Joshua Ezeudu, Marcus McKethan bring different skills to Giants

When Brian Anderson looked to his left, he felt confident. When he looked to his right, he mostly felt sorry for North Carolina’s opponent.

Anderson played center for 35 games over the last three seasons for the Tar Heels, which means he often lined up in between left guard Joshua Ezeudu and right guard Marcus McKethan. The Giants just drafted Ezeudu in the third round and McKethan in the fifth after sending offensive line coach Bobby Johnson to North Carolina’s Pro Day and coming away impressed with the pair’s complementary skills.

Like Anderson, Ezeudu is a film junkie. Ezeudu’s preparation allowed him to rotate at as many as three positions when needed — sometimes within the same drive when a trick play or rarely used screen pass was called.

“I would make a comment about a certain player or a certain scheme that week, and it was always nice to know I would have someone to back up my analysis and double-check me,” Anderson told The Post. “Josh is someone that you never blink an eye playing next to, because you are able to play the game and not think. Things run really smoothly with him in there. He has a good knack for picking up defenses.”

The 6-foot-6, 340-pound McKethan is more the type to pick up defenders — as in literally lift them off their feet.

Marcus McKethan (l.) and Joshua Ezeudu together at North Carolina.
Allison F. Smith/UNC Athletics

“One of my favorite things was running inside zone to the right versus a 4-3 defense, and I’d look at Marcus and be like, ‘Gosh, this defensive lineman is in trouble,’ ” Anderson laughed. “It’s always a fun time running double teams with Marcus because you’ve got this man who is nothing but pure muscle just moving people.”

One concern NFL teams sometimes express with drafting offensive linemen from college run-pass-option (RPO) offenses like North Carolina’s is exposure to oversimplification. Nothing to be afraid of in this case, offensive coordinator Phil Longo told The Post.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is at his best in RPOs, which figure to be a large part of the offense under construction.

“The biggest asset to playing in the system that we have is we ask them to do a lot of things,” Longo said. “We never told our linemen when we were throwing an RPO. When we were running power, they were blocking power. When we were running counter, they were blocking counter. I would not want to do that because it takes aggressiveness away, and I don’t think it lends to developing from a physicality standpoint.”

Of McKethan’s 37 career starts, 28 were on the same line as the 6-4, 308-pound Ezeudu. They blocked for a drafted quarterback (Sam Howell), and sealed off zone-runs and gap-runs for three drafted running backs over the last two seasons, including the Jets’ Michael Carter.

“If you look in the dictionary for an offensive guard in the NFL, it should have a picture of Marcus,” Longo said. “He is going to engulf people. You are not going to find many plays where Marcus got moved into our backfield. He’s such a huge, physical presence.”

Chiron Johnson, (l. to r.) Marcus McKethan, Joshua Ezeudu.
Grant Halverson

The Giants have created a logjam at guard as they look to fix a decade-long offensive line problem. If top free-agent addition Mark Glowinski starts at right guard, Ezeudu, Max Garcia (52 career starts), projected 2021 starter Shane Lemieux, actual 2021 starter Ben Bredeson (acquired after Lemieux’s season-ending injury) and other unsung veterans will battle to be a starter or one of the few active reserves on a game-day roster.

“Joshua is more of a communicator, more of a blend of athletic talent,” Longo said. “Because he was our best overall lineman and our most versatile, we moved him around for specific stuff. He allowed us the luxury of getting the next-best four guys on the field as much as we could and allowed us to keep everybody fresh. I would think his ability to play every spot other than center makes him really valuable in the NFL.

As Anderson watched the draft, he was reminded of the extra attention the Giants showed his two teammates at Pro Day. They must’ve really liked what they saw, he thought.

What’s next to see? Ezeudu will be the funny guy behind the scenes. McKethan will take an all-business approach. They just need to get comfortable in their new settings, which will be easier to do together.

“It was just unbelievable to see them both go to New York,” said Anderson, who has one year of eligibility remaining. “You’ve got two huge guys who bring different things to the table, and they play really well together.”


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