Not much was expected of the line the last couple seasons and the unit responded with some very solid efforts. Last year, both C Shaun O'Hara and RG Chris Snee were named as alternates for the Pro Bowl. But perhaps New York's biggest – and most controversial – offseason decision was to send Luke Petitgout packing. When that happened, it seemed almost certain that the Giants would sign a free agent to take his place. No such luck. The current plan of moving David Diehl out to left tackle has many Giants fans worried sick. How Diehl fares protecting Eli Manning's blind side certainly isn't the only question the O-line needs to answer. But it most definitely is the most important.
Can David Diehl with LT pressure?
Everywhere David Diehl has lined up since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, he's been a smashing success. In his rookie year, he started all 16 games at right guard. During his sophomore campaign with Big Blue, he very ably manned the right tackle spot. Last season, he completed his third full year of starting at his third different position – left guard. However, the stakes are much higher at left tackle, which is why so many people have lost so much sleep over it. However don't count any of Diehl's linemates among them. They're all fully confident that he can handle his fourth different position in the last four seasons. If not, the Giants could turn to Guy Whimper, New York's fourth-round pick last season. But the prevailing notion is that Whimper is just not quite ready. While it's hard to envision Diehl handling the post as well as Petitgout did for years, it would also be very foolish to say he can't.
Will Giants get more value from Big Mac?
When you're making upwards of $5 million a season to play right tackle, you had better be darn good at it. Kareem McKenzie definitely made strides from his first season in a Giants uniform (2005) to his second, but he's still not exactly where the club would like him to be. With the middle of the line no worry due to the presence of Snee, O'Hara and a combo of Rich Seubert and Zach Piller at left guard, all eyes will be on the Giants' tackles. Gone are the days of the right tackle just being a run blocker. Plenty of clubs put their best pass rusher on the defensive left side, the Giants, with Michael Strahan, among them. As a result, McKenzie often faces the cream of the crop on a weekly basis. New York needs to be able to count on consistently solid play from him.
Will they be better in '07?
No; at least not at the beginning of the season. No matter how well Diehl turns out to be at left tackle, and he'll probably be pretty good, there's no question there will be some growing pains involved. With some tough defenses like Dallas and Philly during the season's first month, the hope is that the Giants aren't buried too early in the season. With the exception of a new left guard to replace Diehl, the rest of the O-line basically returns intact. That should be a big help if Diehl and/or Whimper struggles in the early going. Keep in mind the line has surprised us the last couple seasons.
Strength of unit: The interior. With two Pro Bowl alternates among the middle three spots, the center of the Giants line should be in very good shape.
Weakness of unit: Left tackle, just because David Diehl hasn't proven himself yet. Will it be Diehl, Guy Whimper or even someone coming over in a preseason trade?
Key additions: Zach Piller. He's got every bit as good a chance to start at left guard as anyone.
Key losses: Luke Petitgout. We never thought we'd feel this way, but the Giants offensive line just isn't as good without Petitgout.
Darkhorse: Jonathan Dunn. With all the uncertainty and lack of depth at tackle, the second-year man from Virginia Tech could catapult himself into the mix. The 6-7, 324-pounder has impressed the coaching staff during the offseason.
On the spot: Rich Seubert. His versatility may actually work against him. Piller is going to make a strong push for the starting left guard job. Seubert's ability to play both guard spots and center makes him better-suited to be an all-everything reserve.
More than just a cloud of dust: The Giants per rush average of 4.7 yards the last two seasons was no joke. Obviously credit goes to both Tiki Barber and the big guys up front. We'll see if they can keep it that high this season.
Sack attack: The fewer times Eli Manning ends up on his back, the better. That's clearly the O-line's motto. While last season's number of sacks allowed (25) was down from 28 in 2005, it could always be better.
Will Left be all right for Giants?
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