With Longtime Anchor Snee in Decline, Giants Offensive Line Is in Big Trouble

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 28, 2013

Nov 25, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New York Giants guard Chris Snee (76) during the first half against the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to overreact when the excrement hits the fan as dramatically as it did when the New York Giants gave up six sacks in the first half of their Week 3 blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers. But we're going to do it anyway, because, quite honestly, it feels as though things might actually go from really bad to worse for New York's offensive line.

Not only have the G-Men surrendered more sacks than any team in the NFC (tied with the Eagles at 11), and not only have they failed to pave the way for a running game that has produced a league-low 133 yards on an abysmal 2.7 yards per attempt, but that line is also being torn apart by injuries. 

The latest is to their most steady cog, Chris Snee. The right guard was sidelined throughout the week due a new hip injury (opposite the joint he had surgically surgically repaired in the offseason), and he won't play Sunday in Kansas City, stretching an already-weak secondary even thinner. Veteran David Diehl is only doubtful as he eases back from a thumb injury, and center David Baas is also out with a neck injury. 

But going forward, they'll likely be in trouble with or without Snee. See, his play has fallen off a cliff this season, and that's been the major difference when you look at that line. 

Left tackle Will Beatty really struggled against the Panthers, but he hadn't given up any sacks in the first two weeks. Right tackle Justin Pugh will endure growing pains and does require help, but that right tackle spot was just as problematic when Diehl and Sean Locklear were standing guard in 2012. Baas missed a large chunk of the 2011 season and wasn't a good pass-blocker last year anyway.

Left guard Kevin Boothe has been steady—he hasn't been the solution, but he certainly hasn't been the problem.

But then there's Snee. The 31-year-old made the Pro Bowl last year, but three weeks into the 2013 campaign, he's been graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) as the worst offensive player on this team.

Quarterback Eli Manning, his receivers and the running backs deserve part of the blame for what is happening to to this offense. But the line, which PFF ranks 32nd in pass protection and Football Outsiders ranks 32nd in adjusted yards per carry, is the biggest culprit. As its leader and its worst-ranked player, a lot of that is on Snee.

In fact, there's even proof to back that up. Giants backs have been tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage on a league-high 41 percent of their carries, according to Football Outsiders, and they're much worse running up the middle and to the right side (where Snee is situated) than to the left. 

And after giving up only two sacks all of last season, Snee has already been charged with three this year. According to PFF, he's been the third-least efficient pass-blocking guard in the league. 

Need some video evidence of his struggles? This was an awful effort against Bruce Carter in Week 1:

And despite holding Jason Hatcher from the get-go here, he still gives up another sack:

And here he is pulling too slowly on a sweep against Carolina, whiffing on his block and forcing David Wilson to cut back in and settle for a one-yard gain:

And here's another whiff on a pull later in that same game:

Like Manning and head coach/Snee's father-in-law, Tom Coughlin, he's now in his 10th year. He probably went to the Pro Bowl last year on merit, but you could already get the sense he was sliding. However, he was still a reliable asset. Now, with the slide continuing and hip problems emerging, that has changed. Now, he's a liability. 

"He’s battling through," said former Giants center Shaun O'Hara this week, per the New York Post, "a lot of guys probably would have tapped out by now and say I need some time off."

He might not be a future Hall of Famer, but until now, Snee had always been there. He's missed just one star since 2005.

The bigger problem, of course, is that it's not as though the Giants are loaded with depth on that line.

Boothe can play guard and center, and Diehl can play guard or tackle. That versatility helps, but with Snee needing time off and Baas hurt and injury-prone to begin with, they'll probably have to rely on Jim Cordle, James Brewer and Brandon Mosley. Brewer has just one career start, and Mosley has zero career snaps. There are no other offensive linemen on the 53-man roster.

Snee was struggling so much that they might not be significantly worse without him, but if the Giants are going to dig themselves out of an 0-3 hole, this line actually has to be significantly better.

Their Sunday opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs, lead the league with 15 sacks and a sack percentage of 11.7, per Pro Football Reference. Recent draft picks Dontari Poe and Justin Houston have blossomed alongside veteran pass-rushing stud Tamba Hali in that front seven. 

And in two weeks, they have to go on the road again to deal with a stout Chicago Bears defense. It eases up a bit after that, but it might be too late by the time that happens. 

Just another reason why the Giants might soon have to think about rebuilding this thing from scratch.