Evan Neal

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.

Giants Keeping Evan Neal At RT; Team Viewing Jermaine Eluemunor As G?

Jermaine Eluemunor‘s Raiders run offers the Giants some flexibility up front. The veteran, who received a considerable raise from the Giants this offseason, played tackle and guard in Las Vegas. A potential threat to Evan Neal, Eluemunor looks to first be on track to return to an inside role.

Although Neal has not delivered anything close to what the Giants hoped for when they chose him seventh overall in 2022, no plans to kick the Alabama alum inside are on tap. Neal is staying at right tackle, SNY’s Connor Hughes notes.

Neal missed the second half of last season due to the fractured ankle — a diagnosis that surfaced after his rehab stalled — he suffered in early November, but he may be on notice after concerning early returns. Pro Football Focus has rated Neal as the NFL’s second-worst tackle regular (80th of 81) in each of his two seasons. The Giants, who saw top-10 investments fail to produce a tackle answer in Justin Pugh and Ereck Flowers during the 2010s, would be staring at a major draft whiff if this trajectory continues.

The Giants gave Eluemunor a two-year, $14MM deal on Day 1 of the legal tampering period. This marks a significant raise from Eluemunor’s most recent Raiders contract (one year, $3MM), with his Giants guarantee ($6.75MM) outpacing each of his three Raiders deals combined. Although Eluemunor’s work as Las Vegas’ right tackle garnered him this Giants deal, Big Blue added him to start somewhere else up front, according to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, who lists the eighth-year veteran as the team’s right guard starter opposite fellow UFA addition Jon Runyan Jr. (subscription required). Runyan worked at both guard posts in Green Bay, but Duggan adds he prefers left guard.

Playing a key role in Josh Jacobs‘ 2022 rushing title, Eluemunor graded 21st and 36th at tackle (per PFF) over the past two years. He has experience as an emergency RT solution, having provided the Raiders a safety net after their surprise Alex Leatherwood first-round investment bombed. Eluemunor also played exclusively at right guard in 2021 (though, he only logged 266 snaps that year). Exclusively a tackle in his only other extended starter run (with the Patriots in 2020), Eluemunor at guard seems a somewhat risky proposition for the Giants due to his limited NFL history here.

The team held a guard competition last year, one that featured Ben Bredeson, Mark Glowinski and Joshua Ezeudu. The team had expected Ezeudu, a 2022 third-round pick, would win the starting left guard job. But he did not do so out of training camp; the North Carolina alum suffered a season-ending toe injury in October. While Ezeudu remains on New York’s roster, Bredeson, Glowinski and Shane Lemieux are out of the picture. The team did add ex-Buccaneers spot starter Aaron Stinnie and swingman Austin Schlottmann in free agency, potentially offering help if Eluemunor needs to be moved back to tackle to replace Neal.

Neal was viewed by some as a future guard when he entered the draft, having started 13 games at left guard in 2019. GM Joe Schoen, however, said midway through last season the team still viewed Neal as a tackle. As the Giants begin their offseason, that remains the plan. Though, Neal’s January surgery may leave him sidelined during part of the offseason program. Once the 23-year-old blocker returns to work, this will be a pivotal offseason.

Giants RT Evan Neal To Undergo Surgery On Fractured Ankle

Believed to be dealing with a sprained left ankle, Evan Neal continued to see his potential return pushed back. The Giants have since ended the second-year tackle’s season, placing him on IR over the weekend. This amounted to a lost year for the top-10 pick.

More has come to light on why Neal missed the second half of the season. The Giants’ starting right tackle suffered a fractured ankle, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports. Brian Daboll alluded to a procedure likely being necessary, and Leonard confirms surgery is on tap.

Neal has struggled to justify the Giants’ No. 7 overall investment, and he missed time before this ankle malady shut him down in early November. The Giants are not expected to consider sliding Neal inside to guard, despite the Alabama alum having played there at points in college. But the team has seen its Andrew Thomas bookend partner have a tough go as an NFL RT.

