Cliff in New York: Did the Giants' staff think their second-half record in 2020 was significantly impacted by the offensive line's improvement? Do they pay attention to stats such as pass-block wins and, if so, were those stats different than the first half of the season?
John Schmeelk: Without getting into specifics, the staff tracks the performance of every unit. There's no doubt the offensive line played better in the second half of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants allowed pressure on only 31% of their dropbacks over the final six weeks (13th-best in the NFL). In their first 11 weeks, the Giants were ranked last, allowing pressure on 45.5% of their dropbacks.
Part of that improvement had to do with the competition. The Bengals, Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns, Ravens and Cowboys finished outside the Top 10 in pressure rate, with four of them finishing 16th or lower. In the first half of the season, the Giants faced three of the top four and five of the top seven teams (including Philadelphia and Washington twice) in pressure rate.
The Giants were also able to pass block better when they were able to stick with their game plan - running a lot of play-action passes and keeping in extra players into block. Although no one talks about it, their run blocking was fairly strong and should not be a concern for anyone.
James in Texas: The Giants' braintrust collectively expressed their confidence in the offensive line group from last season and it looks like they are standing behind their words. Is there any chance that they would sign a free agent guard (or center) to hedge their bet?
John Schmeelk: The same group won't be returning. The Giants are going to have a new right tackle this year, whether it is Matt Peart or Nate Solder. The Giants will have a new right guard this year after Kevin Zeitler was released. There's no guarantee either spot will be upgraded, but the pieces will be different. Andrew Thomas will likely return as the team's starting left tackle, and he showed great improvement over the final half of the season. After allowing six sacks and 47 pressures in the season's first 10 games, he only allowed 13 pressures and two sacks in his final six.
Nick Gates played center for the first time in his career and only allowed two pressures over his final six games after allowing 17 in his first 10. Shane Lemieux is entering his second season and has room to improve his pass protection, given the toughness and intelligence he displayed as a rookie. Will Hernandez is a former second-round pick, and far removed from his COVID diagnosis as he tries to make a statement in the final year of his rookie contract. So there is potential for the line to take a significant step forward if the young players improve under new offensive line coach Rob Sale.