Will Beatty and his balky back are becoming a major concern for the New York Giants. Head coach Tom Coughlin said Monday that Beatty, diagnosed with sciatica, is "still struggling."
The sand in the hour glass is running out as the Sept. 5 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys approaches. Coughlin did not go this far, but it seems less and less likely that the fourth-year offensive tackle will be ready to open the season. After playing only 10 games last season, Beatty lost the rest of the year to a detached retina. He has lost OTAs, mini-camps and most of training camp and the preseason to his back problems. Beatty has only practiced a hnadful of times, and only gone through full-contact practices once or twice.
That is no way to get ready to protect the blind side of quarterback Eli Manning from the likes of DeMarcus Ware and other top-notch pass-rushers.
So, what will the Giants do?
For now, veteran Sean Locklear has been getting most of the reps at left tackle while David Diehl has stayed on the right side. Coughlin would not commit to keeping it that way, though the fact that Diehl has taken no reps on the left side yet this preseason would strongly indicate the Giants would rather not have to shuffle him again.
"There’s going to have to be flexibility. Whether Sean plays left or right, or whether David Diehl plays left or right, or that type of thing. We obviously expect and live in expectation that Beatty will come back to the practice field unless something would happen otherwise ... it’s kind of close. We’re getting close and those five guys need to play a lot together."
If it becomes obvious that the Giants will open the season with Locklear at one tackle and Diehl at the other -- and aren't we already at that point? -- it would seem logical that, despite the practice reps thus far, the two would switch sides. In eight years in the league Locklear has 13 starts on the left side and 69 on the right. Diehl has five seasons worth of experience on the left side. The numbers have not always been pretty, but doesn't it make sense that the two veterans would play the positions at which they have the most experience?
Coughlin was asked Monday what he thought of Locklear's play thus far. Here is what he said about the veteran tackle, who played for the Washington Redskins last season:
"He’s practiced, he’s a veteran football player, he knows his job, he knows what he’s doing," Coughlin said. "Some things happen in a ballgame with the complexities, for example, what he saw the other night that kind of slow people down because they don’t quite understand the communication, but by in large, he’s done well."
Of course, without Beatty there are other options.
Second-year man James Brewer, a fourth-round pick a season ago, played most of the second half at right tackle Saturday against the New York Jets. He has taken some reps this preseason on the left side. If Brewer were to be inserted into the lineup, however, the likely scenario would be Diehl to the left side and Brewer at right tackle. History tells us that the Giants would trust Diehl on the left side before a guy who has never played a meaningful snap.
Matt McCants, the rookie sixth-round pick, played the second half Saturday at left tackle while Brewer played the right side. He seemed to hold up fairly well. That, however, does not make him an option to line up against Ware on opening night. He is neither strong enough, nor experienced enough, to be handed that responsibility.
Of course, in the best of all worlds, Beatty's back would magically heal, he would line up at left tackle opening night and stay there for 16 games. At this point, it seems like we know that is not going to happen. So, let the offensive line shuffle begin.