COMMENTARY | Where did it all go wrong for the New York Giants' offensive line?
How did a unit which allowed an NFL-low 20 quarterback sacks last season nearly get its quarterback killed against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, September 22? Eli Manning was sacked seven times and pressured an astounding 22 times on 35 passing plays in a 38-0 thrashing at the hands of the Panthers in Week 3. Frankly, the Giants (0-3) are fortunate Manning didn't get injured.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Big Blue's Pass Blocking Efficiency rating of 48.6 is the lowest in the league, as everyone from rookie right tackle Justin Pugh to veteran left tackle Will Beatty has struggled. Against the Panthers, Pugh and Beatty checked in with putrid pass-blocking ratings of -4.5 and -3.0, respectively, and were guilty of surrendering a combined five sacks. Moreover, a holding penalty by Beatty nullified a touchdown run by David Wilson in the first half.
But protecting Manning isn't the only issue.
New York's running game is ranked dead-last in the National Football League with an average of 44.3 yards per game, putting additional stress on Manning. Furthermore, the defense has been put in the unenviable position of covering for the offense, and it's taking a toll. The ball-stoppers, on the field for a league third-most 220 plays, have given up an NFL-high 115 points so far this season.
Is It Jerry Reese's Fault?
Often credited for the team's recent success (two championships since 2007), general manager Jerry Reese has to be held responsible for the team's shortcomings, too. But how much of the offensive line's failure is his fault?
Reese knew the offensive line was deteriorating. That's why he signed Beatty to a contract extension in the offseason and selected Pugh out of Syracuse in the first round of this year's NFL draft. To be fair, Reese probably didn't expect Pugh to be forced into the starting lineup, a result of veteran David Diehl injuring his thumb in the preseason, or the normally-reliable Beatty to be this bad. But he should be held responsible for the team's recent draft picks, which haven't helped the situation.
Since being named GM in 2007, Reese has drafted five offensive tackles (Adam Koets, Beatty, Matt McCants, Brandon Mosley, and Pugh) and two guard (Mitch Petrus and Eric Herman). Other than Beatty, none of them have made significant contributions to the team.
Can It Be Fixed?
Compounding the Giants' O-Line problems, guard Chris Snee (hip) and center David Baas (neck) appeared on this week's injury report. Both were held out of practice on Wednesday (Sept. 25) and may not play against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
With the offensive line in flux, it's going to be a challenge to fix the problem, so somebody has to step up. Backups James Brewer and Jim Cordle may see more snaps against Kansas City, but starters such as Beatty, who should be the anchor of the line, and Snee must lead the way. Reese may be partially to blame for the O-Line's current state, but ultimately it's up to the players to do something about it.
"We have people who have made this team and they've had an opportunity, except for the young guy (Pugh) at right tackle to play in that position for quite some time," coach Tom Coughlin told Giants.com, "and we expect more."
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience covering amateur and professional sports for several print and online media outlets. He tracked the New York Giants for Yahoo! Contributor Network during the team's Super Bowl run in 2011-12. Adam can be found on Twitter @Pegcitysports.
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