Joshua Ezeudu

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 Place OL Joshua Ezeudu On IR

OCTOBER 20: After tests on the second-year blocker’s injury, Brian Daboll revealed the situation “doesn’t look good,” per the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy. The 2022 third-round pick may not return this season, which would be another blow to a Giants O-line that remains without Thomas, center John Michael Schmitz, swing tackle Matt Peart and guard Shane Lemieux. All four are out for Week 7, with Lemieux done for the year after suffering a biceps tear in practice Thursday.

OCTOBER 17: The Giants are down yet another offensive lineman. The Giants have placed offensive tackle Joshua Ezeudu on injured reserve, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. Ezeudu suffered a toe injury during Sunday’s loss to the Bills.

The 2022 third-round pick found himself starting for the Giants at left tackle after Andrew Thomas went down with a hamstring injury. After starting two of his 10 appearances as a rookie, Ezeudu has already started five of his six appearances in 2023. Pro Football Focus hasn’t been very fond of his performance, ranking him 71st among 74 qualifying offensive tackles, but his injury will still force the Giants to dig deeper into their OL depth.

Ezeudu’s exit from Sunday night’s game forced the Giants to play Justin Pugh at LT despite the veteran only having six career snaps at the position. Pugh was elevated from the practice squad with the expectation that he’d chip in at left guard, but Ezeudu’s injury changed those plans. It’s uncertain if Pugh is indeed the organization’s top healthy option at LT or if he was merely an emergency, in-game solution.

The Giants were busy adding some depth at the position today. According to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, the team has signed offensive lineman Josh Miles off the Falcons’ practice squad. The former seventh-round pick saw time in 17 games with the Cardinals between the 2019 and 2021 seasons.

Raanan also reports that the Giants have snagged lineman Tyre Phillips off the Eagles’ practice squad. The lineman actually started five of his 12 appearances for the Giants in 2022 and was a surprise cut back in August. The former third-round pick started 13 of his 22 appearances with the Ravens to begin his career.

Giants Did Not Look Into High-Priced FA Guards; LT Andrew Thomas Out For Week 2

SEPTEMBER 17: Thomas is indeed inactive for Sunday’s game, as the Giants will play it safe with their blindside blocker. An improved performance compared to Week 1 will be needed up front for New York, but their O-line will be shorthanded against the Cardinals.

SEPTEMBER 14: First- or second-round picks are stationed at both tackle spots and center along the Giants’ offensive line, but middling guard investments join the Andrew ThomasEvan NealJohn Michael Schmitz trio. Against the Cowboys, the Giants’ O-line plan did not hold up.

Dallas’ top-tier pass rush sacked Daniel Jones seven times and tallied 15 quarterback hits in the 40-0 drubbing Sunday night. ESPN’s pass block win rate metric graded both Neal and right guard Mark Glowinski in the bottom three at their respective positions in Week 1, ESPN’s Jordan Raanan notes.

The team used Glowinski and Ben Bredeson as its guard starters. This came after a lengthy competition, one that featured 2022 third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu vying for a role. The Giants expected Ezeudu to beat out Bredeson, a 2021 trade acquisition, for the left guard job, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post notes. This optimism helped influence the Giants to not pursue a notable free agency guard addition. The team had been mentioned as interested in retaining Nick Gates, but the Commanders signed him and deployed the ex-Giants starter at center in Week 1.

The Giants preferred to devote funds to retaining their own talent this offseason, giving Jones, Thomas and Dexter Lawrence pricey extensions. Saquon Barkley‘s $10.1MM franchise tag also limited how Big Blue could devote its free agency dollars. The team had also given Glowinski a three-year, $18.3MM deal ($11.4MM guaranteed) in 2022. Despite Pro Football Focus rating Glowinski as a top-30 guard last year, the Giants held a three-way guard battle in training camp. The 31-year-old blocker kept his RG gig but enters Week 2 under a microscope after his showing against the Cowboys.

Outside options do exist at guard for the Giants. Justin Pugh, who began his career with the team and started at guard and tackle following a 2013 first-round investment, has expressed interest in rejoining the team. Pugh, 33, is coming off a torn ACL sustained in October of last year. The five-year Cardinals starter said he was eyeing a Giants return in August, though the Syracuse alum has not been closely tied to a team since he received clearance to resume football work.

Oddly, Dalton Risner also remains a free agent. The four-year Broncos starter entered free agency as, at worst, a second-tier option at guard. But he did not sign anywhere and took the surprising path of remaining unattached entering the year. A handful of teams showed interest in Risner, who may well be waiting for an injury to shake up a team’s O-line plans. The 28-year-old blocker probably qualifies as the top option available.

