If David Diehl is healthy enough to resume full-time duty this Sunday against the Washington Redskins, should he return to his starting spot as the New York Giants' right tackle? Or, should that job still belong to Sean Locklear, who has done an excellent job filling in since Diehl went down with a knee injury in Week 2.
Diehl returned last week against the San Francisco 49ers, playing 13 snaps as an extra lineman/tight end primarily in running situations. Head coach Tom Coughlin would only say "we'll see" when asked on Friday about Diehl. Coughlin's history of loyalty to veteran players who have been part of the team's success, though, would indicate that sooner or later Diehl will return to the starting lineup.
Is that the right thing to do?
Since Diehl got hurt the Giants have rediscovered their running game. Andre Brown went over 100 yards in a game. Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 200 yards in one game and 116 in another. The Giants have placed Eli Manning under something akin to protective custody, not allowing a sack since Week 3.
It's easy to say Diehl got hurt, Locklear stepped in, the Giants got better. Consequently, Diehl should stay on the bench. Is that fair, though? Let's look at some numbers.
Pro Football Focus Data
Sacks allowed: 2
QB Hurries: 6
Run-blocking grade: -3.9
Pass-blocking grade: -4.3
Overall grade: -7.6
Diehl's -7.6 is the worst offensive grade of any Giant. The two sacks allowed is more than any lineman, despite the limited playing time. Diehl's pass- and run-blocking grades are the lowest on the team.
Sacks allowed: 0
QB Hits: 4
QB Hurries: 16
Run-blocking grade: -2.9
Pass-blocking grade: +1.2
Overall grade: +0.9
The four quarterback hits are the most of any Giants' lineman, and the 16 hurries is double the total allowed by any other Giants' lineman. Locklear gets more help from tight ends and running backs chipping than does Will Beatty on the other side. It is hard to argue with the fact that the Giants' blocking improved dramatically when Beatty returned to the lineup and Locklear shifted from left to right tackle, replacing the injured Diehl.
Is that because of the addition of Beatty? Are you pinning it on the subtraction of Diehl? Do you think Locklear is a better player than Diehl? All of the above?
My view? I expect Locklear to start again this week. Loyalty to Diehl aside, the offensive line has been playing very well and I don't see any reason to make changes right now. Eventually I believe Diehl returns to the lineup -- that, simply, is the Giants' way. Sunday, though, I think we see Locklear in the lineup.