New York Giants' O-Line Analysis: Who Should Start in 2012?
Veterans like David Diehl may not have what it takes to start anymore, meaning the pressure will fall on young guys like James Brewer to perform.
So who will step up and accept the challenge of opening up running lanes and protecting Eli Manning? This slideshow breaks down the game of the player most likely to start each position.
Left Tackle Favorite: Will Beatty
Will Beatty's 2011 season ended after 10 games when he suffered a scary eye injury, forcing left guard David Diehl to replace him at left tackle.
Diehl then proceeded to erase all doubt that he is merely a depth player at this point and not capable of starting. With no other suitable candidates to play left tackle in 2012, the Giants will have to hope Beatty is ready to play.
Pros: Beatty is quick on his feet for being 316 pounds, and is normally good at preventing pass-rushers from sneaking around him on the edge (though occasionally they do).
He also has the quickness to find his man in the running game and attempt to open up holes. Beatty gets a great jump off the snap and can keep pace with most players in pass blocking, which is a plus at left tackle.
Cons: Beatty is very much a finesse player, and his lack of strength causes problems in run- and pass-blocking.
When being bull-rushed, he can often be overpowered and pushed aside, and during running plays he usually doesn't end up too far ahead of the line of scrimmage due to his inability to pancake defenders or use strength to create holes.
Conclusion: Beatty is not the ideal left tackle because, although he is quick, he lacks power and is often pushed around by defenders. However, the Giants simply don't have anyone better to start in his place protecting Eli Manning's blind side.
Left Guard Favorite: Mitch Petrus
David Diehl started most of the 2011 season at left guard, but his play was not spectacular and it is time for the Giants to move on with the talented young players they have on their roster, including 25-year-old Mitch Petrus.
Pros: When watching Petrus play, it is immediately clear that his biggest strength is, well, his strength.
Petrus is the Giants' second-best run-blocker after Chris Snee due to his ability to maul at the line of scrimmage and open doorway-sized holes in the running game. Petrus was able to manhandle players like BJ Raji in 2011 and will only be better this year.
Cons: Petrus' main struggle is his footwork in the passing game. His inability to keep his feet where they should be sometimes allows defenders to slip past him, but other times his strength helps cover up his footwork blunders.
He also occasionally forgets assignments, but again his strength sometimes helps him to make a play regardless.
Conclusion: Petrus, though still a no-name in the NFL, has unlimited potential due to his immense athleticism. Though his fundamentals aren't very strong, they are improving. He is by far the Giants' best option at left guard and he could be a starter for years to come.
Center Favorite: David Baas
To be clear, David Baas is not so much the center favorite because he is a great candidate, but because the Giants poured a lot of money into signing him last year.
Guard Kevin Boothe showed flashes of being a solid center, but he will not get the nod simply because the Giants can't discard Baas yet.
Pros: Baas doesn't usually manhandle people in the running game, but he is able to stay on his blocks and create holes.
As a pass-blocker, he again does not possess very good strength but has good feet and can usually stay with pass-rushers and keep them from getting to Eli. He doesn't necessarily excel in one area as a center, but he does pretty well as a run and pass blocker.
Cons: As stated before, Baas doesn't excel in any one area. He is "pretty good" all-round, but the Giants could do better.
He doesn't bulldoze anyone with his strength, and every so often blows an assignment in the running game or lets a pass-rusher get by him. He is very average at center and so far not worth the money the Giants spent on him, but maybe with a full offseason to work with he will improve.
Conclusion: The Giants really need Baas to perform in 2012, because although Kevin Boothe showed promise at center in 2011, the Giants invested a lot of money in Baas despite being very near the salary cap, so if he turns out to be a dud it will hurt them financially.
However, there isn't much to indicate that Baas will be much better than he was last year, we can only hope that a full offseason with New York will help him to improve.