It is unclear when Neal’s diagnosis changed from a sprain to a fracture, Leonard adds, but the updated injury explains why Neal — who had resumed practicing on a side field following the Nov. 5 injury — was never able to return to action. A CT scan, which took place after Neal was not progressing during his rehab, revealed the fracture, per The Athletic’s Dan Duggan. He ends his second season having played in just seven games.

The Giants have encountered a few misses at right tackle since Super Bowl-era bastion Kareem McKenzie‘s 2012 exit. First-rounder Justin Pugh could not stick at the position, being moved to guard during his first New York stint, and free agent Geoff Schwartz battled injuries during his Big Apple stay. Seventh-rounder-turned-starter Bobby Hart ultimately proved overmatched, and Dave Gettleman cut him on his first day as GM. Gettleman hit big on Thomas but was not able to find a right-edge blocker. After switching Nate Solder to RT in 2021, the Giants used the second of their two 2022 first-rounders on Neal. But he has disappointed thus far.

Pro Football Focus rated Neal as this season’s second-worst tackle. That came after the advanced metrics website placed in in the same spot (80th out of 81 qualified tackles) last year. It will be interesting to see if the Giants attempt to add a veteran to compete with Neal, but offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said (via Duggan) it remains too soon to fully evaluate the young blocker. That point is fast approaching, however, as the Giants will need to see significant improvement from Neal to avoid right tackle being a top priority come 2025.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/24/23

Sunday’s minor moves around the league:

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Facyson has not played all season, but the Raiders opened his practice window on Dec. 6, making him eligible to return to the field. The 29-year-old played for the Colts last season, but he spent the previous year with the Raiders, starting nine of his 12 games. Facyson is under contract through 2024, but none of his $2.27MM salary is guaranteed. Logging some game action down the stretch could thus be beneficial to his roster security.

Neal has missed the past five games due to an ankle injury, and today’s move means he will be shut down for the remainder of the season. The 2022 first-rounder underwhelmed when on the field, to the point where a switch to guard was suggested. No such move has been given consideration, but Neal will nevertheless face considerable expectations to rebound in 2024. Peart will have the chance to see playing time late in the year after suffering a shoulder injury in Week 5.

NFC East Notes: Neal, Cowboys, Commanders

While the Giants have seen Andrew Thomas become one of the NFL’s better tackles — en route to a $23.5MM-per-year extension — they have not observed their right tackle make a second-year leap. Evan Neal has missed time with injuries and struggled when on the field. Thomas was a Dave Gettleman draft choice, while Neal went in Joe Schoen‘s first draft in charge. Pro Football Focus has assigned this season’s third-worst tackle grade to Neal. The Alabama product was seen as a player who could potentially slide to guard at some point, having played there at times in college. For the time being, Schoen is not entertaining such a switch.

No, I don’t think so,” Schoen said, via the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy. “We are looking forward to getting him back, but he knows there are some things he can do better — and that’s what we expect from him. … I went back and watched the Alabama stuff: The kid can play. We just have to get him to be more consistent. I have a lot of confidence in Evan.”

