Deciding whether David Diehl should remain the Giants right tackle is the biggest decision Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff have to make heading into training camp.
The debate on who will be the New York Giants starting right tackle in 2013 has been raging since the beginning of the offseason. Why? Because who that player will be is a mystery, even with offseason workouts over and training camp less than a month away. Most Big Blue fans don’t want the incumbent, David Diehl, who started 10 games at right tackle in 2012, to remain on the job. There is no clear choice, however, to replace him–even with first round draft pick Justin Pugh firmly in the mix.
The following slides break down the competition to secure what appears to be the only spot up for grabs on New York’s offensive line. A favorite will be revealed at the end but not before the other candidates are discussed, in order of how serious and real their chances actually are of winning the job.
Before you dive in, keep in mind that "winning the job" is defined as being the starter at right tackle in Week 1 of the regular season. Who has the best chance of playing the most at the position over the course of 2013 is not what is being determined here.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus
None of these players have a realistic chance of starting at right tackle against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 8., unless injuries devastate the offensive line in training camp.
Selvish Capers was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2010 and has been a member of the Giants since the beginning of the 2011 regular season. Despite entering his fourth season in the NFL, he has only played eight snaps in his career, which occurred at left guard last year.
Capers was a project in college so his lack of playing time since entering the league makes it virtually impossible that he’ll suddenly transform into a viable starting option. To be brutally honest, the 27-year-old has a much better chance of getting cut than starting.
The news is better for Matt McCants and Brandon Mosley, mainly because they are younger (the former is 23 and the latter is 24) and have each only been in the league a year. Neither player, though, was even on the 53-man roster in 2012. McCants spent most of the season on the practice squad, while Mosley was on IR.
Between the two, Mosley has more potential since he demonstrated a good combination of quickness and strength in his college days at Auburn. He is also a right tackle by trade so he is more familiar with the position than McCants, who was drafted as a left tackle prospect.
Mosley could be a serious contender for the right tackle position in 2014, with Diehl not likely to be on the team.
The Giants liked the potential of the massive James Brewer when they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old, who stands 6’6” and weighs 330 pounds, hasn’t had much opportunity to realize this potential in his first two years with the team.
Brewer didn’t play at all his rookie season, even though he was on the 53-man roster, and only took 34 snaps in 2012, split between right guard and right tackle. He has a real chance, in his third season, to win the right tackle job, with the aging Diehl and inexperienced Pugh ahead of him.
Yet, according to Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, he was not exactly seizing the opportunity in OTAs, as you can see in the below quote, courtesy of Ed Valentine at Big Blue View:
James has an opportunity here in the OTAs to get a lot of reps. He’s getting the most reps of anybody because we have him at right guard and then swing him back to right tackle … That’s helping him and he has some good days and he has some bad days. So right now we have to get more good days than bad days.
Not a terrible report on Brewer from Flaherty but certainly not anything that makes you think he’ll be the starting right tackle entering the 2013 season.
The problem may simply be that despite his size, he just isn’t an NFL starting-caliber offensive lineman. His draft scouting report portrayed him as both slow and not very strong. These aren’t issues that are easily fixed, even by a line coach with the reputation of Flaherty.
It’s easy to see why Big Blue selected Justin Pugh with the 19th pick in April’s draft. His athleticism and quickness are a great fit for the Giants predominant zone-blocking scheme. He is a tenacious player and hard-worker who strives to get the most of his talent. His future with the team appears bright and he may end up achieving a Pro Bowl level of play at some point in his career.
But he is probably not going to be the Giants starting right tackle in Week 1 for two reasons.
First, he didn’t play right tackle in college. Pugh was a three-year starter at left tackle at Syracuse and has just begun to understand the nuances of the position this offseason. Even though the Giants clearly want him to learn how to play right tackle, he still has to do it. To expect him to become good enough to start out of training camp is asking a lot of a rookie.
This leads to the other issue–Tom Coughlin is not a head coach who easily trusts first-year players. We saw this last year with David Wilson, who went into the doghouse for half the season after fumbling in the opening game against Dallas.
In his nine years as Big Blue’s head coach, Coughlin has only started a rookie in Week 1 twice. The first was Chris Snee, at right guard in 2004, and the second occurred in 2006, when Barry Cofield started at defensive tackle. It is important to note that both guys played these respective positions in college.
Pugh will get a chance to start, given where he was drafted and the vulnerability of the player in front of him. He may very well be the starter by the end of his rookie campaign.
History and a lack of right tackle experience, however, are working against him as he tries to capture the right tackle spot at the beginning of the regular season.
Sorry Giants fans but David Diehl will likely be your right tackle again in 2013, at least to start the season.
The 10-year veteran has plenty working against him. He’ll be 33 in mid-September and is coming off a minor surgery on his right knee earlier this year. According to Pro Football Focus, he has been a below average player since his 2009 Pro Bowl season. His best overall rating in a single season in the last three years is -6.8, which occurred in 2012 (at least he’s getting better right?).
All of these factors are probably a big reason why he took a pay cut in March just to stay on the team.
So how could he possibly be the favorite? Because he has been a Giant for a decade, started on both recent Super Bowl championship squads and the coaching staff loves him for it.
Just check out this quote from Kevin Gilbride after the completion of minicamp a few weeks ago, courtesy of Sam Spiegelman at Big Blue View:
(Diehl) is not going to give up the job. He doesn’t care who has been drafted; he was a low draft pick when he got here and no one ever expected a lot from him. What has he been playing now – 10 years? He has been a starter. I think it is going to be very difficult for someone to unseat him, but certainly Justin was brought in for just that reason – to earn a starting position …
The Giants offensive coordinator leaves the door open for Pugh to overtake Diehl but he sure doesn’t make it sound easy. Also pay close attention to the words “give up the job” and “unseat him." This means he is currently the starter.
It’s always easier to win a job that is already yours.
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