Elsewhere on New York’s O-line, Thomas is battling a strained hamstring. An MRI revealed the All-Pro left tackle avoided a serious setback, per Raanan, but it is possible he misses some time. Injured after the Giants’ botched field goal attempt that resulted in a Cowboys TD, Thomas did not practice Wednesday. This offseason, the Giants gave the 2020 first-rounder a five-year, $117.5MM deal that sits second among tackles.

Matt Peart, a 2020 third-round pick, sits as the Giants’ swing tackle, though Schwartz adds Ezeudu has taken LT reps in practice over the past two weeks. Ezeudu spent time at tackle while at North Carolina. Moving to left tackle after failing to win a starting guard job in his second training camp might make be a stretch. Peart has not made a start since 2021; the UConn alum has six career starts.

Giants Holding Competitions At All Three Interior O-Line Spots

Making two top-10 picks at tackle over the past four years, the Giants have no questions at those positions. They also used a second-round choice on center John Michael Schmitz, and while the Minnesota product is a decent bet to begin his career as a starter, the Giants are not ensuring that route will open up just yet.

More notably, 2022 free agency addition Mark Glowinski does not appear a lock to keep his job, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post tweets. Swingman Ben Bredeson, who is also in contention for left guard, has mixed in regularly with the first team on the right side, with The Athletic’s Dan Duggan and Charlotte Carroll most recently noting Bredeson’s first-team RG usage (subscription required).

A 2021 trade acquisition from the Ravens, Bredeson has mixed in at all three spots along the Giants’ interior during training camp. He appears the top Schmitz competitor at center, while having begun recent practices (via Duggan) as the first-string left guard. Bredeson mixed in with Glowinski at right guard and 2022 third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu on the left side Tuesday. The former fourth-round pick is going into a contract year.

Bredeson being used at all three spots suggests the Giants have a potential swing role in mind, with Ezeudu also seeing steady first-unit time at left guard. Seeing the Joe Schoen-era Day 2 draftee seize the LG job alongside fellow Schoen pickups Schmitz and Glowinski would probably be the scenario the Giants prefer. Bredeson started eight games last season, playing a career-high 541 offensive snaps. The Giants lost center Jon Feliciano and guard/center Nick Gates in free agency; Bredeson would supply experience and represent insurance alongside Ezeudu (290 rookie-year snaps) and Schmitz.

Glowinski, 31, signed a three-year, $18.3MM deal that came with $11.4MM guaranteed. The longtime Colts starter gave the Giants 16 starts at right guard last season, as a rotation formed at the other guard post. Pro Football Focus graded Glowinski as last year’s No. 29 overall guard. It would be rather odd to see Glowinski benched, but the Giants are going through several options up front. Tyre Phillips, a 2022 waiver claim from the Ravens, has also taken first-team reps at left guard, Jordan Raanan of tweets.

This batch of blockers looks to have relegated Shane Lemieux to the roster bubble, Duggan adds. The fourth-year lineman has not been among the competitors for the Giants’ LG job. Lemieux has battled significant injury problems over the past two years, seeing a September 2021 patellar tendon tear keep him off the field until November 2022. A toe injury then limited Lemieux to one game all season. With the Giants activating former fifth-rounder Marcus McKethan from the active/PUP list Monday — after an August 2022 ACL tear — Lemieux will need to fight for a job during this year’s preseason. While Lemieux has mixed in as a backup center as well, Jack Anderson is also on the radar for that post.

The Giants chose Schmitz at No. 56 overall, viewing him as the better option compared to consideration Jalin Hyatt, whom they circled back to in Round 3. Just before the Schmitz pick, Brian Daboll said the All-Big Ten blocker could start in Week 1. Schmitz received every first-team center rep Tuesday, per Duggan and Carroll. It would surprise if he were not Big Blue’s starting pivot to open the season.

Latest On Giants’ Offensive Line

The Giants selecting John Michael Schmitz in Round 2, making the Minnesota product the first pure center drafted this year, points to four positions along their offensive line being solidified. Schmitz earning the starting snapper gig would mean he accompanies Andrew Thomas, Evan Neal and Mark Glowinski on New York’s O-line.

With Glowinski stationed at right guard, left guard would seem the unit’s only question. That is, if Brian Daboll‘s draft-weekend assessment of Schmitz’s instant-starter capabilities turns out to be accurate. But the Giants are sending veteran Ben Bredeson into two position competitions, per the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy.

The 2021 trade acquisition is vying for both the left guard and center positions, with Dunleavy adding the ex-Raven should probably be considered the favorite at the LG spot. The Giants used a rotation at that position last season, platooning Bredeson and Nick Gates. Washington signed Gates in free agency, clearing a path for Bredeson to earn the job outright in a contract year. Bredeson is going against fellow contract-year blocker Shane Lemieux and 2022 third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu, per Dunleavy.