In 20 starts over two seasons, PFF charges Neal with 10 sacks allowed. Just two of those have come this year, but the former No. 7 overall pick has missed five games. Neal has missed five of the Giants’ past six contests; the team has not placed him on IR. The Giants will certainly hope to see signs of promise from Neal down the stretch.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • DaRon Bland has morphed from a 2022 fifth-round pick into an NFL record holder, via the fifth pick-six he notched on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys could see two cornerbacks become first-team All-Pros in three seasons, after Trevon Diggs‘ 11-INT season landed him on the 2021 top team. Diggs’ 2023 replacement played at Division I-FCS Sacramento State and then spent a year at Fresno State. Cowboys scout Ross Wuensche identified Bland as a target, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes (video link), and the team brought him in for a visit. Describing Bland as a late-blooming prospect, Rapoport adds interest came in late enough he could not turn all his invitations for “30” into meetings before the 2022 deadline. With Stephon Gilmore‘s contract up after this season, the Cowboys extended Diggs and have Bland signed through 2025.
  • Recent Cowboys pickup Martavis Bryant remains in redevelopment mode. The team has not elevated its practice squad stash for a game yet, making it now more than five years since the former Steelers starter has played in an NFL game. No timetable is in place for a Bryant move to the active roster, but executive VP Stephen Jones said (via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill) the team sought the recent XFL wideout for his size-speed combo. The Cowboys are fairly well stocked at receiver, but Bryant’s 6-foot-4 frame would be a new dimension for this particular Dallas receiving cadre. It remains to be seen if the soon-to-be 32-year-old pass catcher still has NFL-viable form left.
  • Having fired DC Jack Del Rio after a Cowboys Thanksgiving romp, Ron Rivera is set to call the Commanders‘ defensive plays. The team also fired multi-stop Del Rio lieutenant Brent Vieselmeyer, who was Washington’s DBs coach this season. To help manage the workload, Rivera hired Jimmy Salgado as an interim staffer, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. Salgado had spent six seasons on Sean McDermott‘s Bills staff, but the team fired him this offseason. Salgado spent the 2023 season at Michigan State, working as the Spartans’ cornerbacks coach.

Giants To Start Tommy DeVito In Week 10, Sign Matt Barkley To Active Roster

In a situation that somehow looks worse than the 2021 setup that led to Joe Judge‘s firing, the Giants will enter the next three games without their top two quarterbacks available. Daniel Jones is out for the season, and Tyrod Taylor must miss at least three more games. The emergency setup will remain for Week 10.

Rather than move to Matt Barkley (and thus an all-Barkley backfield), the Giants will stick with rookie UDFA Tommy DeVito for their rematch against the Cowboys, Brian Daboll said Wednesday. The Giants have bumped Barkley to their 53-man roster, however, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

Barkley, 33, has made seven career starts. Though, none have come since 2018. The well-traveled backup/third-stringer caught on with the Giants just last week. With DeVito having signed as a UDFA earlier this year, he has a head start on the veteran arm. That said, Barkley was with the Bills for nearly Daboll’s entire stay as OC. The Giants now have Jacob Eason on their practice squad as a de facto third-stringer. Jones suffered a torn ACL in Week 9, and Daboll said Taylor is not a lock to return from his rib injury this season. That leaves DeVito and Barkley helming a sinking ship.

Both Barkley and Eason are former draft choices who could factor into this bleak situation, but for now, DeVito will keep going. Although 1987 obviously featured more rookies in place as starters, as it featured scabs during a players’ strike, the Associated Press’ Josh Dubow notes DeVito’s start will set a non-strike-year record for rookie quarterbacks to start a game — with 10. The 2019 season involved nine rookie QBs making starts.

The Giants started Taylor against the Jets and Jones against the Raiders. Neither made it out of the first half. Daboll and OC Mike Kafka kept DeVito on a tight leash against the Jets; he completed 2 of 7 passes in that matchup. The staff gave the rookie more opportunities in Las Vegas; DeVito completed 15 of 20 passes against the Raiders, throwing his first touchdown pass. Barkley has not thrown a regular-season pass since 2020, though he has 363 career attempts — most of them coming during his Buffalo stint.

In 2021, the Giants passed on re-signing Colt McCoy in order to replace him with Mike Glennon. Although McCoy sought a second Giants contract and ended up helping the Cardinals end a playoff drought, Glennon became the staff’s pick. Following Jones’ neck injury, the Giants lost their final six games — all of which by double digits — and finished the season with Jake Fromm at the controls. This stretch led to Judge’s firing, which had not been expected around midseason. Daboll helped stabilize matters last season, but the Giants have followed up a divisional-round season with a 2-7 start during a slate in which the worst may be ahead.

The Giants will also be without right tackle Evan Neal for a bit, according to Daboll. The 2022 top-10 pick suffered a left ankle sprain, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. Neal had previously battled a right ankle injury. Tyre Phillips, who spent the 2022 season in New York but wound up on Philadelphia’s practice squad this season, is likely set to replace Neal on the right side, ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan notes. The Giants finally saw Andrew Thomas return against the Raiders, but their run of O-line misfortune will continue in Dallas.

