There’s no mistake about it — the real cause of the New York Giants’ demise in 2023 has been their offensive line.
The running theme for New York’s struggles came to a head in Sunday’s 31-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked six times against Miami’s pass rush, an improvement from the 11 times he was brought down in their previous week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Giants are the first team since 1991 to fail to score an offensive touchdown in the first half through the first five games of the season — another dubious distinction for a team now 1-4 on the year.
Big Blue’s troubles along their offensive line are well-documented, but what is the real cause for the inept play? Is the rash of injuries along the group a simple excuse or is there a bigger problem at hand?
It hasn’t just been Jones who has taken a beating over the last few weeks for the Giants. New York has had to deal with several key injuries along their offensive line — a fact that understandably explains the team’s lack of depth at each position.
All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas has missed four straight contests due to a hamstring injury and there are questions as to when he would return. Rookie center John Michael Schmitz is dealing with a shoulder injury that could leave him out for multiple weeks.
With two injuries along the offensive line, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the reason why Jones has been sacked a league-high 28 times this season. Despite the understanding, if the five-sack-a-game average continues for the rest of the year, Jones would set a new NFL record for sacks in a single season. It’s hard for any group to remain competent when dealing with key injuries every week.
Using an excuse like injuries can only go so far for the Giants. New York has several high picks invested in the group and one or two injuries shouldn’t be the downfall of an entire group. Just how bad has the rest of the group been to this point?
In a word, historical.
Never before has an offensive line been beat as badly as the Giants have with four of five starters currently playing every day. Arguably the worst of the group has been former seventh-overall pick Evan Neal. Neal’s poor play has been well-documented over the last few weeks. Among other tackles in the game, the former Alabama product has given up the second-most pressures in football, while surrendering the most quarterback hurries through five games.
It’s not just Neal that is struggling, either. Of all the offensive linemen that appeared in Sunday’s game, there isn’t a single one that ranked as an average player — as ranked by Pro Football Focus — in their position group. The state of the group may be the biggest problem for the Giants, but it isn’t the only group.
“Obviously, we all need to improve,” head coach Brian Daboll said. “Coach them on the details, go out there, do what you need to do in practice, and then have the confidence to go out there in the game to execute it.”
How much is on Daniel Jones and coaching?
The offensive line is a travesty but how much of this is on the quarterback?
Jones suffered a neck injury in Sunday’s loss but hasn’t always been the victim in these instances. With his ability to run, Jones has sometimes scrambled into sacks instead of climbing the pocket or getting the ball out quickly.
An offensive line’s best friend is a quarterback who can get the ball out quickly. New York hasn’t had that through five weeks.
Getting the ball out quickly is a clear remedy for struggling offensive lines. So why has it taken the Giants so long to adjust to that?
Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka have to acknowledge their share of the blame as well. New York’s inability to get into any sort of rhythm and tempo makes their game plan seem overly simplistic and shines a light on some of their bigger problems.
New York’s offensive line has been under the spotlight and for good reason so far this year. If things are going to change on Sunday night against the Bills, it’ll be up to the players in place and the coaching staff to adjust to the roster in front of them.