Jim Mancari, ContributorTalk about shuffling the deck.
The Giants’ offensive line seems like it’s a deck of cards that has been constantly shuffled throughout the first half of the season.
But finally, there appears to be at least some consistency as we head into the final eight games.
David Diehl missed the first three games with a right thumb injury, and right when he returned, Chris Snee went down with a season-ending hip injury.
Meanwhile, David Baas – as ineffective as he was when somewhat healthy – also was placed on season-ending injured reserve with an MCL injury.
As a result, Jim Cordle has become the new center, with Diehl filling in at right guard. Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe and rookie Justin Pugh have been the only regulars to start on the line all season.
The first few games for the offensive line were brutal, plain and simple. Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said it’s been a challenge with all the different moving parts but that it can’t be an excuse for the lack of production.
“We’ve always approached it in our offensive linemen room that you have to get ready,” Flaherty said. “The reason that you’re on this team is this New York Giants organization signs you to a contract to play. There’s no redshirt in the NFL, so if you’re going to be here, my job as a coach is to get them ready to play, no matter who we’re playing at what time because you never know.”
Eli Manning took a beating through the first five games of the season, but even in the Thursday night loss to the Chicago Bears, the offensive line began to find its groove.
Normally, when the broadcasters mention the name of an offensive lineman, he’s usually being called for a penalty.
But Justin Pugh received high praise from the announcers during that game.
“Justin’s progressing along fairly well,” Flaherty said. “In the last few weeks, I’ve seen his technique and fundamentals become better. The game is slowing down for him; I think it’s still fast. When you’re going into your ninth game, it should slow down for you as a rookie, but he’s still a rookie so he’s going to learn each and every game.”
Both Flaherty and Manning have been impressed with Jim Cordle’s progress.
“Jim has always been a guy that knows the offense; he works extremely hard on and off the field, and he looks forward to an opportunity to play,” Flaherty said. “What do you do when a guy is not able to play? Well, Jim has always been one of those guys that would say, ‘Hey, I’ll do anything. I’ll be the backup long snapper. I’ll go in there, and I’ll play center, I’ll play guard.’ He runs on the field when a guy comes off. He’s done that for two years now.”
Will Beatty may not be playing as well as he’s getting paid, but other than a few early blunders, he hasn’t been that bad the past few weeks. Same goes for Kevin Boothe, who Flaherty called a “solid player.”
Of all the units on the offense, the line really holds the key to success, yet it always gets the least amount of credit.
If the line plays well, Eli Manning will have plenty of time to hit his weapons downfield. If the passing game is working, that should in turn open the run game, since opposing defenses will be worried so much about the pass.
Again, it all starts with the o-line.
Just like quarterback, I can’t grade this unit based on its potential or by only looking at the last three games. It’s a collective analysis.
However, the offensive line right now is synonymous to a student that fails the first few tests but then puts together a couple of decent tests in a row – a good showing of progress.
The offensive line may not have figured everything out just yet, but the improvement from the start of the season to now has been noticeable.
Up next: Wide Receivers