Finally, some offseason attention was given to this group. The unit they have assembled could be their best in several years; at least it has a chance to be. Good health is obviously needed. They need to avoid major injuries and they need others who had injuries to return to form.
Several areas will be better this year if the line plays to its capability. To name a few: Short-yardage has been a problem for some time now and that should be better. Solid pass protection will aid Eli Manning and hasten his development. Freeing the TE from blocking assignments will allow Jeremy Shockey to do what he does best, which is get downfield. Their red-zone performance should improve. The overall running game should be better.
This unit will be heavily scrutinized and rightfully so. Right now this is a much more credible unit. They have some solid depth established. It is fair to say that the overall success of this team rides on the shoulders of the offensive line. If things go as planned this could be the most improved position on the team. Let's look at the major players on the line.
Luke Petitgout – He's coming off a poor year. He was beaten too often and committed too many penalties. He has had back problems and that has to be a concern going into this season. The truth is, he is not a left tackle, but he gets paid left tackle money and that presents a problem. Ideally he would be a right tackle. He doesn't have left tackle athletic skills and it shows when he goes against speedy, athletic defensive ends or rush linebackers. He isn't really a great run-blocker either, which has showed the last couple of seasons. In his favor, he plays hard, but right now, without question, he is the line's weakest link and draws the most concern
David Diehl – The right tackle experiment did not work. He is a much more natural guard. He's tall and physical and he should be much better suited in tight, inside quarters. Having him inside at guard should help the run game. He's also an active player with moderate range. He is a ‘try hard' guy and that's good. Short defensive tackles that can leverage him might give him trouble. We like the decision to move him inside, where some of the flaws in his game will be covered.
Shaun O'Hara – O'Hara battled injuries all last year and if healthy, his play should improve. He's a smart player with good mobility and the ability to be a competent starting center. Some of the huge nose tackles around the league will give him trouble, but he will battle them. He's not Pro-Bowl caliber, but is an above-average center. He really doesn't excel at any one aspect of center play, but he's a good football player.
Chris Snee – Snee is a legitimate rising star. In his case there is definitely an up arrow. He was very impressive as a rookie before the viral infection put him down. He became their best lineman in a short period of time. He's strong, tough and mobile. Actually he would have to be as Tom Coughlin's son-in-law. He handled that whole scenario very well. This ascending player has a bright future.
Kareem McKenzie – The day he inked his contract, McKenzie instantly became their best lineman. The exciting thing about him is that when he links with Snee, either on double teams or alone, they will create movement. They have the potential to make this a strong right running team. They should be much more effective than Petitgout and Diehl on the left side. There aren't many left defensive ends that can beat him one-on-one. That's important because it will allow the blocking TE to move to the left side to help Petitgout over there. He's big, strong and durable and we would consider him a very good point of attack position blocker. For a big man, he's very good in pass protection. He has a great punch and slides his feet well. Overall, he's a very consistent player. Even though they added major players like Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce, the addition of McKenzie may make the most positive impact on this team. He is truly someone to build the line around.
To read about Bob Whitfield, Rich Seubert, Wayne Lucier, Jason Whittle, Brandon Winey, Lewis Kelly and Greg Walker pick up the latest issue of The Giant Insider.
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