New York Giants: Chris Snee
Through the Giants' first eight games, the team has already started four different combinations on the offense line, and the same five have never started more than two games in a row. The lack of week-to-week cohesiveness has played a role in the Giants' offensive struggles this season.
"It's a challenge and we've always approached it in our offensive lineman room that you have to get ready," Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said Tuesday. "The reason you're on this team is the New York Giants organization signed you to a contract to play. There's no redshirt in the NFL."
"If you're going to be here, my job as a coach is get them ready to play, no matter who we're playing and at what time, because you never know."
Injuries have ravaged the Giants' offensive line. They've already lost starting right guard Chris Snee (hip) and center David Baas (knee) for the season. Current right guard and longtime starter David Diehl also missed the first four games after undergoinging thumb surgery in the preseason.
With Snee and Baas out, and a lack of depth on the offensive line, the Giants have had no choice but to turn to first-round pick Justin Pugh. Although the initial thought was to ease Pugh into a starting role, he's been at right tackle since the season opener. He started off slow, as did the entire offensive line, but the rookie has improved over the course of the season.
"Justin's progressing along fairly well. In the last few weeks his technique and fundamentals are becoming better," Flaherty said. "In the beginning, with learning the offense, and learning the techniques you need, particularly in pass protection, some things were very challenging to him because he was playing against savvy veterans in the beginning of the season. The last couple of weeks he's settled down. The game is slowing down for him. I think it's still fast."
Flaherty said Diehl's technique has improved as he's further removed from his injury, and he called center/left guard Kevin Boothe a solid performer. Flaherty also had kind words about the play of backup Jim Cordle, who is now the starting center due to Bass' injury.
"Jim knows the offense. He works extremely hard on and off the field and looks forward to the opportunity to play," Flaherty said. "What do you do when a guy is not able to play? Jim has always been one of those guys 'Hey, I'll do anything. I'll be the backup long-snapper. I'll get in there and play center, I'll play guard.' He runs on the field when a guy comes off. He's done that for two years now."
Pugh research: The Giants may have surprised some draft watchers when they decided to pick Justin Pugh 19th overall. The Syracuse tackle will have an opportunity to compete against veteran David Diehl for the starting right tackle spot. James Brewer will also be in the mix.
Pugh was working with the second-team offense during rookie camp with former Syracuse teammate Ryan Nassib. As the team’s top pick, Pugh will be expected to develop and contribute, and so far he seems to be on track.
“He’s working extremely hard,” Flaherty said of Pugh. “He comes to work every day. He’s still finding some things out about the NFL, which he will continue to do for a long time. But he’s conscientious, he gives good effort. He’s a guy that wants to learn football, wants to learn the techniques of the NFL as much as anyone.”
On down the line: The only member of the offensive line who is healthy and has his spot locked up right now is left tackle Will Beatty, who recently signed a five-year deal. To varying degrees, the other four starting spots are potentially in play. Jim Cordle backed up David Baas at center this spring and remains an option, and seventh-round pick Eric Herman could get a look at a few spots with two key players coming off injuries.
Chris Snee, who plays right guard, is rehabilitating a hip injury, and Baas is healing from offseason elbow surgery. Those two were at the voluntary OTAs and attended the mandatory minicamp, but did not participate.
“I think they’re going to be ready,” Flaherty said. “They’re out there. They’re doing what they can do on the field right now. In the classroom they’re doing everything they need to do. They’re focused. They’ve seen all of the cutups. They’ve actually done extra work in the classroom when they couldn’t be on the field. I anticipate them being ready for training camp.”
So with it being Super Bowl week, we are exploring five things the Giants need to do to get back to the big game next year. Today, we look at fortifying the offensive line.
The numbers: The offensive line improved in 2012 after a down year in 2011.
The Giants rushed for 1,862 yards and finished 14th in rushing in the NFL, up from 1,427 yards the year before, when they finished last.
Profootballfocus.com recently ranked the Giants' offensive line 11th overall based on three categories (pass protection, run and screen blocking, and penalties).
