EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For years, we have been told, by coaches and analysts who know the game well, that offensive line continuity is vital. That keeping the same group together for an extended period of time is the best thing you can do. That continuity can even matter more, at times, than the individual quality of the players. The longer a group of five starting linemen plays together, the better they get at working together, understanding each other's rhythms and tendencies and growing as a unit to the benefit of each other and the players they protect.
So the New York Giants appear set to bring back the same starting five offensive linemen they used last year, and yet the perception is that this is a potentially season-killing disaster. The perceived insufficiency of Marshall Newhouse as a starting right tackle and John Jerry as a starting right guard has fans very worried. The fact that the Giants didn't draft an offensive lineman or add one of significance in free agency is confusing. They cannot be serious, right?
Well, they appear to be. While it's entirely possible that Jerry or Newhouse, both of whom were signed as backups but were pressed into starting duty because of injuries, could lose his starting job to someone like Bobby Hart, it's more likely at this point that they will open the season as starters.
"Everyone tries to get on the right side of the line, but I have no worries whatsoever," Giants left guard Justin Pugh said Wednesday after practice. "I know what those guys bring to the table. They're vets; they know how to play this game, they know how to win and I'm excited for them to go out there and prove to everyone how good they are."
It's certainly one way to go. Pugh admits that the Giants need to run the ball better in 2016 than they did in 2015. But he also points out that they did run it effectively in December, and he holds that out as something on which to build. Even having struggled so badly to run the ball for the first three months of the season, the Giants finished 19th in the league in rushing yards. As for pass protection, only three teams in the NFL gave up fewer sacks last year than the Giants. There are reasons for that starting five to believe it has a chance to succeed.
"If you keep replacing guys, keep interchanging guys, it's hard to jell, to get that feel for the guys next to you," Pugh said. "That's the most important thing about offensive line play, that you really trust that guy next to you. And I think that's what we are really getting this year."
Pugh called Jerry "one of the most underrated guards in the NFL," and after he started 16 games for the Giants in 2014 and eight more last year, Jerry has established himself as someone who knows the Giants' offense and someone on whom they can rely. As Pugh pointed out, Jerry has shown he doesn't care whether he's starting or backing up, or which side he's asked to play when they ask him. He's been a good soldier, and even if he does get pushed around from time to time in the run game, they believe he adds more than people on the outside realize.
Newhouse was signed to be the swing tackle and only had to start last year because Will Beatty got hurt. There were times when Newhouse looked overmatched, but as a whole the Giants' pass protection didn't collapse because of him. The development of Ereck Flowers, the second-year left tackle, likely will say more about the success or failure of the Giants' offensive line in 2016 than Newsome on the other side.
Anyway, this is just to present a little bit of a different view. I'm as surprised as you are that the Giants didn't look to upgrade on the right side of the line. But it's worth noting that they might not be as sure as you and I are that they had to.