EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants returned to the practice field Tuesday for a one-hour walkthrough and as is so often the case, the offensive line was among the team's chief topics of conversation.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, hopes to return to the field Monday night, when the Giants host the Seattle Seahawks. Left guard Ben Bredeson is progessing through the NFL concussion protocol and could return to the starting lineup after missing the loss last Thursday in San Francisco. Coach Brian Daboll said Marcus McKethan will remain the starter at right guard, as he has been for the last two games.
Where that leaves Joshua Ezeudu, the line's most versatile player…well, stay tuned.
Daboll deferred substantive comments on all injuries to Thursday, when the Giants will practice in pads and must release their first injury report of the week. Players who missed the 49ers game with injuries were running back Saquon Barkley, linebacker Azeez Ojulari, Bredeson and Thomas.
"I'll just say everybody has been rehabbing, they're getting better," Daboll. "I'll give you an update on Thursday but we're making progress with everybody who has been on that report or missed. We're making progress."
The Giants started three different O-line combinations in their first three games. Mark Glowinski started the opener at right guard but was replaced by McKethan. Ezeudu stepped in for Thomas and Shane Lemieux started in place of Bredeson in San Francisco. Right tackle Evan Neal and rookie center John Michael Schmitz have started every game.
"That's why we move guys around a bunch during the preseason and training camp months, because you can," Daboll said. "If you're not starting five, you better have some position flexibility to play multiple spots, so certainly an important aspect for us.
"I'd say if those guys (Thomas and Bredeson) are back, it'll look like it looked when Ben and Andrew were … back playing. But again, we'll see where they're at. I don't want to make a decision right now. We'll see where we're at Thursday."
Thomas said he was optimistic about being in uniform on Monday.
"I am, but we haven't practiced yet," he said. "So, we'll see once I get out there, but I am feeling good.
"I didn't do much in a walkthrough last week. So, I haven't really got to block anybody, so we'll see once we practice."
Barring an unexpected development, the right side of the line will remain unchanged. That means McKethan, who spent his entire 2022 rookie season on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in a training camp practice, will play guard.
"I think he's done a good job," Daboll said. "Again, he's only played a couple games, he was out all last season. Improving. Big body, moves well, so again, the experience that he's played in the first couple of games will help him."
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Ezeudu played left tackle in place of Thomas in the victory in Arizona on Sept. 17 and in San Francisco. His only two starts as a rookie last season were at left guard. Ezeudu started at every offensive line position except center at the University of North Carolina, where McKethan and he were teammates.
"I think he can play four spots for us," Daboll said of Ezeudu. "So, both tackle spots and then he can also go inside and play, having done that some. I think he's done a good job of filling in, but he has, I'd say, four-position flex for us."
Is Ezeudu more valuable as a player who can contribute at four positions, or as a regular starter at one?
"Every role on the team is important, whether you're starting, whether you're on special teams or whether you're on whatever," Ezeudu said. "I just feel very valuable that I have a role on the team."
Though he focused on left tackle the previous two games, Ezeudu must be familiar with the assignments at his other potential positions.
"It's something that you just have to know, being a part of the league," Ezeudu said. "Things are very weekly, and anything can happen and then next thing you know, you're up, so I don't think it was that hard."
Perhaps the player most affected by the line shuffling is Schmitz, who has played next to two right guards and three left guards (including Glowinski, who took over when Bredeson was injured against the Cardinals).
"You gotta be able to adjust," Schmitz said. "You never know what's gonna happen. You gotta be ready to just go out there, whoever the five that's out there, and go and compete."
Sounds like a good motto for the Giants' offensive line.
*Daboll spoke before practice and was asked about Barkley, who missed the San Francisco game with a sprained ankle suffered late in the Arizona game.
"I don't think he'll do much today," Daboll said. "But he's really now, I'd say, in the day-to-day category. Feels a lot better today, but we'll kind of take that all the way throughout the week and see how he improves."