It's no secret that the New York Giants offensive line has been a question mark this offseason and will continue to be as the team prepares for training camp in Albany. Last season, the Giants ranked last in the league in rushing and the lack of run blocking was the major contributing factor to that statistic. Prior to last season, the Giants had one of the most dependable offensive lines in the league. Veterans Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert, Kareem Mckenzie, David Diehl and Chris Snee, all started 59 of 69 games from the 2006 playoffs through the end of the 2010 season. The group continually ranked among the best offensive lines in the NFL and were a major factor in helping Big Blue win the Super Bowl in 2007.
However, all good things must come to an end, and the Giants dependable offensive line was no exception. Prior to last season, O'Hara and Seubert were both released due to age and injury concerns. This offseason, Kareem Mckenzie is still unsigned on the open market. General Manager Jerry Reese has brought in a cast of young, yet unproven players to help fill the voids left by the three veterans. Below, we will examine who the Giants will turn to in order to improve their rushing attack and more importantly, protect Eli Manning for the 2012 season.
Chris Snee (RG) - The 6'3/ 305lb veteran out of Boston College has been the most dependable member of the Giants offensive line for the last several years. In 19 games last season (playoffs included), he only allowed two sacks and committed only 4 penalties. Furthermore, Snee has been very successful in avoiding the injury bug throughout his career. Since the 2005 season, Snee has only missed one game. Look for the veteran guard to continue being the leader of the Giants offensive line this season.
David Diehl (RT) – Although Pro Football Focus ranked Diehl last in the league in pass blocking, the statistics say that 2011 was actually an improved year for the 6'5/304lb veteran out of Illinois. Diehl actually gave up half a sack less (6.5) than the prior season (7) and two sacks less (8.5) than the 2009 season. However, those statistics are nothing to brag about. If Diehl has a bad training camp, the Giants could look to younger players such as James Brewer to take over the right tackle position.
Will Beatty (LT) – The fourth year 2nd round pick out of UConn played relatively well protecting Eli Manning's blind side through the first ten games last season; however, he suffered a detached retina in his right eye and missed the remainder of the year. Beatty should be back by training camp to reclaim his position, and hopefully he can improve after getting considerable experience at the position last season.
Davis Baas (C) – Being the teams biggest free agent signing heading into last season, there were high expectations for the center out of Michigan. However, he battled through an injury plagued season and was criticized for questionable play for almost the entire year. Baas improved during the playoffs; but he still has a ways to go if he wants live up to his 5 year/ $27.5 million deal he signed last offseason. That being said, there is really nobody capable of taking the starting center position from him. As long as Baas is healthy, look for him to be in the lineup for the 2012 season.
Kevin Boothe (LG) – The seventh year veteran out of Cornell started 13 games (including playoffs) last year; however, he has been a backup his entire career. Mitch Petrus will be giving Boothe a run for his money at the position; however, Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty recently commended Boothe for his play last season:
“Kevin is going to go in there and give you a good day’s work. It’s a reflection on Kevin. He prepares himself to be able to do that. He takes his job seriously. He was a guy who played his first year in the league, then all of a sudden he wasn’t in the league for a few days until we picked him up after he was released. When you talk about some of these veteran NFL players that know what it’s like not to have a job, well he experienced that. He doesn’t want to experience it again. So, that’s a lot of motivation for him. He’s done a tremendous job.”
Look for Boothe to start the season at left guard, but don't be surprised if Mitch Petrus snatches the position from him during the season. It is never good to have a career backup starting, especially at a position that helps protect your franchise player from injury; however, Boothe did a serviceable job last season and should be able to continue that into this season.
Mitch Petrus (G) – The third year player out of Arkansas only played in four games last season; however, he will be relied upon this year to backup both guard positions. Although Chris Snee most likely will not need much backing up, Kevin Boothe is a question mark. Petrus is actually one of the strongest offensive linemen out there; however, brute strength does not always translate into NFL production. Pat Flaherty had this to say when speaking of Petrus:
“Petrus is a competitor. He still needs to continue to get better at a lot of his techniques. He’ll play right guard and left guard, be able to go back and forth"
If Petrus actually does improve his techniques (run blocking in particular), he could become a contributor to the 2012 New York Giants.
James Brewer (T) – The second year player out of Indiana is a massive human being. Brewer stands 6'6/330lbs ; however, he did not play a down for the Giants last season. While speaking about Brewer, Pat Flaherty stated:
“This is Brewer’s first offseason and he really still doesn’t know what an offseason is. Every day is a new day for him, because he has never been through it. He’s still going through the growing pains, as we say."
Hopefully having a full offseason of OTA's and Mini-Camp can help bring out the potential that many see in Brewer. He clearly has the size to play in the NFL; however, he needs to vastly improve his technique over the offseason if he is going to push for playing time in 2012.
Rookies Brandon Mosely, Matt McCants, and Stephen Goodin will all add depth to the offensive line. However, all three are unproven and should not have to be relied upon in big situations. The idea is to use this season to develop them and watch them improve; but not to throw them to the wolves by putting them in meaningful games.
The New York Giants offensive line has gone through a thorough transformation over the past two offseason. Many veterans who were cornerstones of past success are gone, and players such as David Diehl have changed positions several times. However, every member that is being expected to contribute has a least a year of experience under their belt, so hopefully we see the unit improve as a whole this season.
At the end of last season the Giants rushing game improved greatly; however, it was not enough to move them out of last place in the league . Although the team proved it was possible to win the Super Bowl without a formidable rushing attack, if the Giants can become even and average team on the ground they will possess one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how the offensive line situation plays out while the team is in training camp.
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