EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We got to talk to New York Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty on Friday, and it was excellent. He told us a story about how his father taught him to play center by having him practice in front of a huge oak tree that he'd have to jump up and hit every time he snapped the ball. It was horrifying and awesome all at the same time. I would like to talk to Pat Flaherty every day if possible, but it's not, so we enjoy what we get.
Also, I know most of you would rather hear about what is going on with the New York Giants' offensive line than what Flaherty did to that oak tree (or what that oak tree did to him). So here's a spot-by-spot breakdown of some stuff Flaherty said Friday:
Will Beatty has practiced a lot more than anyone expected he would coming off the broken leg he suffered in Week 17 last season. Beatty also has a bit more of an edge to him when he talks to you this summer. Not a ton, mind you. He's still mild-mannered Will. But he definitely seems extra motivated to get back out on the field and show what he can do. And the coaches have noticed.
"Will Beatty's working, and anytime you're at work playing football and putting the pads on, you're going to get better," Flaherty said. "The thing we don't have to have happen is regression with his rehab, but he's handling both things very well, as expected. He's got a ways to go, but he's progressing more now than he would by standing on the sidelines talking to me."
Beatty is coming off not just a broken leg but a rotten 2013 season in general. He signed a long-term contract extension with the team prior to last season and admitted late in the season that the pressure of it affected him.
"He's not that player," Flaherty said of the 2013 version of Beatty. "That starts with me coaching. To be able to coach somebody, he has to be out there on the practice field. If he's not out there practicing the day-to-day drills, then that sets him back and affects your technique on Sundays. Your flaws get magnified. That's what happend last year. This year, we'll see. He's attacking and making sure it doesn't happen again."
Geoff Schwartz is a proud, beaming father who misses his newborn baby but looks forward to seeing him again when the family comes to town following the Aug. 3 Hall of Fame Game. The free-agent signee projects as one of the few sure things on this line. Flaherty didn't address him to any significant extent during his news conference.
J.D. Walton is getting the first-team snaps ahead of rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg, and the sense I get is that the Giants are happy with Walton so far. The center is tasked with more responsibility in the new offense this year in terms of making the protection calls, and Walton told me it's been the toughest thing for him to learn. But Flaherty seems to think he's made a breakthrough. Walton missed the past two seasons with an ankle injury, and Flaherty was asked whether Walton was still shaking off rust.
"If he was rusty, I think he's had some WD-40, because he's out there greasing pretty good, each and every day," Flaherty said. "Was there mental rust? Was there physical rust? Probably. But I don't see rust anymore. He just has to go out and play. He's excited about the opportunity."
So is Richburg, who has been working at both center and right guard but is a rookie. The Giants think he's great, and drafted him in large part because of their belief that he could handle the center's responsibility in their new offense. But 2013 Justin Pugh notwithstanding, they don't rush rookies here.
"If and when Weston continues to develop, he's going to be a very good offensive lineman," Flaherty said. "But he's got to get in there and grow into that position. There's a sense of urgency about being able to grow into a position, and the only way you're going to be able to do that is if you have an opportunity to play."
Hence, all of the extra reps for the rookie at two positions. If Richburg dazzles the Giants at both, he improves his chances of winning one of the two starting spots.
With Chris Snee having retired Monday, this is wide open. Flaherty is a fan of John Jerry, but Jerry is still quite limited as he works his way back from knee surgery. So Brandon Mosley has been running with the first team at right guard.
"He has to be consistent," Flaherty said. "Somewhere in your career as a player, you have to get off the waves, and that's the point he's at. There will always be peaks and valleys, but you need to have more peaks than valleys. You have to be consistent as an offensive lineman. (Thursday) I saw more consistency. Those guys are pretty good that we're blocking in practice -- Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins. They're as good as there are in the league, and that's a great challenge for a guy like Brandon Mosley."
Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the defensive tackles who await the Giants in Week 1 in Detroit, might dispute Flaherty's assessment. But if Mosley takes advantage of his opportunity, he could get a shot at those guys Sept. 8.
After starting 16 games as a rookie in 2013, Pugh projects as the starter at right tackle once again. Flaherty says he's told Pugh that he believes he wasn't 100 percent physically last season and that he needed to get into the weight room and hit it hard this offseason. Pugh apparently took that advice.
"It started in the weight room," Flaherty said. "His approach these past few months, starting back in February, has been a difference. I saw it for the first time when he came back. He was stronger. He weighs more, but more importantly he's stronger. And what he has between his ears in terms of wanting to be good, that's always going to be there. He wants to be the best at his position."