NFL Injury Updates: Giants, Achane, Ramsey, Watson

While one-game injuries are not usually worthy of mention, the Giants‘ situation at offensive line this week is a wild exception. It would be difficult to look back and find a more dire example of desperation on a depth chart. With regular starter Andrew Thomas and primary backup Matt Peart already designated out for tonight’s game against the Bills, according to Ryan Dunleavy of NY Post Sports, any other adjustments to availability could prove disastrous.

Semi-luckily for New York, the team’s other regular starter, Evan Neal, who was questionable coming into today, will be available to play tonight, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. The Giants’ other projected starter will be Joshua Ezeudu, who has struggled mightily as of late. Beyond those two, Marcus McKethan is the only other tackle listed on the depth chart, while Yodny Cajuste and Jaylon Thomas sit on the practice squad but weren’t elevated for today’s game.

Things could get ugly if Neal tweaks his knee or if the offensive line faces any further adversity. Hopefully, this is only just a one-week issue that the Giants will be clear of following this week’s trip to Buffalo.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the league:

  • After a blazing hot start to his NFL career, Dolphins rookie running back De’Von Achane was placed on injured reserve this week after suffering a knee injury. Based on the league’s rules for returning from IR, Achane wouldn’t be eligible for activation from the injury list until after the team’s Week 10 bye. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, that’s exactly when Achane plans to come back. Achane’s absence isn’t expected to be any longer than necessary as Miami is expecting a Week 11 return for the 22-year-old.
  • We reported this week that Dolphins cornerbacks coach Sam Madison had faith that we may see cornerback Jalen Ramsey return from knee surgery as early as November. That opinion was confirmed today by multiple sources. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Ramsey is far ahead of schedule and that a return by Week 11, after the team’s bye week, is not out of the question, allowing the star defender to play in Miami’s final eight games of the regular season. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Ramsey could return to practice as soon as this week, cautioning that the team may still choose to ease him back in “gradually” but that an early return is becoming more and more feasible.
  • Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has been week-to-week while missing the team’s last two games with a shoulder injury. While that status doesn’t really change with Schefter’s recent report that Watson could return as soon as next week, Schefter did specify that Watson is dealing with a subscapularis muscle contusion in the rotator cuff of his throwing shoulder, making it difficult for him to drive the ball down the field. According to Dianna Russini of The Athletic, Cleveland is being “smart” with Watson, whom it views as its franchise quarterback.