Breakdown: Despite the statistical improvement in the trenches, the Giants enter a pivotal offseason for their front line. The left side faces uncertainty, with tackle Will Beatty and guard Kevin Boothe set to become free agents.
Beatty, 27, is probably the Giants' biggest free agent; solid left tackles are not easy to find. Boothe also has proven his worth with his versatility.
Chris Snee, fresh off his Pro Bowl appearance, will soon undergo surgery on his hip. Snee and center David Baas, who played through a couple of injuries, need to get healthy.
And then the Giants need to figure out what they will do at right tackle. Diehl, 32, is entering the final year of his deal worth $4.1 million in base salary. The Giants, who are projected to be $4.7 million over the cap, have always liked his versatility since he can play both tackle positions and guard. But Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin and the staff were talking about James Brewer, a fourth-round pick in 2011, as a possible starter last summer in camp, so they could decide it might be time to see what he can do.
Locklear was one of Reese's best free-agent signings last year, but he will be a free agent and his future is uncertain after suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Giant possibilities: If the Giants are going to be Super Bowl contenders again, they have to protect Manning and open up holes for David Wilson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.
This is a chance for the Giants to lock down a solid left tackle in Beatty and maintain stability if they can also re-sign Boothe. The Giants don't often spend big money on free agents, so you have to figure they will try to keep Beatty at a reasonable price.
The Giants will have to figure out what to do at right tackle. They could draft a starting tackle with their 19th overall pick, but Reese typically will go best player available, and that could be a defensive player.
The Giants still should think about drafting another offensive lineman at some point, since the average age of the starting five is 30. Adding a veteran lineman in free agency for depth, like Reese did with Locklear, will also help.
If the Giants are going to contend again, the offensive line has to be a priority, starting with their own free agents.
Tell us what you think the Giants need to do with the offensive line below.
He was replaced by Jim Cordle, who is also the backup center.
Eli Manning threw his second interception of the game on the play after Snee's injury. After Atlanta's Matt Bryant kicked a 38-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead, Cordle took the field once the Giants began their next drive.
UPDATE: Snee returned to action early in the third quarter.
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who missed Wednesday's practice but said he would play Sunday, was practicing for the second straight day. Linebacker Chase Blackburn (hamstring), defensive tackle Chris Canty (groin), center David Baas (ankle/elbow), tight end Bear Pascoe (ankle), linebacker Keith Rivers (calf) and running back Andre Brown (shoulder) all practiced.
Cornerback Michael Coe (hamstring) was not practicing, while safety Kenny Phillips (knee) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee) were both not at practice.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) also had his requisite one day of practice this week, going in a limited capacity on Thursday. This likely means he’ll sit Friday.
Right guard Chris Snee (ankle) did not practice and could be in danger of missing Sunday’s game. Cornerback Michael Coe also was an addition to the injury report with a hamstring issue.
Here’s Thursday’s full report:
DID NOT PRACTICE
CB Michael Coe (hamstring)
S Kenny Phillips (knee)
G Chris Snee (ankle)
LB Jacquian Williams (knee)
C David Baas (ankle)
LB Chase Blackburn (hamstring)
DT Chris Canty (groin)
TE Bear Pascoe (ankle)
LB Keith Rivers (calf)
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot)
WR Hakeem Nicks (knee)
RB Andre Brown (shoulder)
DID NOT PRACTICE
WR Marvin Jones (knee)
S Reggie Nelson (hamstring)
C Jeff Faine (hamstring)
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (thigh)
S Taylor Mays (knee)
C/G Trevor Robinson (hamstring)
LB Dan Skuta (thumb)
DE Robert Geathers (knee)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illness)
CB Terence Newman (hamstring)
QB: Manning: No. 15 overall, No. 5 QB
RB: Ahmad Bradshaw: No. 28 RB
WR: Hakeem Nicks: No. 41 overall, No. 6 WR
WR: Victor Cruz: No. 156 overall, No. 23 WR
TE: Martellus Bennett: No. 32 TE
TE: Bear Pascoe: No. 39 TE
OT: Will Beatty: No. 32 OT
C: David Baas: No. 16 C
OG: Chris Snee: No. 192 overall, No. 9 OG
OG: David Diehl: No. 15 OG
OG: Sean Locklear: No. 33 OG
DE: Jason Pierre-Paul: No. 26 overall, No. 3 DE
DE: Justin Tuck: No. 58 overall, No. 8 DE
DE: Osi Umenyiora: No. 28 DE
DT: Chris Canty: No. 25 DT
DT: Linval Joseph: No. 30 DT
LB: Mathias Kiwanuka: No. 158 overall; No. 27 LB
LB: Michael Boley: No. 43 LB
CB: Corey Webster: No. 189 overall, No. 18 CB
S: Kenny Phillips: No. 11 S
S: Antrel Rolle: No. 16 S
K: Lawrence Tynes: No. 7 K
P: Steve Weatherford: No. 11 P
You can view the rankings here (Insider).
