Our "Cover 3" question of the week on Giants.com is: Which offseason acquisition, including draft picks, will make the biggest impact on the team this year?
Nate Solder. Left tackle is one of the most important positions in the NFL and the Giants got a good one, and a proven one, in free agency. The team made a large but worthwhile investment, given the impact Solder will have on the rest of the team. His presence on the left side not only solidifies the left tackle spot but could also improve the right tackle position where Ereck Flowers (and maybe even Chad Wheeler) represent an upgrade.
If Will Hernandez does end up landing at left guard, he will also benefit from having an extremely reliable and veteran player next to him. According to Pro Football Focus, Solder was the fourth-best run-blocking left tackle in the NFL last year, which when combined with Hernandez could give the Giants a reliable side of the line to run towards in short yardage situations.
Solder will also positively impact Eli Manning. Solder will not be perfect, but his experience will certainly help preventing any free runners or missed assignments. He is a solid pass protector that Manning and the offensive coaching staff can trust. Solder's presence should give the green light to Pat Shumur to call some more seven-step drops and plays that require Manning to hold the ball a little longer to get it downfield.
There's a good reason Solder was one of the Giants' top priorities this offseason. He'll help everyone on the field for the Giants offense.
The New York Giants have rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL since they boasted their last 1,000-yard rusher, who was Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012. In that five-year span, they have notched just 41 scores on the ground while averaging 3.71 yards per carry. Needless to say, that put a lot of pressure on Eli Manning's shoulders. It's a good thing they now have Saquon Barkley, who can squat upwards of 500 pounds. Of course, the real weight he will be lifting is in the form of balancing the new offensive attack under head coach Pat Shurmur.
A home-run threat every time he touches the ball, Barkley will force defenses to play honest and take the attention away from Odell Beckham Jr., which is a dangerous proposition. In a day where there seems to be a stat for everything, there is not a stat for the total impact of an elite, three-down back. He will help the offensive line. He will help the receivers. He will help the defense by keeping the offense on the field, and the opposite is true for opponents. Barkley was drafted the highest of any running back selected since Reggie Bush in 2006 and the highest overall choice by the Giants since Lawrence Taylor in 1981. There is a lot of pressure that comes with that status for the organization, but for the first time in a long time, the pressure be spread more evenly.
Saquon Barkley would be the easy choice and Nate Solder would is an obvious candidate, but I actually think Alec Ogletree will have the biggest impact on the team. Since Antonio Pierce retired following the 2009 season, the Giants have been looking for stability at middle linebacker. A number of players have assumed that role, most notably Jon Beason and Jameel McClain, but finding consistent production and durability have proven to be a challenge.
Over his five seasons with the Rams from 2013-2017, Ogletree led the team in tackles four times. The lone exception was 2015 when he was limited to four games due to a broken fibula. Outside of 2015, he played in all 16 games three times and 15 games in 2017. Ogletree has proven to be durable and consistent. He has experience as both an outside and inside linebacker, and he has the ability to make plays sideline to sideline.
I think Ogletree's presence will provide leadership in and out of the locker room. He will serve as a mentor and complement to B.J. Goodson, and his ability to stop the run will open things up for players like Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin to get after the quarterback. The latter may be his biggest impact because if Ogletree serves as the security blanket, then those other linebackers have the flexibility to provide a pass rush, which will be needed with the departure of Jason Pierre-Paul, who led the team with eight sacks in 2017. When you have stability in the middle of the defense, it can do wonders for every other level, something that has been missing over the last few seasons.