Offensive Play Of Offensive Line Is Giants' Biggest Issue

Long-time BBV member 'potroast' hit the nail on the head with a comment in this morning's notebook.

Here is what 'pot' said.

I still think THE biggest worry right now is not who is leading and who is not. Winning cures a lot of those ills & has in the past. This defense can get the job done even if Tuck is not getting in everyone’s face. Plus this D will be fired up thanks to Mr Rolle.

The biggest worry is this OLine and now its going to be even weaker without O’Hara. The Giants season is going to live or die by how this OLine holds up. I think Koets will be ok, but the state of the line as whole is very worrisome.

Exactly.

The Giants knew coming into the season that their offensive line was aging and that they would be fortunate to get quality play from the veteran group for one more season.

That is why last year's second-round pick Will Beatty was given ample opportunity to win the left tackle job, which the Giants ultimately decided not to give him. It's why the only offensive player the Giants drafted was guard Mitch Petrus. It is unquestionably why the Giants grabbed former Pro Bowler Shawn Andrews off the scrap heap and are trying to resuscitate his NFL career.

Only a couple of seasons ago the group of David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie were considered elite, quite possibly the best offensive line in the NFL. If you have watched the games the past two seasons I don't have to tell you that is no longer the case.

Diehl was absolutely abused by Dwight Freeney last week. Yes, the Giants should have given him more help but Diehl is barely adequate at left tackle. Don't give me this 'but he went to the Pro Bowl last year' stuff. He went as an alternate because there was nobody else -- his 2009 play did not earn him the trip to South Florida, his reputation did.

Seubert is seemingly on the last legs of his NFL career and I will be stunned if he keeps his left guard job all season. I love the guy, but he can't move at all anymore. I'm 50, have torn my achilles tendon twice, and I would bet you $10 I could outrun Richie in a 40-yard dash. That's not cool.

O'Hara was terrific in 2009, but his ankle and achilles issues are preventing him from practicing much and might prevent him from playing this weekend. When he does play, having a bad wheel has to impact his ability to get off the ball and drive 300+ pound defensive tackles off the line of scrimmage.

Snee is the Giants best lineman. No real concerns there.

McKenzie is a guy fans keep wanting to get rid of, but he has been the one player who has not missed time at all so far this season -- excepting a migraine headache that KO'd him from a preseason game. McKenzie should get help against premier pass rushers, but the guy can still run block. If he goes down this line is in even more trouble.

The Giants have talked since Day 1 of training camp about getting back to the dominant running team they were in 2007 and 2008. Obviously, so far it isn't happening.

Here are some numbers from Pro Football Outsiders for you to chew on.

  • After two games the Giants are 22nd in the league in Adjusted Run Yards per play with 3.47.
  • Twenty-five percent of their running plays have been 'stuffed,' meaning they either lost yardage or went for no gain. Only seven teams in the league have a worse percentage.
  • The Giants are 31st in the league in 'power running' success, having converted only 25 percent of third- and fourth-down runs when two yards or less was needed.
  • Here is an alarming pass protection stat, too. The Giants are 24th in the league in that regard, getting Eli Manning dumped 7.6 percent of the times he tries to throw.

All of this tells you that the names on the offensive line may be the same as they were a couple of seasons ago, but these players are not the same. Toss in the fact that it seems blocking fullback Madison Hedgecock may never again be the dominant lead blocker he was back in 2007 and 2008, and that even with Kevin Boss healthy the Giants just don't have a powerful blocking tight end who can set the edge (which is why they tried to claim Mickey Shuler) and there are lots of problems to contend with.

Here is offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride discussing the struggles of the veteran line.

"I wish we had an easy solution to that. You hope and you know that the character of the group...it's wearing on them. It's difficult for them not to have played well. We just haven't been consistent with the running game this year. We stress it so much that it's disappointing but if you look at it statistically, we were better last week than we were the week before so hopefully we're headed in the right direction and that you'll continue to see some dividends from our commitment to it," Gilbride said. "They struggled against two outstanding pass-rushers in a hostile, loud environment last week so we'll at least have the benefit of being home, which is a good thing now that...they've got to play better and just our unit has to play better because we never ask just our tackles to block. We've been helping our tackles for years with chips here and tight ends there. The guards have to slide on all of those things. They didn't have their best game but we didn't have as good of a game as we needed to as a unit in helping assist those guys, especially under the conditions of last Sunday."

One move the Giants can make eventually involves Andrews. By season's end, I am relatively certain you will see him in the lineup at left guard or left tackle. The Giants are still trying to figure out which spot would be best for him, and Andres' acclimation to the Giants has been handicapped by Beatty's injury -- which has forced him to learn mutiple positions as well as the offense itself.

Whether Andrews ends up inside or outside long-term is still to be determined.

"That's the million dollar question. Right now we've got no choice. He's got to play them all, but we've kind of had to say, hey, you're the swing tackle now. We were looking to make him the swing guard and then when William Beatty got hurt then we kind of said, you know what, we can't afford to just...even though we're trying to spoon-feed you and bring you up slowly so you learn the offense and you only have to learn these positions...all of the sudden we've had to switch those positions and now it's not the inside, it's the outside," said Gilbride.

If Beatty can get healthy and the Giants can hold a roster spot for him you may also see the second-year player get an opportunity to play extensively late in the season.

For now, though, creating holes for running backs and trying not to get Manning killed are going to be constant issues. And if the Giants can't solve them, locker room leadership won't mean a thing.

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