QUESTION: What do you think of these rankings for these Giants? Please let us know in the comments section below.
But he also said the criticism and questions were deserved. He said it starts with him, and, "I deserve it. We weren't very good."
"The one thing that we've been accustomed to, rightfully so as a New York Giant offensive line, is we take pride in running the football. And for the most part in the nine years I've been here ... we've had success running the football," Flaherty said.
"We've had great running backs to be able to display that. We've also had a good cohesion and work effort with the offensive line working together, so that's been something that has worked out very well for us."
The offensive line suffered in 2011 with injuries hampering David Baas, Chris Snee and David Diehl. Left tackle Will Beatty's season ended after 10 games due to an eye injury.
"It's nice when you're able to go out there every day and practice and not rotate guys in," Snee said. "It's very important for us to stay healthy and get time to work together. We never really had that for the full season last year. Guys would miss practice and miss games, and you can't have that, especially when you have a new group of guys."
Left guard Kevin Boothe, who became a starter last season, said consistency is key.
"I think that's where we ran in trouble last year, just not being able to stay on schedule and having breakdowns in certain areas at times," Boothe said. "It just seemed we could never been on the same page on a consistent basis.
"We became more consistent as the season went on, but we know teams are too good this year and every year to be one-dimensional on offense."
The team's best offensive lineman told reporters about the procedure at an appearance to promote the NFL's pop-up store at 41st Street and Sixth Avenue. Snee's surgery was a clean-out procedure, according to a source.
"I didn't let anyone know," Snee said of playing through the injury, according to the New York Daily News. "We're tough guys. We're supposed to play through things. I don't feel it's anyone's business what I'm dealing with. The only people that hear about it are the training staff and my wife."
"It already feels better than it did before surgery," Snee told reporters.
"I have full intention on being out there in OTAs," he added.
Snee also talked about the likelihood of having to play this season without right tackle Kareem McKenzie next to him. McKenzie is a free agent and not expected to return. David Diehl could move to right tackle this coming season. Diehl recently said that he is open to playing right tackle if the team needs him there.
"That's what you'd think would happen," Snee said. "Kareem and I have had a great, very productive seven years together. We're similar in many ways, in the way we've handled the game. We're quiet. We're film junkies. I'll miss the guy if he's not back.
"I'm hoping he'll get a call here shortly. I don't know what the plan is. It would be similar to last year when Shaun [O'Hara] and Richie [Seubert] left. The bond that Kareem and I have is special. We've worked a lot of hours together."
Snee will also miss Brandon Jacobs, who joined Mario Manningham and signed with the 49ers on Wednesday. Snee called Jacobs "one of the toughest guys" he's played with.
He also was asked about coach Tom Coughlin's pending contract extension and how long Coughlin -- Snee's father-in-law -- will coach.
"It's just a yearly battle with him," Snee said. "I've said this over and over again, but I feel bad for him because all he's done is win football games and make this team a bunch of class guys, but I don't think he gets appreciated. I still think that, even after winning [the Super Bowl], if we go through a rough patch this year or the year after someone will be calling for him again."
"But I'm certainly happy for him," he added. "He’ll be coaching until they take him out of here. He'll be coaching here longer than I'll be playing here, I'll tell you that."