Lemieux held a starting job during the second half of the 2020 season, replacing Will Hernandez and taking over after the former starter recovered, but suffered a patellar tendon tear in September 2021. That career-stalling injury delayed Lemieux’s return until late November of last year, and the former fifth-round pick only suited up for one game last season. A toe injury added to Lemieux’s early-career health issues. Ezeudu, one of two ex-North Carolina guards the Giants drafted last year (along with fifth-rounder Marcus McKethan), played 290 offensive snaps as a rookie.

Pro Football Focus graded Glowinski, a longtime Colts starter, as a top-30 guard last season. It slotted Bredeson as the best of the rest, ranking him just outside the top 50. Bredson, a former fourth-round pick, has played guard more than center and should probably be considered a long shot to beat out Schmitz at the latter spot. With Bredeson, Lemieux, Ezeudu and McKethan rostered, along with ex-Steelers center J.C. Hassenauer and 2022 second-stringer Jack Anderson, the Giants will have some decisions to make when setting their final 53. McKethan did not play last year, suffering an ACL tear during the preseason.

None of these interior blockers is in the mix to be the team’s top tackle off the bench, with Matt Peart, Korey Cunningham and Tyre Phillips are battling for the swing gig behind Thomas and Neal. Phillips, claimed off waivers from the Ravens last year, made five starts in 2022 but worked behind the other two to start OTAs. Peart and Cunningham each have six career starts, though neither has seen much time since their respective rookie years. An outside addition to work behind Thomas and Neal should not be ruled out, per Dunleavy.

These O-line competitions will not heat up until training camp, obviously, as pads do not come on until August. Despite losing Gates and 2022 center starter Jon Feliciano in free agency, the Giants have a few options along their offensive front.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/17/22

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

  • Promoted: C Brock Hoffman

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

OL Notes: Giants, Radunz, Steelers, Brunskill

After fielding another below-average offensive line last season, one that saw key injuries reconfigure it early on in the campaign, the Giants loaded up on blockers this offseason. Newcomers Evan Neal, Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano are projected to start at right tackle, right guard and center, respectively. Andrew Thomas is the team’s unquestioned left tackle. That leaves left guard as the top competition area. Holdover Shane Lemieux appears to be the favorite for that job, via’s Zack Rosenblatt, who notes the third-year player has been a full participant despite coming off a patellar tendon tear that cost him 16 games last season. Lemieux, who started down the stretch for the 2020 Giants and has received the first reps with the starters thus far, attempted to play through the severe knee injury in Week 1 but ended up missing the season’s remainder.

The Joe SchoenBrian Daboll regime, however, brought in third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu (North Carolina). Although Max Garcia arrived this offseason as well, Rosenblatt adds the Giants view the eighth-year veteran as more of a backup. This sets up a Lemieux-Ezeudu left guard battle, one that will determine if the Giants have three or four new starters up front.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s O-line scene:

  • The Titans lost two starters from their 2021 O-line — left guard Rodger Saffold and stopgap right tackle David Quessenberry — and are aiming to plug in former second-round pick Dillon Radunz. The North Dakota State product, who made just one start as a rookie, is vying for the team’s right tackle gig but also factors into the guard mix, Jim Wyatt of offers. Radunz, chosen a year after would-be right tackle Isaiah Wilson became a quick bust, was a full-timer for the Bison from 2018-19 but lost the 2020 season due to the pandemic. The Titans used a third-round pick on Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere, representing another right tackle option. Third-year UDFA Aaron Brewer and ex-Seahawk Jamarco Jones are on the roster as left guard candidates.
  • Daniel Brunskill has started 35 straight regular-season games for the 49ers, slotting primarily at right guard. The fourth-year veteran has shown an ability to fill in at all five O-line spots, and Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes the 49ers would prefer Brunskill as a super-sub rather than as the full-time starter. For this reality to unfold, the team would need a viable replacement. Jaylon Moore, a 2021 fifth-round pick who has moved inside from tackle, represents competition for the 49ers’ right guard position. Given Brunskill’s experience, benching him would be quite the gamble for a team that lost five-year left guard Laken Tomlinson in free agency and looks set to lose center Alex Mack to retirement.
  • Steelers newcomers James Daniels and Mason Cole look set to play right guard and center, respectively, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo, leaving a competition between two 2021 starters at left guard. The Steelers following through on the rumored move of center Kendrick Green to guard, his primary college position, has created a competition between he and Kevin Dotson — a 13-game starter through two years. Pro Football Focus graded Dotson well as a rookie, albeit in a small sample size, but an ankle injury doomed his sophomore NFL season. Green started 15 games last year; PFF graded the rookie third-rounder as one of the league’s worst centers. Given a three-year, $15.75MM deal, Cole coming to Pittsburgh has led to Green’s position switch.