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Player development, part 2: The ongoing effort to fix the Giants' offensive line

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The Giants have tried ... and tried ... and tried to fix the offensive line. Why isn't the job done yet?

Brandon Mosley
Brandon Mosley
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie showed up for work every day, played every Sunday, and gave the New York Giants one of the best, most dependable offensive lines in the NFL. The Giants, and truth be told Giants fans, didn't know how well they had it.

Well, now we all do. As happens, age and injuries began to catch up with that group and the Giants began to chase ways to bridge the gap. Even after spending a first-round pick (Justin Pugh) in 2013, a second-round pick in 2014 (Weston Richburg) , and a first-round pick in 2015 (Ereck Flowers) on the offensive line the reconstruction is not yet complete.

Why? Mostly because the Giants have failed to hit on any of the half-dozen Day 3 developmental offensive linemen they have selected in the past six drafts. Tuesday, we looked at the myriad of reasons why drafted players can fail. Today, let's apply those lessons to the Giants' offensive line and see why, after all this time, the Giants are still chasing a finished offensive line.

General manager Jerry Reese went from 2009, when he selected Will Beatty in the second round, until 2013 when he took Pugh in the first round, without using a high draft pick on an offensive lineman. That, however, doesn't mean he ignored the position. Far from it, in fact. In the last six drafts, Reese has selected nine offensive linemen. The first- and second-round picks -- Flowers, Richburg, Pugh -- are starters. The first five third-day picks -- Mitch Petrus, James Brewer, Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants, Eric Herman -- never amounted to anything. The sixth, 2015 seventh-round pick Bobby Hart, is expected to compete for a job as a starting guard in 2016.

Why did those five players not make the grade? Were they wrongly selected? Were they improperly developed? Were they knuckleheads just happy to call themselves NFL players? Probably a little of all three.

"It's a mix of all of the above," former Giants star and current radio analyst Carl Banks said.

An old George Young philosophy was to try and find offensive linemen late in the draft. Former NFL scout and current Scouting Academy director Dan Hatman said recently that it is a philosophy that should still work.

"The offensive line has not been good on their developmental prospects," said Hatman. "To have nobody that far down ... pretty much every team is going to have at least one."

In broad strokes, we looked on Tuesday at the idea that some guys were simply the wrong picks, some might have been the right picks but weren't developed properly, and some are perhaps players who simply didn't put the work in to improve.

Petrus, a 2010 fifth-round pick who had outside interests including playing in a band called "Vikings of the North Atlantic," is probably one of those guys who might have been able to make it but perhaps wasn't committed enough. That, incidentally, is a personal impression and not one with inside information attached to it.

McCants, a 2012 sixth-round pick, is a guy who really probably never was good enough to be more than a career backup. The Giants cut him after a year, and he has been with the Oakland Raiders for the past three. He started three games back in 2013 but played in only two games in 2015. The Raiders, by the way, were a terrible 4-12 team in 2013.

Herman, a 2013 seventh-round pick, was cut prior to the start of the 2015 season. A mauling guard, Herman spent two seasons on the practice squad and never appeared in a regular-season game. The issue with Herman was simple -- he was not an NFL-caliber pass blocker and, as much as he worked at it, becoming one wasn't in the cards.

Let's focus a little more intensely on the two players in that group of five about whom there has been the most gnashing of teeth over the years, and who probably at one time had the ability -- and opportunity -- to become starting players for the Giants. Those would be 2011 fourth-round pick James Brewer and 2012 fourth-round pick Brandon Mosley.

Before we go forward, let's imagine an alternate Giants' universe. A world where Brewer and Mosley had both succeeded. What if, instead of John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse, the right side of the Giants' offensive line was Mosley at guard and Brewer at tackle? Maybe the Giants could have used the money they invested in Geoff Schwartz a couple of years ago at a different position. Maybe they could have used their 2015 first-round pick to fortify something other than the offensive line. Maybe they wouldn't be in the position of almost certainly using a Day 1 or Day 2 pick this time around on a right tackle.

Now, let's look at both players.

James Brewer

Brewer had all of the physical attributes you could ever want in an offensive lineman. He was 6-foot-6, 323 pounds with long arms, quick feet, and plenty of strength. Look at the spider chart below. Brewer had everything you could want physically. His measurables, in fact, compare with Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame, who some think could be the Giants' selection at No. 10 in the first round of this year's draft.

Brewer should have become, at least, a capable starter somewhere along the offensive line. Instead, he started only eight disastrous games during the 2013 season and after four years is now out of the league. He signed with the New York Jets before last season but was quickly cut.

Why didn't Brewer make it? Remember what Banks said on Tuesday about "eat, ride, and warm up" players? Then think about Brewer and the photo of him carrying around that massive teddy bear when the Giants played in the 2011 Super Bowl. The teddy bear, incidentally, stayed in Brewer's locker until he left the Giants.

One talent evaluator called Brewer a "gifted athlete" who never toughened up enough to be a good NFL player.

Another said that Brewer "never seemed to want to take advantage of the opportunity. He never competed."

Ouch! I don't think you can pin this one on Reese. He drafted a player with all the requisite skills. I'm not pinning Brewer's failure on Tom Coughlin or then-offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, either. You can't make a man into something he's not, or doesn't really want to be. The blame for Brewer's lack of success in the NFL falls squarely on Brewer.

Brandon Mosley

Selected out of Auburn, Mosley is another player who looked like he had the goods to be a quality player. Mosley had the requisite size at 6-5, 314 pounds, terrific strength and athleticism. Here is Mosley's spider chart.

Athletically, that is comparable to Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Mosley looked like a player who could play either guard spot, or at right tackle. At the least, he would be a versatile, valuable reserve. Yet, he has played in only 22 games, made only one start, and after spending 2015 on injured reserve remains unsigned on the free-agent market.

So, why didn't Mosley succeed? Again, I don't think you fault Reese. This is a player who appeared to have all the tools, and the versatility, to be a good NFL player. I don't think you blame Coughlin or Flaherty, either. We can argue that perhaps in 2013, when the Giants' offensive line surrendered 40 sacks, when Brewer struggled, when David Diehl was on his last legs, when Kevin Boothe was forced to play center, that perhaps Mosley should have gotten a real opportunity prior to the 14th week of the season. Perhaps he should have, but none of us were in practice to see how well he was actually performing, so that's really just hearsay without evidence. We just know that watching Diehl, at the end of his career, was something we wish we hadn't had to do. Mosley's work ethic or desire to excel isn't to blame, either.

Mosley didn't succeed because injuries never gave him a chance to do so. An ankle injury during training camp of his rookie season landed him IR, costing him a year of development. When he finally got an opportunity late in the 2013 season, he broke his hand during the first series of his first NFL start.

When Chris Snee retired before training camp in 2014, Mosley had dibs on the right guard job. It looked like he was going to secure it, too, until a training camp back injury derailed him. John Jerry got the job and Mosley faded from the picture. After Will Beatty was injured last season, Mosley had a chance, at least on paper, to unseat Marshall Newhouse and win the right tackle job. His back again got in the way, he ended up waived/injured, went unclaimed, and spent the season on the Giants' IR list.

The current young guys

The Giants have Flowers, who is a starter but showed as a rookie that his technique still needs a lot of refinement. They also have Hart, who could make the fan base rejoice if he can unseat Jerry at right guard. They will probably also have at least one more young player added via the draft. The job now is to develop those young players and get maximum performance from them.

On Thursday, we will conclude our three-part series. We will look at the new assistant coaches -- including offensive line coach Mike Solari -- to see if we can uncover clues as to whether this staff might have more success in bringing out the best in some of these young players.