Tuesday, the New York Giants had a promising offensive line. Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Ereck Flowers are young and talented, but it was Will Beatty who was the anchor for that line.
Now, the Giants, and Giants' fans, are reeling from the news that Beatty will miss 5-6 months as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle.
The feelings of despair are a testament to Beatty's abilities as both a run blocker and pass blocker. With the exception of the entire offensive line's generally woeful 2013, Beatty has been the Giants' best offensive lineman since he became the starting left tackle in 2011.
There is some good news, however. The Giants still have 80 percent of their anticipated starting offensive line available. While replacing Beatty will require some shuffling, Geoff Schwartz, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Ereck Flowers should make for a strong foundation.
Here are my thoughts on the Giants' options at this point. The most likely replacement for Beatty seems to be Justin Pugh. He played left tackle in college and his feet are at least as good as Beatty's. Pugh was widely believed to be slated for a move inside to guard after Ereck Flowers was drafted. Now it seems as though the Giants will need to find some new combinations.
Geoff Schwartz to right guard, John Jerry to left guard
If the Giants elect to keep Ereck Flowers at right tackle, where he was expected to start prior to Beatty's injury, they will likely want to keep their most veteran offensive lineman next to him. This was the tactic they used in 2013 when they kept David Diehl at right guard, next to Justin Pugh.
This approach has several advantages. First and foremost, Schwartz and Flowers together is a massive and strong pairing that should provide some strong run blocking. Also, having the veteran Schwartz next to Flowers will help slow the game down for him.
On the other hand, while having a left side of Weston Richburg, John Jerry, and Justin Pugh should make for stout pass protection, the run blocking could leave something to be desired.
Geoff Schwartz to right guard, Brandon Mosley to left guard
This combination offers many of the same benefits as the first option, however Brandon Mosley has been a much more capable run blocker than John Jerry in the limited action he has seen.
Despite being the starting right guard throughout the 2014 pre-season, Mosley seemed to fall out of favor after suffering a back injury and losing his starting job to John Jerry.
Wild Cards: Eric Herman, Brett Jones
Eric Herman was the Giants' seventh-round draft pick in 2013. He is a powerful run blocker, known for his knockdown "pancake" blocks. He has had issues with his footwork since being drafted, but Beatty's injury could give him an opportunity to show that he has improved.
Brett Jones is a rookie in the NFL, but two years ago he was the CFL's rookie of the year, and the CFL's top lineman in 2014. In his brief time with the Giants, he has begun to gain renown for his intelligence and work ethic, and praise for his work on-field in OTAs. If Jones can make the adjustment to the NFL game, he could be a darkhorse to start at guard.
Ereck Flowers to left guard, John Jerry or Brandon Mosley to right tackle
This is less than ideal, but if Flowers can't fix his technique issues enough to deal with NFL pass rushers by the start of the season the Giants may be forced to move him inside to guard. That, of course opens up the right tackle position. Both Mosley and Jerry have experience playing right tackle, and could be adequate next to Geoff Schwartz.
Ereck Flowers to left guard, Giants sign Jake Long to play right tackle
This is pretty much the "Out Of Left Field" option, and you could probably sub in any number of free agent tackles for Long. When healthy, Long was one of the best offensive tackles in the league. However, after a pair of torn ACLs, his health is anything but a sure thing.
Long tore his ACL in week 8 of the 2014 season, so if the Giants were at all interested about bringing the former All Pro in, they will certainly need to do their due diligence on his recovery.
The loss of Beatty is a big one. Going simply by Pro Football Focus, Beatty scored a +13.0. The rest of the Giants' offensive line scored a -63.2.
However, the Giants have been investing in their offensive line of late. Justin Pugh seems like the natural back-up for Will Beatty, so the question then changes from replacing Beatty, to either finding a new starting offensive guard or right tackle.
How the Giants do that remains to be seen, but they aren't without options. They have said all along that they will start their best 5 offensive linemen, and they still will. It just won't be the five we thought we would see.