Breaking Down The Big Blue Wall: Evaluating the Giants' Offensive Line
Considered one of the elite units in the NFL not too long ago, the New York Giants’ offensive line has a lot more question marks surrounding it this year than in seasons past.
While the Giants’ line still has a lot of talent, the possibility exists that they could be a subpar unit this season. In seasons past that was never considered a possibility.
However it must be said that while no one expected the Giants’ offensive line last year to play poorly, they did exactly that. Seams that once appeared regularly in the running game disappeared, and Eli Manning was beaten up more often than he was accustomed to in the passing game.
The consequences of last seasons subpar play by the offensive line is that one or more of the starters, who have played together since the 2007 Super Bowl season, could be benched.
After all the NFL does stand for, “Not For Long.”
The following is a breakdown of the individual lineman that are projected to start this season for the Giants’ offensive line. As a bonus I have included a breakdown of the Shawn Andrews signing and potential impact it could have.
Left Tackle: William Beatty
The Giants are putting a lot of their offensive hopes on the emergence of second year tackle William Beatty. Beatty, a second round pick out of UCONN, appears to have locked up the starting left tackle spot for the Giants. This will allow last years starter, David Diehl, to move over to left guard, a position for which he is more physically suited.
This chain reaction will also put incumbent left guard Rich Seubert on the bench. Considering his awful play last year, age and injury history that is where he currently belongs. However this chain reaction starts and stops with Beatty.
Beatty has all the tools to be an upper-echelon left tackle in the NFL, and in limited action last year at right tackle he had moments of dominance. However as a left tackle Beatty will constantly face up against opposing teams best pass rusher, and how he fares in those matchups will be a major determining factor in how the Giants offense performs as a whole this upcoming season.
If Beatty gets abused like a turnstile in Queens the beginning of the season he will be benched, and the aged assemblage of players that composed last year’s line will be back for another mediocre season.
Left Guard: David Diehl
David Diehl is a human Swiss Army knife. He is one of maybe five NFL offensive lineman capable of playing every single position on the offensive line in an above average fashion. However that being said the position to which Diehl is least suited for is left tackle, the position he played the last few years for the Giants.
I find it no surprise the Giants are moving Diehl to left guard to replace Rich Seubert as Diehl, rapidly approaching 30, has already started to lose some quickness. Unlike some other NFL left tackles Diehl never had much quickness to spare, however as a left guard he would be fine in that department.
Diehl has the ability to be an excellent left guard in both the run and pass game. Not only is it a position he has experience playing from early in his career but he has a chance to be even better than then due to how much tougher he is now.
I also believe the Giants are hoping his presence directly next to Beatty will help his development, as Diehl is an excellent communicator who will make sure Beatty understands his assignment.
Center: Shaun O’Hara
O’Hara is a smart, tough, gritty player. O’Hara is an excellent teammate and communicator. His presence alone almost guarantees excellent offensive line chemistry.
O’Hara also has a very good on the field relationship with Eli Manning, allowing the two easy communication regarding blitz pickup and when shifting protection schemes. The two of them see things the same way, and it helps get the rest of the line in step that much faster.
All that being said O’Hara is old, at 33 years old he has sadly devolved into an average NFL center. While his presence promotes excellent team chemistry he himself is just average at this point of his career.
He can no longer win the one-on-one matchups against defensive tackles he was once capable. Even when he wins the initial battle he cannot sustain his blocks for as long as he used too and his ability to pull and reach the second level is degrading rapidly.
This might be O’Hara’s last year of being an effective NFL starter.
Right Guard: Chris Snee
Chris Snee is the only player on the Giants’ offensive line that can be considered an elite player. Snee combines excellent size, light feet and herculean strength to manhandle interior lineman in both the run and pass game.
Snee is the rare offensive guard who is capable of taking on elite interior lineman one-on-one without any assistance, allowing his fellow lineman much more freedom in their blocking packages. Not only does Snee have the ability to be a mauling type offensive lineman he also has truly rare ability for a guard to pull on run plays and act as a lead blocker.
He also does a fantastic job of winning his initial blocks, disengaging and reaching the second level of the defense. That kind of blocking is the stuff that springs running backs for gigantic running gains.
And to think people thought the Giants’ drafted him just because he had a kid with the coach’s daughter.
Right Tackle: Kareem McKenzie
McKenzie joined the Giants as a 24-year-old free agent from the Jets the same year the team signed Antonio Pierce and Plaxico Burress. Not a bad free agent class huh?
At the time the Giants signed McKenzie they made him the highest paid right tackle in the NFL. While McKenzie has more than justified that contract with his outstanding, steady play last year was nothing more than a disaster for him.
Not only was McKenzie injured and miss games, but the games he did play in he was ineffective. Constantly beat by speed rushers McKenzie was a major cause for the suffering endured by Eli Manning last year.
On top of that he wasn’t even that effective in the run game, as seams and holes that were once staples of the Giants attack to the right side disappeared. Too often last season Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw ran into brick walls with nowhere to go.
Perhaps the Giants believe that last year’s performance was an aberration and not a sign that McKenzie is wearing down. Perhaps the medical information they have on him indicates that his play last season was a result of some physical ailment that is now better.
Here’s hoping that is the case, because if McKenzie plays this season like he did last season the Eli is in for some pain.
The Wildcard: Shawn Andrews
It’s not very often in the NFL that a team can sign a three time pro bowl player who is only 27 to a “prove it” contract midway through training camp.
Shawn Andrews is perhaps the most talented interior lineman in the NFL. In 2007 New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said, “Andrews is the best guard we've seen in quite a while, certainly the best we've played against. He's the best guard I've seen on film in quite awhile. I'd be hard pressed to go back and find somebody that's better than he is."
However it’s not like his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, would give up on him for no reason. Andrews has barely played since 2007 due to recurring back problems and issues surrounding depression. And if anyone is wondering back problems and depression are issues that march hand in hand.
The Giants plan is to ease Andrews into their offensive scheme as a left guard, with what I think is the hope that he is starting by the end of the season. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie has proven to be a durability problem and David Diehl has proven the ability to play any position on the line.
If the Giants hopes are justified by the end of the season David Diehl will be playing right tackle with Shawn Andrews playing left guard. This would force the two weakest links from last season’s offensive line, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie, to the bench.
However this all depends on Andrew's mental health, which I believe to be the source of his physical problems. If the Giants are comfortable that his depression is a thing of the past and can be regulated going forward, they might have a steal.
So the Giants have a player that could either be their best offensive lineman in two years or out of the NFL entirely, the true definition of a wildcard.