travon Walker. The standout from Georgia has started in all six games for Jacksonville but has recorded just one sack and three quarterback hits.
Neal and Walker have faced off plenty of times before. Just last season, Walker’s Georgia Bulldogs knocked off Neal’s Alabama squad in the National Championship Game 33-18. Neal may have gotten the better of the Walker matchup then though because he did not give up a sack to the first overall pick.
That doesn’t mean the Giants won’t have a plan for Walker and the Jaguars’ pass rush.
“It’s a part of every week when you look across the league. Those guys are talented pass rushers, they get off the edge and you have to know where they are on every single play.” Giants offensive coordinator Mika Kafka told AMNY Thursday.
The rematch for Neal is something that he’s been looking forward to since the National Championship loss. He also understands that both he and Walker have grown a lot since their latest round.
“He’s developed his game more since college. It’s a credit to him. I’m excited to go against him.” Neal told AMNY on Thursday.
It’s not just Walker that Neal will have to contend with on Sunday either. While Jacksonville is tied for just 27th in the league in sacks, other standouts like Josh Allen and fellow rookie Devil Lloyd are also key players that the Giants’ offensive line will need to focus on outside of just Travon Walker.
“Jackonsiville’s front is full of talented edge rushers and they move around a lot in games.” Neal also added that Walker is a “strong guy. Long, real rangy, and pretty much like a speed-to-power kind of player.”
New York certainly has its hands full with a Jaguars team that has lost three in a row. One of the main reasons the Giants CAN get to 6-1 will be if their rookie right tackle can get the better of a rematch he’s had plenty of experience in.