Giants' insistence on not reaching in draft doesn't help O-line struggles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' offensive line didn't perform particularly well last season. It was a major part of the team's struggle to score points and run the ball.

After free agency and the NFL draft, it might not be much better this year.

With the bulk of free agency and the draft wrapped up, the Giants have added a castaway 2013 first-round pick on the cheap (D.J. Fluker) and a sixth-round pick (Pittsburgh's Adam Bisnowaty). The Giants are coming back with much of the same line from last season, whether fans like it or not.

It's not that the Giants entered the draft closed-minded. Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles in the first round was a player they liked, but the Denver Broncos took him two picks before they selected.

Temple's Dion Dawkins was an option in the second round, but the Giants were intent on sticking to their board and filling another need. Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, the Giants' pick in the round, had a high grade and a lot of the same skills they had lost when Johnathan Hankins signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

The Giants weren't going out of their way to land an offensive lineman, regardless of the fan base's desires.

"We wanted to help the offensive line but we didn't want to reach for anyone and we did that," general manager Jerry Reese said. "We always want to help every position, and offensive line is a position that we tried to help, but again, we're not going to reach for anyone."

So the Giants may have the same starting five offensive linemen this year, with (from left to right) Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart protecting quarterback Eli Manning. Fluker could also enter the mix. He's this year's version of Marshall Newhouse, who signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders.

The Giants seem to be banking on their unit improving. It's possible. Flowers, 23, and Hart, 22, are young. Fluker could benefit from a change of scenery. Continuity is also important with this group.

They will experiment this season to see what they have. The plan is to throw everyone (including the newest lineman, Bisnowaty) into a spot to see how it comes out.

"I don't have a set unit in mind," coach Ben McAdoo said. "I want to see how guys play, how they perform and how they work together. That is a big part of things."

But the Giants' offseason moves speak for themselves. They didn't land a proven NFL left tackle in free agency after Flowers struggled last season, when he allowed the second-most pressures (59), according to Pro Football Focus. They didn't land an early-round left tackle they can plug immediately into the lineup.

The Giants traditionally expect their picks in the first three rounds to contribute significantly as rookies. Even that is unlikely this season with the third-round selection of quarterback Davis Webb.

So again, they're counting heavily on Flowers, their 2015 first-round pick who has struggled his first two professional seasons.

"We still have high hopes for Ereck," said vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross, echoing the strong support that Flowers has received from the Giants' decision-makers throughout this offseason. "He's young. The guy started two years in the NFL and the guy is still young. He really should be coming out in this draft. So to say that you are going to throw a guy away for having inconsistencies his first two years in the NFL, I don't think that is very fair to Ereck.

"We think he's going to get better; he's going to take a big jump. He does everything possible to get better; he's in here every day working his butt off, so we have high hopes for him."

After Bolles went off the board, the Giants probably didn't see another option to come in and play left tackle. This was a weak draft at that position and the offensive line as a whole.

They passed on the perceived next-best options, Ryan Ramczyk (No. 32 to New Orleans) and Cam Robinson (No. 34 to Jacksonville). They took Tomlinson over Dawkins, who may even be a guard in the NFL.

"We stuck to our board from the first round until the sixth," Ross said. "We're not going to reach. If we feel like there is a player of value and need at the right place and the right time, we are going to take him. We're just not going to jump over players that we feel are better players who can contribute to reach for a perceived position of need."

It's apparent now, for better or worse, the Giants will head into this season with pretty much the same offensive line as last year. They only hope the results are better.