Right Guard Favorite: Chris Snee
Chris Snee already has the starting job at right guard locked up going into 2012, and although he seemed to start to decline in ability last year, he is still a very talented player and no one on New York's roster will come close to snatching his starting job from him.
Pros: Snee does well enough as a pass-blocker and usually does a good job watching out for Eli Manning, but his biggest strength is his prowess as a run-blocker.
Snee may be the best guard in the NFL at pulling and trapping in the running game, and he will continue to be a big help to Ahmad Bradshaw and the other running backs next season. Snee has no glaring weaknesses and is a good pass-blocker but a great run-blocker.
Cons: Snee seemed to take a step back last year in terms of ability and although he was still the best player on the offensive line for the Giants, there is no real backup plan for him in case he is injured or has a David Diehl-like drop-off in ability.
Though there are no problems with Snee's game right now, Giants fans can only hope his age doesn't affect him very much in 2012.
Conclusion: Snee will undoubtedly be starting on the offensive line in 2012, and hopefully he will continue to be one of New York's best players. The Giants don't have much depth behind him, but with some luck that won't be an issue. If they needed to, however, the Giants could plug in Mitch Petrus at right guard with Kevin Boothe taking over at left guard.
Right Tackle Favorite: David Diehl
After Kareem McKenzie departed this offseason, it was assumed that 2011 fourth round pick James Brewer would be taking his place at right tackle.
However, during OTA's David Diehl received first-team reps at the position and Tom Coughlin mentioned Brewer's need to develop in interviews. This is good for Diehl, but awful for Eli Manning and Giants fans seeing how terribly Diehl played in 2011 at left guard and tackle.
Pros: Just about the only thing Diehl excelled at last year was watching defenders sack Manning after slipping past him. Too hard on Diehl? Okay, he was a passable run-blocker. Passable. He also did have his moments as a pass-blocker, occasionally making plays that allowed Manning to focus on getting the ball to his receivers.
Cons: As good as Diehl was a few years ago, he is awful now. He looks completely incompetent as a pass-blocker and only okay as a run-blocker (although luckily the right side of the offensive line is more run-oriented).
He was almost incapable of handling anyone one-on-one in pass-blocking and screwed up his assignment many times on screen plays. Of course, at least if Diehl starts at right tackle Manning will be able to see pass rushers coming as they slip by Diehl.
Conclusion: Obviously, 2012 draft picks Matt McCants and Brandon Mosley still have learning to do before they can try and compete for any starting position in New York, but almost any other player would be a better starter at right tackle than Diehl.
Veteran Sean Locklear was brought in this offseason and Brewer seemed primed to start, but unfortunately it seems Giants coaches have other ideas in terms of who should start in 2012.
Left Tackle: Will Beatty (Okay potential)
Left Guard: Mitch Petrus (Excellent potential)
Center: David Baas (Very good potential)
Right Guard: Chris Snee (Good potential)
Right Tackle: David Diehl (Bad potential)
At this point, the Giants' 2012 starting offensive line will most likely be the above list.
Will Beatty, a good-not-great left tackle, will get the starting nod most likely because no one else offers enough competition for the role.
Although Kevin Boothe currently takes first-team reps at left guard, he by no means has secured the position and, after a long and intense training camp battle for the spot, I highly doubt that offensive line coach Pat Flaherty will be able to pass up on Mitch Petrus' ability and potential.
David Baas, meanwhile, will be starting at center and should improve after a full offseason and more experience in New York. If he turns out to be a bust, the Giants will be hurt financially but still have Boothe as a potential backup plan at center.
Chris Snee, like Beatty, has his job at right guard secured due to the lack of competition, but he is also extremely talented and the best player on the line.
David Diehl surprised many by taking the starting right tackle spot during OTAs, and although nothing is certain as of now, Giants coaches do not seem to high on Brewer as of now and seem to trust Diehl more. Of course, that isn't necessarily a good thing for Eli Manning and the running backs.