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Mailbag: Configuring the offensive line


Noam in Florida: Would the Giants think of moving Kevin Zeitler or Will Hernandez over to center and have Shane Lemieux remain at guard, where he was in college?

John Schmeelk: The Giants will cross-train most of their players at multiple positions, but Zeitler and Hernandez have always played guard and they will likely stay there. There are three good candidates to play center in Spencer Pulley, Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux. It would be foolish to weaken another position when there's no evidence one of the veteran guards would convert into a quality center. 

Chris in New York: How will Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux help the offensive line in 2020?

John Schmeelk: With Nate Solder's decision to opt out, Thomas and Peart will have the opportunity to compete with Nick Gates and Cameron Fleming to be starting offensive tackles. The players that don't start will be swing tackles, or in Nick Gates' case, perhaps start at center. Shane Lemieux will have a chance to be the starting center to begin the season. If Lemieux doesn't win that battle, he can be a backup at guard and center. 

Stephan in Florida: Should the Giants spend the money they saved on Nate Solder's opt-out to bring in a veteran free agent?

John Schmeelk: In uncertain times, it is best to plan for the future. The salary cap could drop more than 20 million dollars in 2021 due to lost revenue because of COVID-19, which will put many teams up against the salary cap and force them to cut good players. Spending the money saved due to Solder's opt-out this year may be tempting, but a case can be made that the team's future would be better served to roll the cap savings into next season.

View photos from Tuesday's session at training camp.

Fernando in Florida: Do you think moving Jabrill Peppers to cornerback with his physical play/speed and playing Julian Love at safety would be ideal?

John Schmeelk: Peppers is a safety, not a cornerback. His profile doesn't match what's typical to be a man-on-man outside corner. He would probably struggle with the quickness and change of direction ability of receivers. He has the skills to succeed at safety, which is where he'll likely stay. There's a chance Julian Love could get time at nickel cornerback, though he was used at safety last year. 

Jason in Maryland: Which two returning players on offense and on defense can you see having "breakout" potential this season?

John Schmeelk: Second-year players, often breakout candidates, have the added challenge of a limited off-season to contend with this year. So, on offense, I would look at Will Hernandez to take a step in his third season, and if Evan Engram stays healthy he could make the Pro Bowl. On defense, keep an eye on Lorenzo Carter, who is entering his third season. He has all the ability and could emerge as an edge rusher. Jabrill Peppers is another candidate. He has so much talent, and if Patrick Graham can find the right role for him, he could be a real difference maker. Despite being second-year players, I would also keep an eye on Julian Love and Dexter Lawrence. 

Leland in Pennsylvania: Due to the lack of practice time in the preseason this year, do you think the offense might bring in a sixth or seventh lineman to emphasize power and size if they can't accomplish their goals with precise execution and game-planning?

John Schmeelk: I don't know about extra offensive linemen, but Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian made a point on the Giants Huddle Podcast that it might be a good idea to heavily lean on Saquon Barkley and the running game early in the season, while the passing game works out the kinks.

George in Florida: Why is it that Daniel Jones seems to get so much blame for fumbles when many of those times the defense got to him from the blindside?

John Schmeelk: You are right that not all fumbles are equal. Pro Football Focus, for example, tracks turnover-worthy plays. They deemed only 10 of Jones' 18 fumbles to be turnover-worthy and many of those eight were plays when he was hit quickly after the snap, or from behind as he threw the ball. 

Jones still needs to protect the football better. He fumbled twice trying to finish runs to gain first downs rather than sliding. Other times, he didn't have two hands on the ball in the pocket. Sometimes, he held the ball too long in the pocket in the face of pressure, which invites opportunities to fumble. There are fundamental things he can do better to cut down on turnovers. There's no reason to think he won't improve in that area.


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