EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No doubt owing to his persistent desire to upgrade the group and the fact that it remains an ongoing endeavor, Dave Gettleman was asked today about only one position group during his pre-NFL Draft conference call. Naturally, it was the offensive line.
Although three returning starters – left tackle Nate Solder and guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler - should be ready to go whenever the league permits teams to convene, the Giants have uncertainty at the other two positions. Incumbent right tackle Mike Remmers joined the Kansas City Chiefs last month and center Jon Halapio is recovering from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the season finale.
Gettleman, of course, has a mandate to unwaveringly seek upgrades at all positions, but few, if any, groups have been scrutinized as intently since his arrival as the O-line. The team's third-year general manager and first-year head coach Joe Judge have been to a combined 11 Super Bowls – each winning three – and they believe in the cliché that success starts up front.
"Joe and I are of the same mentality that the offensive line sets the tone for the team," Gettleman said. "It really does. I think of all the teams that I've been with that have gone to Super Bowls, the offensive lines were the tone-setters. You think of the offensive lines in 2007 and 2011 when we beat the Patriots (in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI). Those groups set the tone. We're going to do everything we can to make sure we replicate that."
Gettleman well knows that marquee ballhandlers like Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones will be challenged to excel without an outstanding front.
"You know my theory," Gettleman said. "It's very, very difficult for Saquon to run the ball if he doesn't have holes. It's going to be difficult for Daniel to throw the ball when he's on his back. We'll continue to build the offensive line. Is it a pressure point? To a degree. I'm not going to deny that. But it's about getting the right guy. It's about not panicking. Like I said before, we think (third-year pro) Nick Gates has a bright future as an offensive lineman. Spencer Pulley has done good work for us at center. (Jon) Halapio is coming back, hopefully he'll be ready to go and recovered from the Achilles by June. We're just going to keep working at it."
Gettleman said Monday that one reason he didn't heavily invest in the line during free agency was because of the position's depth in the draft. The Giants own the fourth selection in the first round of the draft, which begins Thursday night. This class includes numerous tantalizing tackle prospects, including Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Louisville's Mekhi Becton, Alabama's Jedrick Wills, Jr. and Georgia's Andrew Thomas, all potential top 10 choices. At least three more could be chosen in the first round.
Some of the tackles have played exclusively on the left or right side, while showing they can excel on either side.
"I think that versatility certainly doesn't hurt," Gettleman said. "But, it's a thick group. There are tackles throughout the draft, throughout the vertical - we call it our vertical. There's a lot of talent there. Is it helpful if a guy played both? Absolutely. Is it fatal if he's only played one? Certainly not. If you have a tackle need and need meets value, then you know you work through it. You say to yourself, 'This is a good tackle,' whether he's a left or a right and you take him. It's certainly no different than any other position. If he's a good corner, whether he's a right or a left, a good linebacker, whatever, you just take the guy. Versatility is really a plus, but it's not fatal if a guy is not."
If the Giants do select a tackle at No. 4, they won't immediately hand him a starting job.