Giants GM Dave Gettleman spoke about improving the trenches and how to scout O-Line prospects:
The draft and free agency are inextricably linked, but the former is becoming increasingly more important in the NFL.
The reason? Fewer and fewer good-to-great players are getting to the market.
"Teams are signing their own," Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "And that's why the draft is so important. That's why drafting well is so critical."
That's not to say free agency is taken any less seriously. It comes up first when the league calendar resets on March 14 -- nine days after the football world packs up from Indianapolis – and the Giants need to revamp the roster coming off a 13-loss season.
Gettleman has met with his staff to go through the list of pending free agents, and now comes the time to sit down and draw up a game plan while simultaneously evaluating the draft class. Gettleman said today that the Giants are under the cap, but he was straightforward with not being straightforward about how much more room he would like to clear. "Who doesn't want 100 million bucks?" he said. In reality, he might have to be a little more economical.
"It's about adding value," said Gettleman, who returned to the Giants in late December after four seasons as general manager of the Panthers. "It's about adding the right guys. We are determined that the culture we had in '15 in Carolina was not to be beat. The team went to the Super Bowl because a lot of it was the culture in the locker room. You want tough guys that hate to lose."
Since taking over, Gettleman has stressed fortifying the trenches with hog mollies, as he calls them. The offensive line has the most work to be done just based on quantity alone. Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and D.J. Fluker are all set to hit the market.
The team has already re-signed veteran John Greco, who came off the bench to play the majority of snaps in the season-ending win over Washington. For most of that game, the Giants had Brett Jones at center, Jon Halapio and Greco at guard, and Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty at tackle. Of those players, only Jones and Wheeler were on the opening-day roster, and none of them started a game until Week 5, when Jones replaced Richburg (concussion) at center. John Jerry started all 16 games but left in the first quarter of Week 17 with a concussion. Greco replaced him. Meanwhile, Ereck Flowers was inactive because of a groin injury and Bobby Hart was waived a day before the final game.
Upon returning from the Senior Bowl as part of a whirlwind month of January, Gettleman locked himself in his office and watched film until his eyes bled. "You have to be practical and you have to be realistic," Gettleman said. "When I watched the offensive line, they had a ton of injuries. The group that finished the season against Washington, what I really liked was that they played tough. They were physical and they got after it. They did a really nice job. I said in my opening presser that I'm not going to lie to anyone, give me a break. We are going to do it piece by piece. If the right guy is there, we will make a move."
There is always the draft, too.
According to NFL Network's Mike Mayock, the top two offensive linemen both hail from Notre Dame -- Quenton Nelson on the interior and Mike McGlinchey at tackle. Overall, coaching offensive linemen is now more important than ever in transitioning from college systems to the professional ranks.
The top 50 prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, according to NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah
"Really and truly, if you watch the teams that win in the NFL, you have quarterbacks that are making plays from the pocket and you have offensive lines that are running old school NFL runs with little twists," Gettleman said. "Everyone has two O-line coaches (Hal Hunter and assistant Ben Wilkerson for the Giants). It is really imperative that they be great teachers. Some of these kids, there are guys that start for four years and the only time they have their hand in the dirt is if they fall down. It is two points the whole time and occasionally you will see them in the four-point on the goal line. Your two O-line coaches have to be great teachers.
"The other thing you have to do is get them as many reps as possible. There is a theory that you need 5,000 reps before you are ready. I don't know if I subscribe to it, but you think about it. Obviously that is not just on the field, it is in practice as well, but it takes time. Think about positions on the field. What is the most awkward? You think it is natural for a 320-pound-kid to back up and block? They want to come off and we teach them that. It has become more difficult. When you evaluate hog mollies, you have to be patient. You have to take your time. You look for the things that all the great ones can do. You have to look at all the basics. Does he play with a base? Can he roll his hips? Can he do this? Can he do that? You will find guys in the two-point that can do that."
And you better find them early because teams don't tend to let the good ones go.