The New York Giants made the first big splash of their offseason earlier this week when they traded linebacker Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for guard Kevin Zeitler.
Shortly after the trade, we at Giants Wire offered a short breakdown of what Zeitler brings to the table, the salary cap ramifications and what the additional pick swap meant for the 2019 NFL Draft, but it wasn’t enough.
Accordingly, we reached out to Jeff Risdon of Browns Wire in an effort to help familiarize Giants Nation with the team’s newest guard and he kindly provided us with the following scouting report:
Pass protection. Zeitler is very adept at keeping the quarterback comfortable in the pocket. He’s quick to set up and packs a solid punch to stymie more upright rushers. His feet move well and he has shown the ability to quickly recover if initially beaten on a rep. Zeitler tied for first in PFF’s pass blocking efficiency in 2018. He allowed just three sacks, but more impressively led all guards in fewest QB hurries allowed with just seven per PFF’s tracking.
Toughness. The Browns OL the last couple of seasons is not the surliest collection, but Zeitler was one guy who wasn’t shy about mixing it up. Nothing cheap or dirty, but he’s willing to shove a guy at the last gasp of the whistle or push down on a defender as he gets up. The Browns will miss that facet.
Assignment intelligence. He earned his big contract in part because of how well he plays as part of the unit. In Cleveland, he played between a very good center (J.C. Tretter) and an iffy right tackle situation. Zeitler did a great job at focusing his efforts to help the weaker link, particularly in the passing game and blitz pickups.
Durable. He’s started every game at right guard over the last four season, two in Cincinnati and two in Cleveland. Zeitler did not miss a single snap in two years with the Browns.
Range in the run game. This is something that was not a problem in his Bengals days but declined in Cleveland. He’s not immobile by any means, but others are quicker to get out to the second level on a more consistent basis.
Contract. The Giants saved money in picking up Zeitler for Vernon, but that doesn’t change the longer-term impact of having his $12 million per year contract. That’s a lot of money for an interior lineman who has never made a Pro Bowl.
Adjustment to a new offense. Thanks to the turbulent Cleveland coaching carousel and some changes in Cincinnati as well, 2019 will represent the fifth year in a row Zeitler will be playing under a new offensive coordinator. His first half-season in Cleveland was underwhelming, and Bengals reporters will tell you his last year in Cincinnati had a rough start as well. Beware another slow start as he learns the system and his linemates.
Additionally, offensive line guru Duke Manyweather also recently offered a semi-scouting report of his own.
A consistent issue the Giants faced last season prior to the arrival of Jamon Brown was the ability to pick up stunts. That is another thing Zeitler does well.
By all accounts, the downside to Zeitler is extremely limited and centers primarily around his contract. That’s something general manager Dave Gettleman can deal with at a later date, but for the time being, Giants fans should simply be excited with the obvious offensive line upgrade.