NFC East Notes: Commanders, Dillard, Giants

The Commanders are planning to open Chase Young‘s practice window next week, Ron Rivera said Thursday. Designating Young to return off the reserve/PUP list will give the former Defensive Rookie of the Year three weeks to be activated. Young has not played since suffering a right ACL tear, and his reconstructive surgery required a graft from his left patellar tendon. This pushed Young’s timetable to midseason. Washington has used James Smith-Williams (two sacks) alongside Montez Sweat (three) this season. The team has been cautious with Young, who last played on Nov. 14, 2021, doing so despite Rivera not exactly being on a tepid seat.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Washington has discussed demoted cornerback William Jackson in trades, and teams have also expressed interest in Daron Payne. But the Commanders are still planning to hang onto the fifth-year defensive tackle, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Washington did not progress far with Payne on extension talks but rebuffed trade inquiries this offseason. Its D-tackle equation has changed since then. Second-round rookie Phidarian Mathis is out for the season. Both Payne and longtime D-tackle mate Jonathan Allen lead the Commanders with 3.5 sacks apiece; Payne also tallied a safety this season. One of the NFC’s seven 3-4 teams, the Commanders do not necessarily have to be sellers. But they are in the conference’s toughest division, making a road to the postseason more difficult.
  • Staying on the trade front, Andre Dillard continues to generate interest. Mentioned in trade rumors before last year’s deadline, the Eagles’ swing tackle might be available this year. The Eagles are believed to be open to moving the former first-rounder, Fowler adds, but they are likely to want at least a third-round pick to move on. Dillard is in a contract year. He would probably be a starter on several teams but operates as a swingman behind Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson. Dillard’s injury history (23 missed games) also stands to affect his value.
  • The Giants will be without one of their tackles for a while. Evan Neal suffered what is believed to be a grade 2 MCL sprain and is expected to miss at least three games, per Fowler and NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter links). Neal stabilized his rookie season a bit after a disastrous night against the Cowboys’ menacing pass rush, but an IR move might be in the cards here. The Giants used Tyre Phillips as Neal’s replacement against the Jaguars. Formerly the Ravens’ starting left guard, Phillips arrived in New York via waiver claim. He rejoined ex-Baltimore teammate Ben Bredeson in New York, but the Giants’ starting left guard is also set to miss time after a Week 7 injury.
  • Daniel Bellinger also left the Giants-Jaguars game due to injury. The team’s starting tight end will soon undergo surgery to repair a fractured eye socket and septum, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post tweets. Brian Daboll said it is too soon to count on Bellinger returning this season, though Schwartz adds this is not believed to be a season-ending malady. Stepping in as a starter despite being a rookie fourth-round pick, Bellinger has 16 receptions (third in an evolving Giants aerial attack) for 152 yards and two touchdowns. The San Diego State alum also has a rushing score this season. Tanner Hudson is the only other Giant tight end with a catch (three) this year.

Giants Agree To Terms With First-Round DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, OT Evan Neal

The Giants have agreed to terms with their two first-round picks. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports (on Twitter), that the Giants will sign defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal to their rookie pacts following practice today.

Thibodeaux’s four-year rookie deal is worth a fully guaranteed $31.3MM (not including the non-guaranteed fifth-year option), per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter). The four fully guaranteed years on Neal’s contract are worth $24.6MM.

Thibodeaux was a candidate to go first-overall, but he was ultimately selected by the Giants with the fifth-overall pick. In three years at Oregon, Thibodeaux led the squad in sacks and tackles for loss. He finished his career with 19.0 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss, and he also added 14 quarterback hurries over his career, leading the team last year with eight. In early February, Thibodeaux started to see his draft stock affected in a way not uncommon to Oregon alumni, with one pundit questioning the player’s”fire.”

Neal’s status as the top blocker in this year’s class was challenged by NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu throughout the draft process. At one point, the Alabama product was the definitive top OT prospect in the draft, but his stock seemingly fell a bit leading up to the draft. Despite falling below Ekwonu, Neal was still selected with the seventh-overall pick. At six-foot-seven, 360 pounds, Neal’s size and frame are certainly NFL-ready. He projects well as a powerful right tackle, though he started every game this season on the blindside. He earned a PFF grade of 84.5 for the 2021 season, in which he was a consensus First-Team All American.

Once the two signings are complete, 20 of the draft’s 32 first-round picks will have inked their rookie pacts, including every player in the top-eight (per Pelissero on Twitter).

Giants Select Evan Neal With No. 7 Pick

Giants wanted offensive line help from the 2022 NFL Draft and they got their guy at No. 7 overall taking Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal

At six-foot-seven, 360 pounds, Neal’s size and frame are certainly NFL-ready. He projects well as a powerful right tackle, though he started every game this season on the blindside, who could be dominant in the run game with his size and strength. He earned a PFF grade of 84.5 for the 2021 season, in which he was a consensus First-Team All American.

Neal’s status as the top blocker in this year’s class was challenged by NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu throughout the draft process. At one point, the Alabama product was the definitive top OT prospect in the draft, but his stock seemingly fell a bit leading up to the draft.

Despite falling below Ekwonu, Neal beat out speculation that Mississippi State’s Charles Cross could be taken over him, as well. The Giants also considered taking Neal at No. 5 overall, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, but opted for defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was much less likely to be available at No. 7. Regardless, Neal is on his way to Broadway to start his pro career.