Thursday, January 26, 2012

N.Y. Giants ~ Super Sizing The Offensive Line

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE  ~  Super Bowl XLVI Edition

NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL:     Should Big Blue Consider an Offensive Line Shake-Up for the Super Bowl?  It Wouldn't Be a Risky Move and Might Make a BIG Difference.

Lets call out the Offensive Line last week for what it was; Bad - if not downright woeful.  From the four quarter-plus disappearance of the Running Game, to the woeful pass protection last week, the O-Line's performance was a total fail in almost every sense other than the final score.  I'm willing to give the San Francisco Niners a large portion of credit for their own performance last Sunday.  They backed up their well earned reputations as a stout, smart, stingy, and hard hitting Defense.  They relentlessly beat and battered Eli Manning all game long and at times overwhelmingly manhandled the Giants up front.  But aside from the 49ers due credit, the fact remains, The O-line was near disastrously out-played.  Only Eli's durability and resiliency and ability to throw in the rain while under duress saved their hides in San Francisco.

The entire starting five were all equally ineffective Sunday.  Collectively, the Offensive Line couldn't push a refrigerator, much less part the Niners Front Line for the running game.  Pass Rushers were getting lost on stunts and hitting Eli unabated at times.  The middle, consisting of Center David Baas; Kevin Boothe to the Left; and Richard Snee to the Right; got pushed open like swinging kitchen doors at a popular lunch time diner.  And the edges with David Diehl on the Left and Kareem McKenzie on the Right, allowed pocket protection to bend in on itself like a pretzel.

After each and every QB hit and through six sacks allowed, they could have done more as a group to shove red jerseys away from Eli after whistles had long blown.  This game is all about attitude and about being tougher up front.  Sometimes you take a yellow flag to send a needed message.  Even a guy like Coughlin can appreciate that.  As O-Linemen, you can't let opposing players hover over your QB like teams have this season.  David Diehl did some pushing back Sunday.  But I hardly saw it from the others.

Left Tackle David Diehl was having an increasingly tougher time as the last three games wore on.  Against the Falcons, Coach Gilbride gave the lion's share of responsibility for the running game to the right side of the Line leaving Diehl to merely worry about Eli's blind side.  Against the Packers, Gilbride changed up and went left side intensive with the run game.  Diehl delivered consistent however short positive yardage.  And his pass blocking slipped a bit.  Then this last Sunday, Eli thankfully didn't suffer any blind-side hits.  But Diehl will still have to take his share of blame for pass protection that fell apart in San Francisco.

Ditto goes for Right Tackle Kareem McKenzie.  He's had a tremendous season but played as bad a game as he's had all year.  Kareem's man too often came free on Eli's front side but the QB hung in there anyway knowing the hit was coming.  Moving forward against New England, I'm sure last Sunday was just an aberration coupled with the heat San Francisco was generating.  I trust David Diehl, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie in particular, will all have a much better game in two weeks against an old foe.  The Giants best running has come off the Tackles this season.  And in two weeks, they'll be needing to go with what works best.

With that said, we must once again revisit the Giants situation at Center.  This is the Super Bowl we're talking about here.  Which means I could care less how much David Baas costs Jerry Reese.  Shaun O'Hara is not here anymore and so the fact remains, his replacement is the smallest and weakest link in the Offensive Line.  The loss of Will Beatty earlier in the season is not the biggest factor affecting the Offensive Line.  Instead that gave Mitch Petrus an opportunity to show he can be effective.  The biggest factor affecting the Line actually turns out to be a lack of size at Center.  The former 49er did not come to New York and perform as advertised.

I'm sorry.  I've been picking on him for a while.  But it is what it is.  Not surprisingly to me, Center Davis Baas had the worst game of the bunch Sunday.  Go back to your DVR's and see for yourself.  Additionally, I do not believe his printed bio-stats.  They don't match the player.  Just look at him.  When you watch him break the huddle, he's the smallest player of any Giant Offensive Lineman, not to mention of any opposing defensive lineman.

Regardless, heading into this last game against New England, I have but this one question:  How well can David Baas play against New England's Defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork?  My answer is he doesn't match up well at all.  As a matter of fact, the match up down right scares me considering the disruption Wilfork can create up the middle.  More importantly, solutions should no longer go ignored.  The Giants must run the ball behind the Right again and at least open up the middle as best they can; especially since they have the personnel in hand to do it.  And therefore, this is my last big push for Kevin Boothe to start at Center, and for Petrus to start at Left Guard.  It's warranted because of the results they've produced before, and because it wouldn't at all be a risky move.  They've played well together in Baas' absence this season.

If this sounds harsh, it still rings true; David Baas has been an utterly useless run blocker and has exhibited only descent ( good) pass blocking skills.  What he has excelled at however, is bringing the running game to a grinding halt!  He does a better job keeping a guy in place on pass blocking than he does pushing his man forward on the run.  And that's why any Daylight that once existed up the middle has now been blocked-up by a human wall.  Chris Snee and Kevin Boothe have been left to pick up his slack and as a result the running gaps between the Guards have disappeared; not just recently, but all season.  This has for long been the condition with Baas starting at Center.

There was a moment in Sunday's game when Baas was taken out of action due to a temporary injury.  Mitch Petrus was slotted into Left Guard, while Kevin Boothe slid over to Center.  For starters, Boothe gave Eli better snaps.  David Baas' snaps were consistently low all game long.  How many times did we watch Eli in the shot-gun crouching down to receive snaps?  Then with big Mitch Petrus in at Guard, for a few plays at least, the running game found yardage up the middle; just as it did in mid-season when David Baas missed several games.

I'm not wishing harm on the guy by no means.  But I am guilty of believing David Baas leaving the game was a good thing for the Giants' run game as Petrus and Boothe have been played far more effectively together on the left side than when Baas plays to Kevin Boothe's right.  Both Boothe and Petrus are additionally quite larger than the smaller Baas.  And I find it ponderous much of this has gone largely unspoken about.

Just so as to leave off on a more positive note, Gilbride finally remembered most of the Giants' success running the ball this season has been to the right side behind Snee and McKenzie.  In overtime, they created some room for Ahmad Bradshaw just in the nick of time.  And on that note, my next posting will concern the Running Game and Kevin Gilbride's odd; bizarre; and gross mishandling of the running game....AGAIN!  The Giants' running backs themselves are at the bottom of the list of things wrong with the rushing game.  If you follow my blog, you know what I'm talking about.  I've already provided all the numbers supporting Gilbride's confounding mis-management.

Lucky for them, Eli made everyone look great last Sunday.


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