Considering the Giants' 7-7 start this season, GM Jerry Reese may need to tweak things a bit. Do you have any recommendations?
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"It's unbelievable, still trying to take it in," Baas said on Tuesday. "It's one of those stories going from a team, you chose to come here, because it's such a good organization and there are no regrets. You beat your old team and win the Super Bowl and today was just unbelievable. It makes you want to do it again."
Baas, the sexiest move the Giants made in free agency this year as GM Jerry Reese would say, struggled during his first year in big blue but ended as a champion. He struggled at times blocking and missed games due to intense headaches and neck injuries, the latter of which sidelined him down the stretch. He signed a five-year deal with Big Blue.
"No, it wasn't (the easiest year). A lot of people had their ups and down and that was the special part of the team, we all stuck together and made something special," Baas said. "That makes it even better."
Baas played effectively in the playoffs as he and the offensive line protected Eli Manning well and the offense rushed the ball as well as it had all season. New England had just three sacks in the Super Bowl but two of them came on the first drive, and he Giants also were able to rush for 114 yards in their win.
The win gave Baas his first ring in seven seasons, which one of his fellow offensive teammates noticed was a special moment for the center.
"Just being around David Baas, I know he really appreciated it," said offensive guard Chris Snee, who won his second ring.
As a first-time champion in New York City, Baas understands know why so many Big Apple athletes say there's nothing like bringing home a title to Broadway.
"The fans are great, when you see the just amount of people that are out supporting us and they are literally climbing in tries trying to get a view," Baas said of the parade up the Canyon of Heroes and the pep rally at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday. "Overflow of support today and you see it in the stadium, just the cheers and try to take it in and enjoy it because it's a special moment. Now you know when people say that's what you're working for, now you understand it. It's something special."
Let's break down the Xs and Os, with help from ESPN Stats & Information:
PATIENCE: Belichick was determined not to get beat by the quick strike, so he played Cover-2 most of the game. Instead of forcing the ball into the two-deep zone, which some quarterbacks might do, Eli Manning kept throwing underneath. Eleven of his 30 completions went to tight ends and running backs.
Manning was razor sharp. In fact, he completed 28 of 32 passes on throws under 15 yards. That's not easy to do, especially in the crucible of a championship game. Some quarterbacks (not mentioning any names) can't go 28-for-32 in a seven-on-seven drill.
Also, kudos to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for his patience. With the Patriots in Cover-2 for much of the game, the Giants faced seven-man fronts, so Gilbride stayed with the run. Result: The Giants' time of possession was 37:05, compared to 22:55 for the Patriots.
ONE SHOT: Manning waited almost 57 minutes to take his deep shot, and it paid off with one of the great pitches and catches in Super Bowl history -- the 38-yard strike to WR Mario Manningham. But here's the amazing thing about that play: Until that completion, Manning had gone 0-for-9 on passes of 31+ yards to Manningham all season.
They had no chemistry, in large part, because Manningham tends to get sloppy with his routes. He did it earlier in the game, showing no awareness on a similar route and botching what should've been a long completion. But when it matttered most, Manningham turned into Jerry Rice.
KILL BILL: For some reason, the Patriots got away from their no-huddle. Made no sense. In their first two post-season games, they ran 72 plays out of the no-huddle and tore up opponents, especially on the ground. On Sunday night, they used it for only 10 plays -- only three drives, two of which ended in TDs.
The no-huddle would've been a great weapon against the Giants. It would've caused fatigue and would've created matchup advantages for the Patriots, but Belichick made the ill-advised decision to bail on it.
Another Belichick faux pas: He changed his defensive game plan at halftime, going to a 4-3 base in the second half. Not many teams have the versatility to go from 3-4 to 4-3, but here's the deal: It didn't work. They allowed almost twice as many yards out of the 4-3 (6.8 and 3.6 per play) and more than doubled the rushing average (6.4 and 2.5). Belichick outsmarted himself; he should've gone back to the 3-4 to stayed with it.
