Giants’ Evan Neal To Return At Training Camp; Joshua Ezeudu In Place As Swing Tackle

Evan Neal‘s performance to date has not come especially close to justifying his No. 7 overall draft slot, and the young tackle ran into a significant injury issue midway through his second season. Although Neal went down in early November, the Giants kept him off the practice field throughout their offseason program.

The 2022 draftee suffered what was believed to be a sprained ankle in Week 9 — the same day Daniel Jones‘ ACL tear occurred — but follow-up testing became necessary after the Alabama alum was not healing as expected. The additional testing revealed a broken foot that required surgery. The Giants have slow-played Neal’s comeback, but Brian Daboll confirmed (via the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard) he will be back at practice during training camp.

Big Blue added multiple starter-level pieces up front, along with a host of potential depth options this offseason. Jermaine Eluemunor, the Raiders’ primary right tackle over the past two seasons, is in place as the team’s first-string left guard. Eluemunor said (via Leonard) he can slide to right tackle if necessary but confirmed he is preparing for his first Giants season by working solely at guard.

The prospect of Eluemunor working at guard, opposite $10MM-per-year free agent Jon Runyan Jr., emerged several weeks ago. Despite most of the veteran’s starting experience coming at right tackle, Leonard adds the Giants kept Eluemunor at left guard throughout their offseason program. Third-year blocker Joshua Ezeudu, who was part of the Giants’ guard competition last year, appears in line for the team’s swing role behind starters Neal and Andrew Thomas.

Injuries to Thomas and Matt Peart early last season prompted the Giants to kick Ezeudu — a 2022 third-round pick — to left tackle. That effort did not go well. Pro Football Focus charged the North Carolina alum with five sacks allowed despite playing on just 266 snaps. Ezeudu was also lost for the season midway through, sustaining a toe injury in Week 6. The Giants expected Ezeudu would win one of their guard competitions during training camp last year. After he failed to do so before going down with the toe injury, two UFA additions are in place at guard. Peart has since signed with the Broncos.

Eluemunor would seem a more stable option as a swing tackle, though that route would require New York to plug someone else in at guard. Although the team did not re-sign starter Ben Bredeson or the injury-prone Shane Lemieux, it did add ex-Buccaneers spot starter Aaron Stinnie and swingman Austin Schlottmann in free agency. Ex-Lion Matt Nelson and former Falcons guard starter Jalen Mayfield, given a reserve/futures deal in January, are also set to vie for backup roles in training camp.

Of course, the Giants will hope none of these RT contingency plans will be necessary. They have seen a top-10 tackle pick (Ereck Flowers) fail to impress in the not-so-distant past; Neal following suit would be a blow for the Joe Schoen regime. PFF, though, slotted Neal 80th among tackle regulars in both of his two NFL seasons.

As Neal attempts to complete his recovery from the foot fracture, he will certainly need to show improved form to stay on track as a starter.

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