NFL

Brian Baldinger names Giants’ Shane Lemieux a Year 2 breakout candidate

The New York Giants have had issues along their offensive line for nearly a decade and following a few retirements this year, it’s clear those issues persist.

It’s not due to a lack of effort, however. The Giants have spent an abundant amount of resources in an effort to fix their long-standing problems. That includes hefty draft investments over the past several years.

Although they are filled with potential, those investments have yet to pay off. Left tackle Andrew Thomas struggled during the first half of his rookie season, guard Will Hernandez has not developed in the way the Giants had hoped and questions still surround right tackle Matt Peart.

Another uncertainty is guard Shane Lemieux, the team’s 6-foot-4, 310-pound fifth-round pick from a year ago.

As a rookie, Lemieux demonstrated mauling tendencies as a run blocker, but he struggled as a pass protector. Then, earlier in camp, the 24-year-old went down with a knee injury and missed some time, although it certainly could have been much worse.

The Giants are relying on all of those young players, including center Nick Gates, headed into the 2021 season. How many they hit on remains to be seen, but NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger is here to provide some optimism when it comes to Lemieux.

Baldinger recently named Lemieux a Year 2 breakout candidate, which is music to the ears of the Giants and their fans.

The Giants got a tad lucky over the weekend when they found out Lemieux won’t need surgery after suffering a knee injury during the first week of training camp. While he is expected to miss a few weeks, he should step right in as a quality starter upon his return. For proof, look no further than the impact he made as a rookie. The Giants were reeling at 1-6 heading into November — although beginning to play better — and chose to start their fourth-round rookie guard against the eventual Super Bowl champion Bucs. They pulled Lemieux from the left on a variety of plays from traps to powers and sweeps, taking the Bucs to the brink before losing by two. But the Giants looked like a real offense that day.

They then went on a four-game win streak; Father Judge’s coaching and Lemieux’s pulling had me believing they could turn things around. Why, you ask? It’s because whenever the Giants had great teams — Super Bowl teams — they had great pulling guards. In the 1980s, they had Billy Ard at left guard. In 2007 and 2011, they had Chris Snee at right guard. Forget what the grading services say, this kid has an inner fiber that burns hot and there’s a lot of nasty to his game. The Giants found their guard! Look for Lemieux to really impact the run game in Saquon Barkley’s return and protect Daniel Jones in a big year for the quarterback.

There’s no denying the impact Lemieux makes in the run game, but his pass blocking grade of 16.9 (PFF) was among the worst in football. Even if it’s not as poor as that grade represents, it’s certainly an area requiring some improvement.

If the Giants wish to turn their offensive fortunes around, it will begin and end with Lemieux and the rest of their O-line.

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