A Giant Protection Problem

The 2009 season was a disappointment, to say the least, but the Giants offense did make significant strides. The Giants ranked 8th in total yards and averaged 25.1 points per game (sure, it makes Giants fans cringe to think that even a hint of defensive pride would have ensured another playoff birth, but I will reserve my sarcasm and cold remarks about the Giants defensive issues for another date).

In the passing game, the Giants surrendered 32 sacks (after surrendering 28 sacks in 2007 and 2008, each season). In the run game, the Giants suffered an even more pronounced decline, averaging just 4.1 yards per carry and a middle of the road 114.8 yards per game, good enough for a maddening mediocre rank of the 17th most effective run game in 2009 (in 2008, the Giants boasted the No. 1 rushing attack, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, with a total average of 157.4 yards per game).

Prior to the Giants v. Cardinals game in November of 2009, the Giants offensive line (Hara/Snee/Seubert/McKenzie/Diehl) had started 38 straight games as a unit. All good things come to an end, as McKenzie missed time this year due to several, nagging injuries and the offensive line, as a whole, under-performed as compared to years past. The Giants offensive line was good, but not great; changes are in order.

Clearly, fixing the Giant hole in the defense is off-season priority no. 1, but I think the Giants would be wise to consider bolstering their offensive line. O’Hara is still one of the top centers in the game, Snee is a building block, a borderline Pro Bowler at right guard, and Diehl again played admirably at the Left Tackle spot (especially considering that he is not the prototypical LT). You have to love the grit and effort that Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie bring, but each is on the wrong side of 30 and beginning to show signs of decline. The addition of rookie Will Beatty proved to be a proactive addition in the 2009 draft, and he showed signs of promise in limited time.

Where do the G-men go from here? The Giants may opt to move Beatty into the starting lineup (at the left tackle spot); move Diehl to right tackle, a more natural fit, and bring in a guard via free agency or the draft to replace Seubert, pushing him to a reserve role at center and guard, while saying goodbye to McKenzie.

What is clear is that the G-men need to bolster the trenches this off-season in anticipation of facing Haynesworth and Orakpo of the Redskins, the formidable line of the Eagles (Bunkley/Patterson/Parker/Cole, and the vaunted pass rush of the Cowboys (Ware/Spencer) twice per year. Stay tuned for an interesting off-season as a Giant protection problem looms large for 2010.

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