The New York Giants just opened training camp and the regular season opener at home against the Dallas Cowboys looms large. And while the team gets rolling, there is one area that, on the surface, appears solid yet is actually dangerously close to an upheaval if things don’t work out just so.
The offensive line, the foundation of the offense, is in flux. If the season were to begin today, the Giants’ offensive line would look something like this: LT Will Beatty; LG Kevin Boothe; C David Baas; RG Chris Snee; RT David Diehl.
Simple, right? Hang on, this could get ugly.
Beatty is already limited , still nursing the back problem that began in the spring. Beatty went on Injured Reserve last November and had surgery for a detached retina, then missed too many practices and workouts this past spring with that back injury. He is still listed as the starter.
However, questions abound:
1. Is he physically ready to defend his starting job?
2. Can he remain healthy?
3. Is he good enough to play left tackle in the NFL?
Beatty may be the lynchpin to the offensive line’s 2012 success or failure. His performance this summer will help settle the other four O-line spots.
Two possible outcomes:
Beatty plays well. If the former second-round pick plays up to the expectations the team had for him on Draft Day 2010, the rest of the line will fall in place. Beatty must play like a starting left tackle in the NFL — consistent, stable, aggressive, dominant — so quarterback Eli Manning can get comfortable.
He plays poorly and/or remains injured: If Beatty is unhealthy and can’t play up to standard, or if he fails to show the coaches that the team made the right choice three seasons ago, the East Rutherford Shuffle starts up and the dominoes begin to fall.
The team plans to move Diehl to right tackle mostly because the veteran still has solid years in him, is a versatile player, and Boothe stepped up in a big way last season filling in at left guard and center. Of course, Boothe has to win the left guard spot but at this point, it’s likely that he will. However, if Beatty doesn’t win the left tackle job, the team could very well put Diehl there again, which would open the right tackle spot to several competitors.
The Giants want Boothe left guard, which would leave backup Mitch Petrus to be a solid floater at both guard spots and Diehl free to move to the right side.
The Giants could look to James Brewer at left tackle instead of Diehl, but he’s inexperienced, as are rookies Matt McCants and Brandon Mosely; one of the latter two will probably wind up on the practice squad, but McCants did get plenty of snaps in OTAs when Beatty was out and Brewer was at right tackle.
At center, Baas’ neck/head injuries remain a concern. At times, even when healthy, Baas was inconsistent making calls on the line. Baas will probably remain as the starter, but if he gets hurt, or loses the position, the line will have to be shuffled again since there is no true backup center other than Jim Cordle and Boothe. Again, they want all offensive linemen remain versatile, but the Giants want Boothe at left guard. It’s unlikely that Cordle will beat Baas out, but he’s an option.
Snee remains firm at right guard, though he was not as dominant last season as he has been. Still, the former Pro Bowler is among the best guards around at a position crucial to the Giants’ offense.
Diehl, an eight-year veteran, has been versatile, starting at both left tackle and left guard during his career, questions abound as to his ability to use that same versatility to play right tackle on a full-time basis. Brewer, Locklear or even Mosely could step in if there is a need on the right side.
While extremely unlikely, don’t rule out the signing of a veteran free agent during camp, even McKenzie himself, if the rest of the unit fails to come together. There are plenty of veteran tackles at varying levels of value still on the market, including Chad Clifton, Brandon Keith and Tony Pashos.