Jason Garrett on Thursday said what has been evident to anyone who has watched the Giants for, well, nearly a decade: The offensive line was and continues to be a unit in need of repair.
Garrett spoke of the challenge of having to “create an environment” that allows the offensive line the Giants are currently using to have any success. Injuries, a lack of depth and players who have not progressed as expected are all reasons why the offensive line continues to be a primary area that must be improved, a position group the coaching staff has to navigate around on a weekly basis.
This is a far cry from what Garrett was accustomed to during his years with the Cowboys. As the head coach in Dallas for 10 years, Garrett had the luxury of directing an offense that was fueled by what developed into the best offensive line in the league. The Cowboys used three first-round picks to fix this position group and Tyron Smith, Zach Martin and Travis Frederick all turned into stars.
The Giants did not come close to that talent import with the drafting of Justin Pugh (first round), Ereck Flowers (first round) and Weston Richburg (second round) and continue to be in the market for starting-caliber players for their line. The group they will use Monday night in Tampa is made up of a collection of players mostly patched together to fill holes.
“It’s just part of where we are,” Garrett said. “We’re trying to rebuild the team and that’s a process. It was a process for us in Dallas at different times. You have to make the decisions to say ‘OK, we’re gonna allocate this resource because this is important to us.’ We did that time and time again and all of a sudden you built a really powerful, strong offensive line that’s still going today.
“They’re really good players, cornerstone players. That’s what you have to do, and in the meantime you have to somehow, someway create an environment with the guys you have. The guys we have here have done a hell of a job, coming to work every day, practicing and doing everything they can to complete as well as they can on Sundays. And we love that as coaches, we love the group of guys we’re coaching.”
Asked if the Giants have any cornerstone pieces on their offensive line, Garrett mentioned only one player.
“Yeah, we’re in the process of doing that,” he said. “Certainly we allocated a big resource to draft Andrew Thomas, I think we’ve all seen his progression. He’s gonna be a hell of a football player for a long time. He’s one of those guys but, again, we love all those pieces up front and we’re excited about the challenge we have this week against Tampa.”
Thomas is trying to come back from foot and ankle injuries that kept him out of four of the past five games. Without him, the Giants start Matt Peart and Nate Solder at the tackles, Will Hernandez and Matt Skura at the two guard spots and Billy Price at center. Price and Skura were added to fill the void left behind by the season-ending injuries to Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux.