Giants scrambling through O-line injuries

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Seeking answers, I asked New York Giants offensive lineman Kevin Boothe if he knew what position he was playing in Sunday's game in Kansas City against the Chiefs.

"No," Boothe said with a wide grin. "Do you?"

I do not, and it's entirely possible coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride don't either. In a week the Giants would normally have spent looking for answers anyway on the offensive line following a seven-sack debacle in Carolina, they find themselves presented with injury-related challenges. Starting center David Baas and right guard Chris Snee have missed the past two days of practice because of injuries, and it doesn't sound as though either can be counted on for Sunday.

"They're trying like heck to get better," Coughlin said. "But they're being kept inside."

The result is a lineup muddle and a high-intensity effort to prepare young players and injured veterans to fill in as starters before they were expected to. David Diehl, who had thumb surgery five weeks ago, has been working some in practice the past two days in an effort for the team to find out whether and how much they can use him Sunday. It's possible he could play some guard in the game, or that he might just serve as a bench lineman or an extra lineman or a tight end in short-yardage or goal-line formations. It's also possible he won't be ready to play at all, as he said he's got some strength tests yet to pass and is still experimenting with different types of wraps on the thumb.

"I haven't punched anybody or hit anybody in five weeks," Diehl said. "I want to get back as fast as I possibly can, but if it has to be another week, so be it."

There are other options if Diehl can't play. The most likely might be that Jim Cordle plays center and James Brewer right guard, leaving Boothe at his regular left guard position. Cordle played center against the Jets in the preseason, and the Giants see a lot of similarities between the Chiefs' and Jets' defenses, so it's possible that familiarity could work in Cordle's favor. But they do seem to prefer Boothe as Baas' backup at center, so it's also possible he could slide to the middle and they could use some combination of Brewer, Diehl and Brandon Mosley at the guard spots.

Gilbride admitted that all they're doing right now is experimenting with combinations, because they can't possibly know who's going to be available to them come Sunday.

"It seems like we've been doing that all year," Gilbride said. "Even when we've had guys, they've been injured and haven't had the full allotment of practice time. It's something we wish we weren't so familiar with, but we've been doing it all along. I guess, down the road, it'll be good for us. But right now, it does unquestionably slow down your progress."

A group of offensive linemen stayed after practice for some extra work as guys such as Mosley, Brewer, practice squad tackle Sam Baker and even rookie starting right tackle Justin Pugh are trying to learn as much as they can as quickly as they can. At 0-3 on the season, the Giants aren't in a position that allows their young players to learn on the job. But there's not much choice at this point.

"You have to see things in a game," Boothe said. "You can go over it on the board or in practice, but until you actually get out there and do it, you can't fully grasp it. They've all worked hard, because that's the way we always do it on the offensive line -- work a bunch of different combinations. So I know those guys have that mindset."

Doesn't matter to Boothe what they want him to do. He's as comfortable at center as he is at guard, and they could wait until right before the game to tell him if they wanted to. He's easy. Solving the rest of this Giants offensive line puzzle right now is the hard part.