TIGHT SITUATION: Because of injuries to TEs Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard, the Giants had to adjust their personnel packages. They went to a '20' grouping -- two RBs, 0 TEs, 3 WRs -- in the fourth quarter. Afterward, Gilbride said they hadn't practiced running plays out of the package in four years. Football is all about overcoming adversity and making changes on the fly, and the Giants did that.
Manning was deadly with his three-receiver package in the game, completing 19 or 26 passes for 205 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
LADY LUCK: They might not want to admit it, but the Giants benefitted from some fortunate bounces. RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks both had fumbles, but they were recovered RG Chris Snee and FB Henry Hynoski, the balls bouncing to them as if controlled by some sort of magnetic force.
There should've been a third fumble, and this one was recovered by the Patriots, but Victor Cruz's fumble was nullified because the Patriots were penalized for having 12 men on the field. It was one of the key plays in the game because, one play later, Cruz scored to make it 9-0.
SPEAKING OF LUCK ...: Manning's 2-yard TD pass to Cruz was one of the weirdest scores you'll ever see. He threw a quick slant to Cruz, who beat S James Ihedigbo out of the slot (can you say 'mismatch'?), but Manning never saw ILB Jerod Mayo.
Mayo read the play perfectly, clogging the passing lane, but he actually read it too well. He over-ran it, and Manning's bullet whizzed behind him. He never adjusted. Touchdown.
CRUNCH TIME: The Giants played their best in the fourth quarter, the Patriots played their worst. Ditto, the quarterbacks: Manning went 10-for-13, 118 yards; Brady 6-for-15, 64 yards. As I wrote last week, Brady's reputation as a clutch QB is overstated. The man is 6-6 in his last 12 post-season games.
In fairness, Brady was victimized by two fourth-quarter drops, as his famous, potty-mouthed wife told the world on video. WR Wes Welker has been one of the most prolific receivers in the game over the last few years, but he cracked under pressure, dropping a wide-open pass with four minutes to play. He picked the worst possible time for his first drop of the year on a pass of 10+ yards. If he had held on at the Giants' 20, it was game, set, match.
THE BRADY HUNCH: The Giants generated pressure on Brady on 30 percent of his dropbacks, actually a better ratio than Super Bowl XLII. For the most part, Brady handled it better than he did in 2008, but he still experienced some hiccups (see the first-quarter intentional grounding/safety).
The Giants packed their coverage into the middle of the field and did a nice job of limiting Brady's effectiveness between the numbers. Not having TE Rob Gronkowski at 100 percent clearly hurt the Patriots, as he played a season-low 73-percent of the snaps and was targeted only three times.
The Giants also took away the deep ball, holding Brady to 0-for-5 on passes of 20+ yards, but that wasn't particularly difficult. The Patriots are a dink-and-dunk passing team, the opposite of the Giants. The Giants stepped outside their comfort zone and adapted; the Patriots didn't.
And that's why they dropped yet another Super Bowl to the Giants.
Offensive lineman Chris Snee said Thursday that he doesn't believe his father-in-law, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, is looking at this season as his last go as a coach.
"I highly doubt that," Snee said. "I'm pretty sure you'll have to drag him out of here. You have to ask him. It's not my question."
Snee's comments come just days after Coughlin told CBSSports.com following the Giants' 20-17 win on Sunday night that he has no plans to retire with one year left on his deal.
"I feel good," Coughlin said to CBSSports.com. "Retire to do what?"
Snee believes that Coughlin is having fun as the Giants prepare to take on the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Last week, before the Giants faced the 49ers, Coughlin even joked with and at the expense of reporters a few days before the game, a rarity for the coach who is known for his all-business demeanor.
"We're in the Super Bowl," Snee said about Coughlin having more fun. "This time of year is fun when every week you know that you're still standing and other teams have gone home and you're in the final two. It's a position really we've worked our tail off to get to and went though a lot of bumps."
The offensive lineman credited Coughlin for changing his style as a coach, saying it shows how much winning means to him that he was willing to change a style that had been so successful for him in the past. He also seemed to indicate that he believes a second Super Bowl ring would help Coughlin's legacy.
