Can the Giants’ line keep Manning upright in 2014? – © USA TODAY Sports Images
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With the New York Giants reporting to training camp in less than two weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at the offensive line.
FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Offensive Line
2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Years of failing to install a contingency plan up front caught up to Jerry Reese in 2013. As injury after injury hit the offensive line, few, if any, reserves were waiting in the wings to step up. The Giants entered the season with a starting line of: William Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee and David Diehl. By the end of the season…all had landed on the injury report. Quarterback Eli Manning was sacked a career-high 39 times and the deep passes that the Giants had so much success with in previous seasons were eliminated because there wasn’t time to throw. In the end, even Manning himself suffered an injury. Things were bad, very bad. It was a nightmare that ultimately forced Kevin Gilbride to ‘retire.’
Geoff Schwartz was the Giants big signing in 2014 – © USA TODAY Sports Images
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: With how terrible things were last year, changes up front were inevitable. Kevin Boothe left for Oakland, David Baas was released and David Diehl retired. The Giants signed notable free agents: J.D. Walton (C), Geoff Schwartz (G), John Jerry (G) and Charles Brown (T) while drafting Weston Richburg (C/G) in the second round. It was a complete and much-needed overhaul.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: While there are many, the health of guard Chris Snee tops the list. Since being drafted out of Boston College, Snee has been a staple on the Giants’ line and considered one of the best guards in the NFL. But the years in the trenches have taken their toll on the 32-year-old. His 6-3, 310-pound frame is bruised and battered and Snee’s hardly the player he was when entering the league over a decade ago. When the Giants reported for their offseason conditioning program, Snee was a full participant, but that quickly changed. His elbow flared, sidelining Snee for the majority of the workouts.
Even when Snee is healthy, he isn’t the same player he used to be. The fact he’s already being held out of non-contact practices doesn’t bode well. Will Snee make it out of training camp? Will he hang up the cleats? If he realizes he can no longer play, who steps up at right guard? There are many questions on the Giants’ offensive line (William Beatty), but many center around the health of Chris Snee.
Snee was on the sideline for much of the Giants’ offseason workouts – © USA TODAY Sports Images
ON THE BUBBLE: Two names truly stick out: John Jerry and James Brewer. Since being considered an up-and-coming lineman for the Giants, James Brewer has yet to capitalize on the opportunities the team has given him. Now, he finds himself working with the third unit and his days in blue may be numbered. Jerry, meanwhile, is waiting to hear on his punishment for his involvement in the Miami Dolphins bully scandal. There’s a lot of hype around Jerry and talk he could be perfect in the Giants’ scheme, but his baggage may be enough to have the Giants pull the plug before even flipping the switch.
FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Pat Flaherty on the new faces in the offensive line meeting room: “Change is going to happen, we all know that. I like it, I really do. I mean, do I miss? You always miss people that you’ve been around for a lot of years, sure. But we all understand in most businesses that there is going to be change on sometimes a daily basis, most of the time on a yearly basis and that’s the profession that we’re in right now. So it’s a challenge because we have a mixture of youth and some veterans that come in from other teams that have to learn a whole new offense, as myself. Any time you have that type of… when you’re a competitor as you are as a player and a coach you kind of grab a hold of that and it’s fun. It is.”
Is John Jerry the answer if Chris Snee can’t go?– © USA TODAY Sports Images
Connor Hughes – I’m just not sold on the Giants’ offensive line yet. I like the addition of Geoff Schwartz, but that solidifies one of the five question marks from left to right. Of every player that could step foot on the field to protect Eli Manning, I have faith in two: Justin Pugh and Schwartz. J.D. Walton has battled injuries, William Beatty is a huge question mark, who goes for Snee if/when he can’t? John Jerry wasn’t exactly a stud in Miami, Brandon Mosley and others on the line haven’t shown much. The Giants made their splashes in free agency and the draft on the offensive side of the ball, adding weapon, after weapon, after weapon…but none will matter if Eli Manning isn’t protected. Last year, Manning ended up injured in the final game of the season. There’s a big part of me that believes he could end up with the same fate far sooner in 2014.
Eric Kennedy – I have to disagree with Connor a bit here and say the #1 question mark on the offensive line – and one of the top three question marks for the entire team – is Will Beatty. Coming off of a fractured leg and possibly an undisclosed knee injury, it remains to be seen when Beatty will be able to practice with the revamped first-team offensive line. He needs the practice. Not only to rebound from a very poor 2013 campaign, but also to develop chemistry and cohesion with LG Geoff Schwartz. The Giants can survive without Chris Snee, I’m not sure they can perform well without Beatty returning to his 2012 form. The “wild card” here is Charles Brown. He has talent, but was very inconsistent at left tackle in New Orleans.
My prediction is that J.D. Walton turns out to be a much more valuable addition to the team than many initially thought. He is a no-nonsense guy who will get the job done and bring some leadership to the unit. Walton and Geoff Schwartz will settle down the middle of the offensive line. I also look for Brandon Mosley to develop and possibly challenge for a starting spot.
STARTING LINE WEEK 1?
Connor Hughes – William Beatty (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), John Jerry (RG), Justin Pugh (RT).
Eric Kennedy – Will Beatty (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), Chris Snee (RG), Justin Pugh (RT). (I also think John Jerry, Charles Brown, Weston Richburg, and Brandon Mosley make the team).