This can be Eli Manning’s best offensive line in a decade
Leading into the start of training camp (rookies report July 22, veterans July 24) The Post will provide Giants fans with a position-by-position look at the roster. Up first: The offensive line.
No position group is more responsible for the demise of the team than this one. Look no further than the failures of high draft picks (Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and, far more heinously, the one and only Ereck Flowers) to reveal the main reason why Eli Manning was under such duress the past few years. It is no wonder one of the first goals general manager Dave Gettleman listed after he was hired was to fix the offensive line.
Key returnees: Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, Chad Wheeler, Spencer Pulley
Key additions: Kevin Zeitler, Mike Remmers
The rundown: This has the potential to be the most experienced, professional and capable group of blockers and pass protectors assembled in front of Manning in a decade. Solder at left tackle, Zeitler (acquired in a trade with the Browns) at right guard and Remmers (signed in free agency) at right tackle have a combined 278 NFL starts and all three are durable and accountable. Are any of them great players? Not really — none was ever selected to a Pro Bowl. If they play up to their past performance, Manning will not know what to do with the time he has and Saquon Barkley will feel like he has a two-lane highway all to himself. Solder (ankle) and Remmers (back) are both coming off offseason surgeries and are expected to be ready to roll in training camp.
The coaching staff loved what Halapio showed at center the first two games before a fractured ankle ended his 2018 season. Some outside the organization see him as a rising player, others view him as just a guy. Hernandez is a bull and his rookie year was filled with encouraging signs as he encountered typical first-year inconsistency as he learned to more quickly process life on the interior of an NFL line. In terms of temperament — nasty on the field, pleasant but all business off it — he is precisely how the Giants want their line to look and feel.
Key camp battles: Once Remmers is fully healthy, he should be able to stiff-arm a challenge from Chad Wheeler, who started the final 14 games in 2018 at right tackle. The Giants would like to see Wheeler fill a role as the backup tackle on both sides. Halapio will feel competition from Spencer Pulley, a tested pro with 16 starts at center for the Chargers in 2017 and nine for the Giants last season.
The verdict: This does not look to be a dominant line. Other than a torrid stretch in 2008, the lines that helped Manning win Super Bowl XLII and XLVI were more workmanlike than dominant. The potential is there for this to be a better-than-average unit that at times might get beat physically but not mentally. This would be a quantum leap forward for the Giants. If you look up “prototype NFL guard, circa 1960’’ a picture of the thickly muscled Zeitler should pop up. This is a “now’’ line, with Solder (31), Remmers (30) and Zeitler (29) with 283 NFL games of wear and tear.
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