Year in Review: surprises on the O-line

AN UNDULATING ride of shuffles, highs and lows summarises a sometimes-brilliant, often-beguiling season for the Giant O-line.

When putting together this season-in-review, it’s worth noting the lack of statistical data out there to create an overview for the performances of the big guys up front.

There is some data on which provides a start – but it seems the O-line lads have the most unheralded job in the NFL.

The headline figure is that the G-Men used six different line combinations this season and it’s a credit to O-line coach Pat Flaherty and the team that they were able to have as much success as they did.

But a post-mortem is due and drilling down into the stats provides some interesting – and surprising – results.

Getting one thing out of the way, the right side of the ball was solid as a rock where Kareen McKenzie and the outstanding Chris Snee played every game and were generally impressive.

The centre, left guard and left tackle were where all the drama was in 2010/11.

The pre-season questions were all about whether Richie Seubert was over the hill and how significant Shaun O’Hara’s injury was. The answers were “hell no” and “hmm, not sure”.

Seubert was team MVP among the Giants locker room and seamlessly shifted from left guard to centre when O’Hara was down where the team went 5-2 with Richie at the helm.

The injuries also gave some starts for Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, Sean Andrews and Adam Koets.

However, how do you judge their performances? Is it rushing yards gained? Sacks allowed (stats for which appear to be non-existed)? Wins?

Taking rushing yards, Big Blue’s best period was weeks 12-14 where they clocked-up 135, 197 and 213 yards and went 3-0 over Jacksonville, Washington and Minnesota. And this was when the Giants had Beatty, Boothe, Seubert, Snee and McKenzie starting.

For wins, the G-Men’s best performer was David Diehl who went 8-4 when in the line-up.

What I found most interesting, though, was how well the non-stars performed this year when the nominal starters were injured: Boothe was 3-2 as a starter, Beatty 2-0 and Koets 2-1.

And some of the best rushing performances? 189 yards against NFC #2 seeds Chicago, 197 over Washington at Meadowlands. These were with O’Hara out.

In fact, the G-Men’s worst performances (90 rushing yards against Green Bay, 100 at home against Philly) were when the supposed-stars were playing.

So, in my mind, there are now some harsh questions shaping up which should call into question the starting line-up for next year.

This debate may be rendered irrelevant anyhow as Seubert and O’Hara are both undergoing off-season surgery. Who knows if they’ll return or if they’ll be the same players again? Richie, the glue of the O-line, is having kneecap surgery to repair ligament and tendon damage while Shaun will get further work on his bothersome ankle.

My question would be this: at what stage do past glories and nostalgia keep you in the starting line-up? I for one think Beatty, Boothe et al should be given a chance next year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge O’Hara fan but the stats just didn’t bear out the rhetoric that he is the dominant force he was pre-injury. To be frank, it was a joke that Shaun got selected for the Pro Bowl after completing just six games (where the team went 3-3).

We need to get the rushing game more consistent and get back to old school Giants football next year. Lets give youth a chance.

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