Will Beatty‘s pectoral tear set back the plans for the Giants offensive line in a major way by forcing another reshuffling. Rookie Ereck Flowers has been working as both the first and second team left tackle as Beatty’s immediate replacement, giving him a crash course in the NFL. Flowers planned spot at right tackle has been taken by free agent acquisition Marshall Newhouse.
Despite months of denying the move, Justin Pugh has been moved from right tackle to left guard. Weston Richburg shifted from left guard to center, his natural position. The only holdover from the 2014 line is right guard John Jerry, who was a good pass blocker, but his run blocking struggles were a big reason the Giants struggled in that area.
Absent from the group is Geoff Schwartz, who is being held back as a precaution while he continues to recover from 2014 toe and leg injuries. Able to play guard and tackle, but best suited to play right guard, Schwartz will push Jerry or Newhouse for playing time, depending on which lineman struggles most in next week’s mini camp and training camp.
Canadian league import Brett Jones could also be a surprise starter if he adapts to the American game. He’s been playing center and right guard on the second team line. In 2015, Jones is most likely suited for a back up role on the Giants.
Recent reports maintain the Giants interest in free agent left tackle Jake Long, who is recovering from an ACL tear for the second consecutive season. If they are to sign him, it will likely be closer to the opening of training camp in late July. Delaying his signing gives Long more time to rehab and reduces the risk of an injury that will eat up valuable salary cap space for another non-contributing player.
Another free agent consideration is former Giants lineman Kevin Boothe, who was released by the Oakland Raiders last month. Boothe was one of the Giants better lineman during the horrid 2013 season, and would provide quality veteran depth at both left guard and tackle. His days as a starter are behind him.
If the season opening line features Jerry and Newhouse on the right side, expect the team to struggle running the ball and pass protection to be an issue, as Newhouse has struggled mightily to pass block in the past three seasons. Green Bay and Cincinnati both let Newhouse leave as a free agent, something that does not happen when a player is a quality NFL starting offensive tackle.
Having a rookie start his first NFL game protecting the blind side for Eli Manning also invites disaster for the team. If Long’s rehab continues to progress and he is on track to return in September, he would be a better alternative to Flowers at left tackle. His knees don’t need to hold up for the entire season, but only until Beatty is able to return in early November. Between the two wounded players, one full season needs to be cobbled together.
The offensive line that should be rolled out on September 13th in Dallas:
Left Tackle: Jake Long, Left Guard: Justin Pugh, Center: Weston Richburg, Right Guard: Geoff Schwartz, Right Tackle: Ereck Flowers. Backups will be chosen from among Newhouse, Jones, Jerry, rookie Bobby Hart, Boothe, and Dallas Reynolds.
If Jerry or Newhouse is among the starters to open the season, it threatens to derail an offense that has the potential to set a team record for points scored (448 in 1963). That record was set in a 14 games season, to top the 32 point per game average, the Giants would need to score 513 points.