Giants head coach Pat Shurmur is excited to work with the Giants' offseason acquisitions, from safety Jabrill Peppers to wide receiver Golden Tate, but the one that stands out to him is offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler.
"When you add a solid, veteran player that's established himself and he's consistent and tough and has all the attributes you're looking for in an offensive lineman to add to that crew, we got better," Shurmur said, according to the New York Post's Paul Schwartz.
While they were announced as separate deals, Zeitler's trade -- when the Giants dealt pass rusher Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns -- went into the NFL transaction log combined with the blockbuster Odell Beckham Jr. deal given both trades were agreed to before the new league year began.
Shurmur said he agreed with GM Dave Gettleman's trade, understanding it was a "business" decision. But he sounded excited at the 29-year-old Zeitler, who was Pro Football Focus' sixth-ranked offensive guard last season.
"He's been a steady, solid performer at right guard and moving forward, you add a veteran presence at that position,'' Shurmur said.
The move bolsters a Giants offensive line that struggled significantly at points last year but improved as the season went on.
The Giants expect last year's free-agent signing Nate Solder and 2018 second-round pick Will Hernandez will guard the left side for quarterback Eli Manning, while Zeitler and Chad Wheeler blocking on the right side. At center, the Giants have Jon Halapio, and re-signed Spencer Pulley to a three-year deal for depth. And they still have Jamon Brown, too.
"As Will Hernandez played better, that helped Nate, because playing together is so important,'' Shurmur said. "Spencer Pulley went in and played great football for us, after [Halapio], who was probably playing our best when he got hurt. The 2018 version of our offensive line, Jamon Brown came in and gave us some solidity at the right guard spot that helped Chad Wheeler play better. It's all connected."
In turn, a strong offensive line would immensely help the Giants' offense, which ranked 16th in points per game and 17th in total yards per game.
For starters, it would give Manning more time to find open receivers, which of course benefits players like Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and the newly-acquired Tate, who finished last year with 795 yards and four touchdowns with the Lions and Eagles.
"He's a veteran presence," Shurmur said of Tate. "He's very accomplished, caught roughly 90 balls a year, so he's got production. ... I've known about him, always admired him as a player and now he's ours so I got a chance to sit down with him at length as well, talk about expectations and what our team is all about. I'm really glad we were able to add him.''
And of course a strong offensive line would be essential for Saquon Barkley, the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, to take his already impressive game to the next level in 2019.
Shurmur has seen what the Giants have looked like with a weak line.
"I think of the uncertainly this time last year with the offensive line," said Shurmur, emtering his second season as Giants head coach, "and I think about how that line grew, the players that are still here, how they grew as the season progressed and they developed. I thought [offensive line coaches Hal Hunter and Ben Wilkerson] did a good job of developing them.''
To Shurmur, Zeitler is a big reason why he hopes New York's line will improve even more in 2019.