The 2011 Offensive Line for the New York Giants was dismal. This is something most Giants fans recognize, and are rather irate with. After all, our OL has the task of keeping one of the best QB's in the NFL upright and safe. Kareem was old, Diehl was awful, and Snee had a down year. Baas had trouble adjusting to a new team and also had problems with injury. Left Guard was a problem, seeing first Diehl, then Boothe, and then Petrus. The Giants gave up 15 more pressures than any OL, and were just as bad in the run game, averaging a lowly 3.5 YPC at the end of the year. The awful running game had a lot to do with the OL not opening up holes and making room for our backs. With a nearly non existent running game, Eli had to do a lot of work himself. The Giants have always been a run first team, and not being able to pound the rock slowed the offense down a lot, and it showed in many games.
So if the line was so bad this year, why didn't Reese go out and fix it? Why did he sit in his fancy war room and wait until the 4th round to grab a lineman? Who does he think he's fooling? Fire up the blimp, JR is awful, right? Well not exactly.There are a few reasons our fearless leader JR didn't nab a lineman in the first few rounds. The first is, what's the point? Any rookie lineman drafted by JR would not have started in this 2012 season. We know Coughlin's aversion to playing rookies, and he would definitely not put Eli's safety in the hands of a rookie. Yes I know Glenn and Martin were both on the board, but neither would have started this year. I believe that only DeCastro and Kalil would have started on the Giants this year, and we know JR doesn't really trade up. So instead JR DID choose to bolster the running game, grabbing a fast, strong Running Back in David Wilson. Not only will this give Eli another weapon, but while you can find many lineman with similar skill sets to Glenn and Martin in the later rounds, there would not have been many guys like Wilson later on.
As Giants fans, we need to realize that by now JR does not draft for this year. He drafts for the future years, not reaching for guys just because they play a certain position. This means that the solutions to our OL problems are already on the roster. This explains why JR didn't make a big splash in Free Agency (that and we pretty much have no cap room at all). Why spend money on a guy when the talent is already there? Lets take a look at what we now have on the roster as far as young talent at the OL position is concerned.
Mitch Petrus, Guard - Honestly I think that this guy should be our Left Guard this season. He has the nasty, mauler mentality that all natural run blockers have. He has no problem going forward and clearing lanes for the backs, and possesses the raw strength to push big 1-tech DT's and NT's out of the way. The thing that needs work is his pass blocking. He seems to have problems getting his feet set and reading blitzes, but both these things come with time and experience. With a full off season to improve on his pass protection, he should be ready to start on our OL in his third year. It's also a plus that it's much easier for Guards to pass protect than it is for Tackles.
James Brewer, Tackle - The guy was a rookie last year, and he lost a lot during the CBA arguments. Fortunately he started out with all the physical tools to be a good Right Tackle in this league. And with coaching from Pat Flaherty, his development should move along much faster than if he was with another team. There is no arguing that there is a big hole at the RT spot, but it's not like we had an All-Pro tackle in McKenzie last year. Brewer should be able to step up and take over the RT spot this year. Even if he can't, Diehl can start at the RT spot (sigh) for a good half year and Brewer will probably be able to step in then.
Brandon Mosely, Tackle - This is JR's "Drafting for the future" plan in motion. Mosely is a big, nasty Tight End-turned-Tackle that has both the athleticism and aggressiveness that the Giants love. He won't start this year, but like I said the Giants drafted him with the future in mind. He can play RT if Brewer doesn't work out, or if down the road Beatty walks in Free Agency, he has the ability and athleticism to move over to LT if he develops well. He also played at Auburn, and has experience against the SEC (NFL Lite) pass rushers. He has some holes in his game, like dealing with bull rushers, but some time to develop in the weight room will help him in the aspect of the game. Watch for Mosely to take snaps in some Jumbo/Goal line packages this year, taking the place of Tony Ugoh. I suspect this will be the case due to his former TE background and athletic ability. May even see him used as an eligible receiver.
Matt McCants, Tackle - Another "Drafting for the future" pick here. The more I read on this guy, the more I like the pick. Sure it was a bit confusing for JR to go back to back OL picks, but this guy is exactly the type of late round prospect the Giants look for. He had great production in college, and is another versatile player that can play either LT or RT. Let him develop for two or three years, and he may be able to develop into a good player that can play all along the line, perhaps becoming our new super-sub. Speaking of which......
One of the most underrated players on the Giants roster is Kevin Boothe, our super sub specialist. He was able to play Left Guard effectively for us, and was a pretty good center when Baas went down. If Baas reflects the play that he had last year, I'd be happy with us playing Boothe at Center and Petrus at Guard. Being able to move all along the line is an invaluable skill. So many lineman are set at one position, but Boothe allows the Giants flexibility in case of injury or if a younger prospect doesn't develop and pan out like we'd like him to.
Reese also gave two new pieces to the blocking side of things even though a lot of Giants fans don't realize it. In Free Agency, JR added Martellus Bennett, and then drafted Adrien Robinson. What do both of these guys have in common besides the TE position you ask? I'm so glad you did. They both are established pass blockers, one in college, one in the NFL. Bennett played the 2nd TE role in Dallas, and really focused on blocking while Witten caught all the passes. Robinson is a tank, and has the strength and size to be an effective NFL blocker. Both of these guys should be able to seal off the edge better than Ballard or Pascoe. Also throw in the fact that Hynoski had a good year for a rookie last year and will only develop into a better player as he receives more snaps and playing time.
All these things combined will lead to a much more effective blocking game, and an overall better offense in the 2012 season. For those who are irate about Reese not grabbing any lineman in the first few rounds, don't be. He has proven he knows what he's doing and doesn't panic when it comes to his drafting strategy. Also we tend to forget that the Giants have an awesome coaching staff. Pat Flaherty is tremendous at developing talent, and some of the guys on this roster have a much better chance of becoming successful on the Giants than they do any other team. So sit back and stop worrying about the line, it will return to it's former dominance and the Giants running game will improve as a result. And hopefully this means that we'll be back to back Super Bowl Champions, which has a really nice ring to it.