As we continue our series of New York Giants position-by-position breakdowns it is time to turn our attention to one of the 2009 season's problem areas.
The offensive line.
In 2008 the line was looked at as one of the best in football. Maybe, just maybe, that is as good as it will ever get for that group of offensive linemen.
In 2009, the cracks begin to appear. Was it age? Injuries? An off year? A combination of each? Argue it any way you want, there was undoubtedly a decline in performance by this group in 2009. And it hurt the Giants dearly.
I am going to advocate some change for the line in 2010, and it is sorely tempting to give my proposed lineup for 2010 to you right now. I am going to make you wait a little bit for it, though.
Follow the jump for a player-by-player breakdown and my proposal for next season's revamped line.
David Diehl (LT) -- I love Diehl, and his ability to at least adequately handle left tackle was a key to the Giants success in 2007 and 2008. But, it is time to come to grips with the fact that the seven-year veteran is a below-average left tackle. Pro Football Focus, which I will refer to often in discussing the line play, graded Diehl at -16.4 for the 2009 season. That placed Diehl 31st in the league among tackles who played at least 75% of their team's offensive snaps (15th among left tackles). In 2008 Diehl was -13.6 (41st overall) and in 2007 he was -17.1. I love the guy, and I love the effort he gives. It is time, though, for the Giants to consider moving him back to his natural guard position.
Rich Seubert (LG) -- An eight-year veteran, Seubert is another guy I love. He is also another guy who did not play well in 2009. Don't get me wrong, Seubert wasn't terrible. Pro Football Focus has him ranked at +2.7 for the 2009. That's just a long way down from 2008, when Seubert was +20.9, seventh-best in the NFL among guards playing at least 75% of their team's offensive snaps.
Shaun O'Hara (C) -- O'Hara is headed to the Pro Bowl, and justifiably so. While the line around him struggled, O'Hara had his best season, grading out at +18.5 according to Pro Football Focus. That is second in the league to Nick Mangold of the New York Jets, who posted an other-worldly +31.5. O'Hara, a 10-year veteran, just continues to get better. He is, most definitely, not part of the problem.
Chris Snee (RG) -- Generally acknowledged as the best of the Giants linemen, even if he is not going to the Pro Bowl this time around. How is that, by the way, that Snee is not in the Pro Bowl? Pro Football Focus ranked him third in the league among guards at +21.3, following on the heels of a 2008 season where he ranked third at +23.1.
Kareem McKenzie (RG) -- This is the guy everyone loves to point a finger at when they look at reasons for the struggles of the Giants offensive line. That, however, might be incorrect. A nine-year veteran, McKenzie actually played well in 2009. He earned a +10.6 rating (+14.4 run-blocking) from Pro Football Focus, which placed him among the top 10 tackles in the league. The problem is that a variety of injuries only allowed McKenzie to play 12 games, with limited action in a couple of those. Just to be thorough, McKenzie was +14.2 in 2008 and +4.5 in 2007.
Will Beatty, the second-round pick from Connecticut, played decently in relief of McKenzie. Overall, PFF graded him at -2.7. He is due to get an expanded role next season. The question is, exactly what will that be? Kevin Boothe did an acceptable job filling in at guard when he was called upon. Guy Whimper? Adam Koets? Forget them. At least Koets gave us some stuff to write about in training camp by continually messing up the snap while trying to learn to play center.
Drumroll, please ... Here is how I would like to see the Giants line up up across the front in 2010.
LT -- Beatty; LG -- Diehl; C -- O'Hara; RG -- Snee; RT -- McKenzie.
I think Beatty has to start, and if he is going to do that the proper place for him is left tackle, his natural position and the spot the Giants drafted him to play. If you put him at right tackle, you have both Diehl and Beatty playing out of their natural spots. Plus, by removing McKenzie you actually subtract one of the most effective linemen.
Diehl goes to left guard in place of Seubert. That puts Diehl back at guard, where he played when the Giants drafted him and where he seems best-suited. It allows Seubert to be a super-sub at guard and center, and to reprise the role he had a few seasons back as an extra tight end or fullback in short-yardage. That should help the Green Zone issues.
To protect against continued injuries to McKenzie, I believe the Giants need to either sign a veteran backup who is exclusively a tackle, or use a draft choice to begin grooming a long-term replacement.
Keep: Diehl, Seubert, O'Hara, Snee, McKenzie, Beatty, Boothe
Dump: Whimper, Koets
Draft/Free Agency Priority: 3