Week 1 of the NFL season is officially upon us, and with it, a fresh start for every NFL team. The Denver Broncos get a good test out of the gate playing the New York Giants on the road at MetLife.
This is the first of many articles you’ll see this season from me. I’ll be posting weekly offensive AND defensive line previews of the upcoming game and reviews of the previous game all season long.
In this one, I’ll be previewing the Giants' offensive line and how it compares to the Broncos’ front. I’ll break down the starting lineup, where the matchups favor the Broncos, and the toughest opposing lineman they will face.
New York Giants Offensive Line
Per the Giants’ Week 1 depth chart release, this is the offensive line the Broncos can expect to play on Sunday afternoon.
In an earlier article I wrote for Mile High Report, I ranked the Giants’ offensive line 13th out of all 14 teams the Broncos will play. I listed Matt Peart as the starter at right tackle, but an offseason injury slowed down his progress enough to the point New York felt more comfortable putting Nate Solder over there. A bold decision, given Solder opted out of last season and hasn’t played right tackle in almost a decade. Reportedly, Peart may “rotate in” for some snaps at right tackle.
I had high hopes for Andrew Thomas going into this season, but a lot of his technical faults showed up in the preseason despite a new offensive line coach (or six). He still has time to grow and fix, but it’s not an encouraging sign that he still has trouble with some fundamentals that should be expected in a former fourth-overall pick.
Shane Lemieux struggled all season long when he was in the lineup, a fact backed up by both his tape and the PFF grade. I don’t think their grades are always indicative of play, but Lemieux posting a pass-blocking grade of just 16.9 (fourth-worst in the NFL) matches up with how badly he struggled. He’ll be coming off of an offseason injury as well. We might see recently acquired guard Ben Bredeson here soon.
Nick Gates is a functional starter at center, but I’m not sure he’s a player you want starting long-term. He was voted a team captain for the Giants in 2021, which speaks to his ability and internal respect in the organization, however. I’m curious to see if Billy Price gets a crack at center in this game or in the near future.
I’m more optimistic about Will Hernandez this season. I feel like he struggled with COVID last season and it harmed his performance as it did to many athletes. Hernandez’s play strength has always been top-notch and he’s always been an enjoyable watch going back to UTEP. Much like Andrew Thomas however, he has his own technical lapses that mar his tape. He needs to show improved growth there this season if the Giants want to compete for the NFC East.
Matchups that will Decide the game
In favor of Denver: Von Miller vs any offensive tackle
I’m unsure of how the Broncos will deploy their pass-rushers on Sunday with Bradley Chubb’s ongoing situation, but truthfully, I don’t think it will matter much. Von may start off slow working off some rust, but from a pure skill perspective, Von Miller has a massive advantage over any of Andrew Thomas, Nate Solder, or Matt Peart. Per Sports Info Solutions, Thomas’s 6.5 percent blown block rate in pass protection was worst among offensive tackles. When it gets to third and long and obvious passing situations, Von is going to receive enormous attention from the Giants’ offensive line.
That still might not be enough to stop him.
In Favor of New York: Will Hernandez vs Dre’Mont Jones
If Hernandez returns to form, he’s the toughest opposing offensive lineman the Broncos will have to play. He’s a mauler in the run game that is difficult to stop with his play strength and competitive toughness. He’s spent all offseason training with noted OL expert Duke Manyweather as well, something that makes me a little more optimistic about him returning to form.
If we’re going off of alignment from previous seasons, it’s likely that Dre’Mont Jones will line up opposite of Will Hernandez for the majority of the game. His explosiveness and technique as a pass-rusher is going to test Hernandez all game long. It’s their matchup in the run game that should prove to be the deciding factor of this one, given how important running the football is to Giants’ Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett. If Dre’Mont can overcome the power of Hernandez in the run game, something he’s struggled with going back to his days at Ohio State, this game should be squarely in favor of the Denver Broncos. If not, it gets a little harder.