It’s going to go one of two ways for the Giants offensive line Sunday in Houston — and only one of those ways is acceptable.
The Giants’ 2018 season, through only two games (both losses), is on the brink in large part because their revamped line has looked broken.
And now this: A hungry Texans team playing its home opener after losing its first two games by a total of 10 points featuring a healthy and rejuvenated defensive end J.J. Watt staring across the line of scrimmage from the Giants’ embattled starting five.
On paper, it doesn’t look like a very favorable matchup for the Giants offensive line. But then, the way the line has played in the first two games, what does look like a good matchup? Rutgers?
Criticism of the offensive line outside of the Giants locker room has been so rampant it’s impossible for even the most tuned-out players not to have noticed.
“I’m used to it,’’ embattled Giants right tackle Ereck Flowers told The Post. “For me, I’ve been through it all so at this point it really doesn’t bother me. Maybe it bothers some people more than others. I don’t think guys on this line are bothered by it. We’re working hard. Everyone wants to get better and be great.’’
John Greco, who’ll start his first game for the Giants at center on Sunday replacing the injured Jon Halapio, understands the caldron he’s entering.
“You hear it,’’ Greco said of the outside criticism. “But even if you didn’t hear it, it’s obvious: We know what we have to fix. Whether you’re on the end of it that we’re on right now or if you’re on the positive end of it, you have to try to block out the noise and fix everything internally. That’s what we’re doing.
“We’re handling everything as a group and we’re doing everything we can to come out on the other side.’’
Coming out “on the other side’’ is the Giants’ only option Sunday. Teams that start 0-3 in the NFL don’t usually make the playoffs.
So this starts up-front, where the Giants spent the offseason giving free-agent left tackle Nate Solder $34.8 million guaranteed and drafting guard Will Hernandez in the second round.
“OK, this is the important thing: There are things that we screwed up and there are things that we need to improve on,’’ Solder said Thursday. “That’s what we need to focus on. If you get caught up on what everyone’s saying about you that’s going to distract you from the goal.’’
In the days leading up to the Cowboys-Giants game last week, Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence spoke openly about how he was salivating to stand over Flowers, who’s become a fan punching bag for all that ails the team.
“Don’t get me started,’’ Lawrence told reporters with a knowing smile. “Just looking forward to the matchup.’’
After the Cowboys sacked quarterback Eli Manning six times (one credited as allowed by Flowers and two by Solder) in their 20-13 win that wasn’t nearly as competitive as the final score indicated, now we know why Lawrence sounded like he was jumping out of his skin looking forward to the matchup.
Manning was sacked a total of 31 times in 2017. He’s been sacked eight times in two games this season, which puts him on a pace to be sacked a body-aching 48 times this season.
That’s not winning football. It’s season-wrecking football.
Enter Watt, whose last two seasons have been ruined by devastating injuries, limiting him to just 10 games dating to the 2015 season. In the four seasons before the injuries, Watt produced 69 sacks and 15 forced fumbles from 2012-2015.
Now he’s healthy again. That means everyone on the Giants line must beware of Watt blowing up the game, because the Texans move him all around and he sometimes freelances.
“They have a lot of flexibility in things in their scheme so you’ll see him all over the place,’’ Solder said. “He’s really smart, he plays hard, understands offenses, understands how to defeat you, understands how to set you up.’’
Said Greco: “Everyone’s going to see him at some point … because even though he might not be lined up across from you he’s going to be moving and they’re going to be twisting. He’s savvy, he’s instinctive, he sees an open gap he’s going to take it. You’ve got to be ready.’’
Giants head coach Pat Shurmur on Thursday was asked what his confidence level is in his offensive line.
“It’s good,’’ he said. “Very confident.’’
We’ll know by day’s end Sunday whether that confidence was warranted or if Shurmur was just another hopeful head coach whistling past a graveyard.
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