One of the biggest issues with the New York Giants' offensive line the last few years has been change. In 2013 the Giants didn't field the same starting offensive line in two consecutive weeks until the middle of the regular season. The following offseason the Giants hoped to address their offensive line issues by making the signing of massive guard Geoff Schwartz one of their free agency priorities. They followed that up by selecting top center Weston Richburg in the second round of the draft.
But as we soon saw, the best laid plans of Giants and men quickly went awry when Chris Snee retired, Brandon Mosley -- Snee's replacement at right guard -- suffered a back injury, and Schwartz injured his foot. Those losses caused forced Richburg to start out of position at guard, throwing any hope of a competition for the starting center job out the window, and elevating backup John Jerry to the other starting guard position. Later in the season, an injury to Justin Pugh and a recently returned Geoff Schwartz once more threw the line into flux.
It has since come to light that Schwartz suffered ligament damage along with the broken ankle that ended his 2014 campaign. Because of that, he has been limited throughout the offseason, but he surprised himself in the Giants first practice.
"Yeah, I took every rep, so that was even more than I thought I would do. More than I think we planned on. I felt good and we kind of just have to monitor the reps as we go along because the ultimate goal is to be ready to play Week 1, not be ready to play the first preseason game. We'll see how it goes and monitor it. I was pretty pleased, yeah.
"I'm limited in just sometimes it just gets sore or whatever. I'm not going to re-injure it. I'm not worried about that. It's just a matter of getting the strength back. I was really pleased with how yesterday went, at least the reps wise. I think we're all a little rusty, but I was pleased."
With Schwartz back on the field, getting stronger and healthier, Justin Pugh settling in to his role as the Giants' new left guard, and Weston Richburg back to his natural position as the starting center, and rookie Ereck the starting left tackle for the forseeable future, it seems that the offensive line can begin to gel and develop the kind of chemistry they have lacked in recent years.
"I'm fairly certain our offensive line is what we're going to keep going forward unless there are injuries or something happens. I think we have kind of kept the same group all of OTA's and obviously opened camp that way. There's always room for changes, it always happens. There's always competition. I think the group we roll out now is what we've been working with. I know we're confident, at least up front, that we can get it done.
"I think the week of the third preseason game, you kind of treat that as like a game week. So, that's maybe the best time to have a full offensive line kind of what you know because you practice like it's a [regular reason] Wednesday, like a Thursday, like a Friday. That might be the general time. I don't know if you say like this day or that day is better to have a group. It's always better if you kind of keep the same group an entire camp obviously. You get used to playing with each other -- the communication, the kind of bonding. So probably that third [preseason] week. "
Schwartz also expressed some measure of optimism when asked if there were concerns about rookie Ereck Flowers starting at left tackle.
"I don't know [if there are concerns]. I honestly haven't thought about it too much. I think we're treating him [Ereck Flowers] like anyone else on the offensive line. We all have to be ready to go and so does he. It's an accelerated process when you're a rookie and things are coming in fast, but he's got a lot of things great things going for him. He's tough, he's athletic, he's smart. He's got a lot of good building blocks to get him to be ready for the first game."
On the first day of camp, Justin Pugh mentioned that the Giants' offensive line was going in with the mindset of being "tough guys", in the mold of the offensive line that paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in 2008. Schwartz echoed that sentiment.
"Well, offensively you kind of go where your offensive line goes, I think, especially running the ball. We have to run the ball better, there's no question about that, and we know that. We're going to do what we can to kind of bring that part up. We get the pads on tomorrow, I think, and we'll start building that up. Without pads on, it's tough to really judge how good you can become as a run blocker," Schwartz said.
"... Not many offensive lines that run the ball well aren't considered tough. You can say that you want to be tough, but you have to go do it. You have to go out and practice it, you've got to go out and do it in games. And that's our goal, is to go out and do it. We can't just sit and talk about it. We just have to go do it by force."