One of the keys to fixing an offense that was "broken" after the 2013 season was to improve the quality of the offensive line play in front of quarterback Eli Manning. With the 2014 season nearly over, how have the Giants done in fixing a line that was porous a year ago? More importantly, how close are they to fielding a quality offensive line in 2015?
The answer to the first question is that while the line has not been outstanding, and their have been ugly moments and games, there has been overall improvement in 2014. The answer to the second question is, probably closer than many people think.
Let's look at some numbers.
In 2013, Football Outsiders ranked the Giants' offensive line 30th in run-blocking (3.27 adjusted line yards per carry) and 18th in pass protections (7.6 percent adjusted sack rate). This season, the Giants are 22nd in run-blocking (3.77 adjusted line yards) and 14th in pass blocking (5.6 percent adjusted sack rate).
The Giants gave up 40 sacks in 2013, or 2.5 per game. So far this season they have given up 29, 2.07 per game. In 2013, Pro Football Focus gave the Giants a pass blocking efficiency score of 69.8, 31st in the league. This season, the Giants are 14th in pass blocking efficiency with a score of 80.0 through 14 games.
It would be nice to see that progress continue for the final two games of this season. It would also be nice to see Manning get to the finish line of this season without suffering an injury that sets back his off-season preparation, like he did last season when he suffered an ankle injury in the season finale that eventually required surgery.
Right now, though, the future is more important than the present. So, let's look at how the Giants are set up for 2015, and probably beyond, on the offensive line.
The Guys Who Are In Place
There are four building-block pieces who figure to be part of the Giants line going forward.
Will Beatty -- The left tackle has rebounded nicely from a disastrous 2013 season, playing more like the guy who earned a five-year, $37.5 million contract after a terrific 2012 season. Beatty has allowed three sacks and compiled a +11.8 Pro Football Focus grade, making him the ninth-ranked left tackle in the league.
Justin Pugh -- The 2012 first-round pick hasn't been great in 2014. He had a mid-season rough patch, but since missing nearly three full games with a quad injury has played better. That leads you to wonder if Pugh was healthier earlier in the season. No matter, for our purposes.
Weston Richburg -- The rookie second-round pick has played out of position all season at left guard, and he has had decidedly mixed results. His -14.0 PFF score is second-worst on the offense to right guard John Jerry (-18.0). He has allowed only two sacks all season, though. It seems like a no-brainer that the Giants need to move Richburg back to center next season, the position he was drafted to play and is better suited for. Richburg is 20-30 pounds smaller than most NFL guards, and his lack of bulk shows up in run blocking. He could be a starting center for the next five years or more.
Geoff Schwartz -- The Giants signed Schwartz to a four-year deal last off-season, hoping he would anchor a re-constructed line. He played all of five quarters this season, with a toe injury wrecking the first half of his season and an ankle injury ending it.
What Still Needs To Be Done
With the four guys mentioned above Giants are really one starting-caliber piece short of having a complete line. It seems logical that Richburg moves to center next season and Schwartz to right guard, his best position, replacing Jerry.
Will the Giants find the starter they need in the draft or via free agency? Will that starter be a right tackle, which would mean kicking Pugh inside? Or, will it be a guard?
The Giants also need to do better in terms of providing quality depth. Guys like Charles Brown, who have flopped elsewhere, and Adam Snyder, hanging on to a career for one last paycheck, aren't going to get it done. Neither is Dallas Reynolds The Giants obviously don't seem to believe James Brewer or Brandon Mosley are the answers.
The Dallas Cowboys, where first-round pick Zack Martin was the final piece of a dominating offensive line, are the current model. It took the Cowboys four seasons to build that line, going back to when they drafted Tyron Smith in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. With the right moves this offseason, the Giants can accomplish the same re-construction in three seasons.
If they can, many of the other pieces are in place to be an excellent offensive football team next season.