Giants’ Evan Neal still confident he can be dominant in NFL


Evan Neal agrees with Giants general manager Joe Schoen’s assertion that he needs to improve.

The second-year right tackle’s first disagreement is with anyone who doubts that he can be as dominant in the NFL as he was at Alabama.

“Of course I can,” Neal said. “I’ve put a lot of dominant reps on tape. A lot of times they go unnoticed. A lot of times the reps that I struggle get highlighted. But if you really sit back and watch the tape, I do a lot of good things. I do a lot of dominant things on the football field.”

The second disagreement is with anyone who thinks he should change positions to play offensive guard.

“In my opinion,” Neal said, “as soon as I stepped out of the womb, I stepped out as an offensive tackle.”

Neal’s self-assessment defies statistics and independent evaluations.

He has allowed 30 pressures (two sacks) on 309 pass-blocking snaps and ranks No. 97 among tackles in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency, which measures pressure allowed on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks allowed.

Giants right tackle Evan Neal said he believes he still can become a dominant NFL offensive lineman.
Giants right tackle Evan Neal said he believes he still can become a dominant NFL offensive lineman. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Time is running out on a critical lost season in Neal’s development: He is about to miss his fourth straight game and sixth overall due to two different injuries (one to each ankle).

“If I beat myself and constantly mention the negatives … I have to acknowledge the positives because that’s pretty one-sided,” said Neal, who singled out run-blocking as a point of pride.

“Especially as a human in terms of getting the best out of yourself, you can’t just beat yourself down, beat yourself down, beat yourself down. At some moment, you have to lift yourself up and acknowledge, ‘I’m doing pretty good. I know in this area I have some work to do, but in this area I’m doing pretty well.’ ”

Schoen said last week that Neal “needs to get better” while expressing confidence in the former first-round draft pick’s talent, work ethic and ability to remain at offensive tackle after going back to watch his college tape.

So, how did Neal react to the type of public challenge that no other player received?

“I didn’t take it any kind of way,” Neal said. “Being a competitor, I acknowledge myself that I need to get better. He’s the general manager. If that’s what he sees, that’s what he sees.

“You can ask any man in this locker room and I guarantee you that they would tell you there’s something in their game they have to get better at. I’m not any different.”

Except, fairly or not, Neal is different.

Because he was drafted No. 7 overall.

Because the future forecast of the beleaguered offensive line is tied heavily into whether he is a long-term solution. Because there hasn’t been any noticeable drop-off inserting Tyre Phillips — who was cut in training camp — for Neal at right tackle.

“I know I have a lot of work to do, and I embrace it with a smile on my face,” Neal said. “That’s where I’m at.”

Neal’s days right now consist of riding a stationary bike, weight lifting, taking notes in meetings, undergoing medical treatment, and light ladder drills, light sled pushes and slow-motion pass sets off to the side of practice.

After a heavy workload, Neal admits the ankle “hurts” but “sometimes you’ve got to play through pain.”

Evan Neal blocks defensive end Maxx Crosby during the Giants' loss to the Raiders earlier this season.
Evan Neal blocks defensive end Maxx Crosby during the Giants’ loss to the Raiders earlier this season. AP

“He’s in here often with the trainers,” head coach Brian Daboll said. “Active in the meetings, so he’s doing everything he can do to get back as soon as he can.”

Will that be in one of the five remaining games? No one can say for certain.

“Whenever that day gets here, that’s when it gets here,” Neal said. “Hell yeah, I want to go back out there this season, but just going to see where I’m at, see how I progress and move forward from there.”

By this point in left tackle Andrew Thomas’ career, he put a poor rookie season in the rearview mirror and was taking the initial steps toward becoming a Second-Team All-Pro as a third-year player.

That’s why Neal’s lost reps — he hasn’t played in a home game since Oct. 2, before he blasted critical Giants fans and later apologized — are so costly, though he won’t call it a wasted season.

“I know I’ve made strides,” Neal said. “I just have to continue to go out there and be more consistent at it, have the opportunity to go out there healthy and get better and better. I have a lot to clean up in my game, but I have improved as well.”

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