NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL:
It Is Time To Give Coach Kevin Gilbride His Due Praise.
Offensive Line Preview
I give. I know when I've been defeated. Therefore, I here-by cease and desist my yearly vitriol and caustic attacks against the Giants offensive ring master. While that's not entirely true, he does deserve the benefit of the doubt from now on. Kevin Gilbride is entering his seventh season as Offensive Coordinator. And while under his directive, Big Blue's Offense launched dual Super Bowl efforts over the New England Patriots; make that Bill Belichick's Patriots.
Damn! Kevin Gilbride never left me short for subject matter. But what can I say now?
Regardless of my Bill Parcell's era philosophy and belief in Smash Mouth Football, Kevin Gilbride's implementation of the running game is no longer up for discussion. But not because of the former QB's insistence with passing the ball, and because of his history orchestrating the Run-and Shoot. But because the way the Giants traditionally run the ball is now in flux.
Not only is the Giants' All-Time rushing touchdowns leader; Brandon Jacobs; gone to San Francisco, welcome to year two of reconstructing of the Offensive Line. Last season, GM Jerry Reese decided to part ways with Shaun O'Hara and Rich Suebert. This season, Kareem McKenzie was hacked from the Giants once record-setting Offensive Line. I personally thought the seven year Giants Right Tackle was coming off one his best seasons. The anemic Giants running game experienced its most success last season rushing to the right side between McKenzie, and Chris Snee. But the Giants enjoyed even more success running outside Right Tackle; that being Kareem McKenzie. For the moment, he remains an unsigned free agent. But then again, with regards to the running game, the Giants rushed the ball dead last in Football last season. So anything is fair game at this point.
That leaves two members of the famed Offensive Line left; David Diehl, and the already mentioned, Chris Snee. David Diehl continues to get ping-ponged back and forth between the left and right sides of the line, as well as from Tackle to Guard. Which will it be this season? We'll see. The plan was to have him take Kareem McKenzie's spot on the right side. But for the moment, that remains to be seen. Entering his tenth season, he will turn thirty-two years old once the season starts. While still a very good lineman, it seems logical he will be the next player to get replaced.
Chris Snee continues to play at an All-Pro level. He turned thirty in January, so there is still a lot of football remaining in this kid. Entering his ninth season, the Giants Right Guard was perhaps the team's best run blocker last season. When the Giants needed daylight, they looked between Snee and McKenzie. Snee will now have a new partner on his right side this season.
To Chris Snee's left, will be returning Center, David Baas. I rode him hard last season. To be fair, there was an adjustment period for him, he played through a neck injury, and dealt with some minor issues. But he finished strong, and played very well in the NFC Championship Game against his former team, the San Francisco 49ers. I still feel he is undersized. But if he plays the way he did down the stretch last season, he may yet turn into a bright spot on the Line.
The biggest questions for the Giants Offensive rest on the left side. At Left Tackle, Will Beatty is supposed to finally take over. His eye injury last season necessitated David Diehl's shift to Left Tackle. So it stands to reason, Will's health this season will go a long way towards determining the Offensive Line's continuity and stability. Now that he's back, Beatty is charged with protecting Eli Manning's blind side. I'm not exactly overwhelmed with confidence he can. Will Beatty is more of a technique and finesse player. I'm concerned how well he can handle brute force and ignorance on the end. But that was the plan last year, and remains so this year. Will Beatty is no stranger to Giants fans. And he's proved to be a very capable player before, despite my reservations.
Left Guard is perhaps the largest question mark of the Offensive Line. What is certain, the position will have a new starting player. Whether Mitch Petrus wins the job, or Kevin Boothe proves best, will be determined over the pre-season. In either case, I am comfortable with the Giants' options. I especially like Mitch Petrus, who provided an instant spark in the running game last season, when David Baas went down with an injury, and the Line shifted, creating a spot for Petrus at Left Guard. That's when Kevin Boothe filled in at Center very admirably. Kevin Boothe however, is the favorite this season to win the Guard job. And that's fine with me.
Who will be backing up the forward ranks remains to be seen. Jim Cordle I'm certain will make the team. Sean Locklear is becoming an increasingly important back-up player on the left side. James Brewer returns from last season but still has much to prove. And rookie Brandon Mosely just might play his way onto the team.
As a unit, the Offensive Line returns with familiar names. There is a continuity factor that should work in the Giants favor. Good health can only make this unit better. Despite last season's rushing numbers, this unit can be very good. But after Mitch Petrus, the Giants start to suffer from a considerable lack of depth.
A greater conversation incorporating the backfield follows next.