"Obviously if it were up to me he would go down as one of the best coaches but it's not," Snee said of winning a second title. "It's up to the public, up to the media, but he's a hell of a coach."
"It was wet but that wasn't the reason for the pressures," Snee said on Tuesday. "I wish I could say that it was but it wasn't."
After putting together a string of quality games protecting Manning and being able to establish the run, the offensive line will have to rebound following a dismal performance against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
In the second half of the win, Manning seemed like he was pressured, hit or sacked on virtually every one of his throws. Without a run game to lean on, as the team had just 85 yards on 26 carries, the quarterback threw it 58 times and the 49ers unleashed its pass rush on the Giants with great success.
"We weren't consistent," guard Kevin Boothe said. "There are things we could have definitely done better. We did some good things. We were fortunate enough that during those inconsistencies our defense and specials teams kept us in the game. Ultimately we were able to win."
While the Giants understood that rushing the ball was not going to be the way to beat the 49ers, passing the ball behind the offensive line didn't prove to be that successful an option either. After a terrific first half, the protection broke down later on in the game.
As Manning tried to lead his team to victory in the second half, rarely did he have time to make a throw without some defender within distance of giving him a good hit. The quarterback took several very hard hits during the course of the game.
"You have to give them credit. They're a good defense," Boothe said. "That was a tough atmosphere and they played hard. They were deserving to be in that role. We were able to make enough plays at the end."
Just like the 49ers, New England has a very stout defensive front and can get after a quarterback, like it did against the Ravens. Snee understands that the Patriots can try and mirror some of the same defensive strategies the 49ers used to get pressure on the Giants.
"It's not something you want to see and it's something that we'll address," Snee said of Manning being hit so often. "Everyone's watched that game tape and really examined what they did to us with the movement up front and I'm sure that New England will try to copy some of that stuff so it's something we have to correct going into this game."
Correcting those mistakes will be vital to the Giants' success in the Super Bowl. Otherwise, it might be another long day for Big Blue and Manning.
"That was the NFC Championship game. You're not going to get a bad team in that situation so we understand we have to play our best football in order to be successful," Boothe said. "We made enough plays last week and we need to make more plays Super Bowl Sunday."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Last week, the Giants' offensive line had to deal with an 11th-hour zinger from Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji questioning the squad's toughness. After reaching the NFC Championship Game, the line could feel pretty comfortable about proving a point.
Instead, Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee said he isn't completely happy with the game, even though the Giants put together a 37-20 win over the Packers.
"No, because we still didn't run the ball," Snee said. "Nobody in our offensive line room is satisfied with the way the season turned out. We could win this whole thing but we'll obviously spend this whole offseason worried about the running game."
Although coach Tom Coughlin preaches about a balanced offense, the Giants relied heavily on the pass against Green Bay, particularly in the first half. In total, the Giants had 330 passing yards to 95 rushing yards in win over the Packers.
"We're not saying we're the best group out there," Snee said. "We're just out there to do what it takes to get our team to win, and then we'll make the adjustments in the offseason because there's plenty to do."
Coughlin pointed out the protection on the final drive of the first half, which allowed quarterback Eli Manning the time to pick out wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in the end zone and throw a Hail mary pass.
"We did some positive things,” left guard Kevin Boothe said. "We didn't play up to our standards; there was still a lot of things left out there. The consistency is the main thing, still need to become more consistent. I feel like we're taking the right steps, just continue to do that and hopefully we'll play better on Sunday."
The Raji comment was never taken seriously. Snee said he knows Raji, and knew it wasn't an intentional dig.
"Who cares what the doubters say?" right tackle Kareem McKenzie said. "You can't allow yourself to be distracted by something as whimsical as someone's opinion of you."
This week the line knows what it will get in San Francisco, a team that beat the Giants once before.
"They're a good defense, period," McKenzie said. "They play well schematically, they have their key players who find themselves in the right position and obviously they play very well with one another."
But McKenzie also volunteered that the line has work to do.
"There's always room for improvement and we look forward to that challenge," McKenzie said.