New York Giants: David Diehl
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."
Diehl told Newsday that he underwent the procedure at the end of last season and has been rehabbing daily at the Giants' practice facility. Diehl said he hasn't been approached by the team about his contract or his future with the franchise.
"The thing you realize at an early age is that as an NFL player you have an expiration date on you and it comes with a price tag," Diehl told Newsday. "That's the way that it always goes.
Diehl and Corey Webster are two Giants who have been the subject of much speculation regarding their future. The Giants released Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley in an effort to clear cap space. The Giants likely may have to make some more tough cuts to keep free agents like Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe and Martellus Bennett while signing restricted free agents like Victor Cruz, Stevie Brown and Andre Brown.
Webster will make $7 million in base salary in 2013. Diehl is due $4.475 million in base salary this coming season, his last under contract. Diehl started nine games in 2012, but it remains to be seen who will start at right tackle in '13. The Giants may want to see if James Brewer is ready to start.
But it might be best for the Giants to hang on to Diehl, with so much uncertainty facing the left side of the line. Beatty and Boothe are entering free agency and Chris Snee and David Baas are coming off offseason surgeries. Diehl, 32, can play both guard and tackle.
At the moment, the Giants don't have a lot of proven depth on the offensive line.
"Getting my knee right was the number one thing I wanted to do in the offseason, getting it fixed and healed up," Diehl said. "Now, like I said, it's getting myself back to 100 percent. I know that I'm capable of a lot, I know that I'm still able to play this game to a high level now that I'm going to be healthy and doing everything I can to do that. I'm excited about this upcoming year, to play and get back out there."
"Let the chips go where they may," Diehl added about his future. "Who knows how it's all going to work out? Obviously William is still a free agent, and so is Kevin Boothe. We'd love to have both of those guys back in the offensive line room, but this is the NFL. We know that each and every year there is change, there are different things that happen. That's yet to be seen."
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.
Locklear started at right tackle against the Redskins. He was replaced by David Diehl.
Also, safety Tyler Sash suffered a hamstring injury in the first half Monday night and did not return to the game.
We'll have more information on both players after the game.
Although the Giants safety was concerned for a moment that he had reinjured the knee, he said it didn't take long for that concern to fade.
"I was like, 'Here we go again.' But I got to the sidelines and the doctors took a look at it," Phillips said. "It feels pretty good right now. I didn't want to take that chance to go back out there and miss the next week."
Phillips said keeping him out of the rest of Sunday night's game was just precautionary. The Giants routed the Packers 38-10, and Phillips had five tackles in his first game back after six weeks.
"I felt great, especially to come back with a game like this," Phillips said. "A lot of guys were playing full speed and having a lot of fun. It felt great to be back."
It was a good night for the defense. Phillips allowed the Giants to use some three-safety packages and mix up coverages in their first game after the bye.
"It put us back where we want to be," Phillips said. "We're two games in front of Dallas and I believe Washington, also. We've just got to continue to keep playing like we've been playing and the sky is the limit."
DIEHL LEFT GAME: David Diehl left the second quarter of the Giants-Packers game with what the Giants announced was a burner. The right tackle's return was listed as questionable, and he did not take the field with his team when the second half began.
Diehl has come under scrutiny since his return from an MCL injury. There has been a call for Sean Locklear to take his place on the offensive line, but Giants coaches have backed Diehl. In the second half, Diehl stayed on the bench.
Justin Tuck suffered a stinger in the 2011 preseason and it hampered him all season long.
The veteran right tackle has missed time with a sprained MCL, and when he has played, Diehl has struggled as he's allowed a handful of sacks.
As the team enters the bye, Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty believes Diehl will be able to sort it all out and pick up his play.
"He's a competitor," Flaherty said. "As most guys do when they go through an injury they miss valuable time. Even though he had a preseason, he was playing a new position, we also had him working at some guard. He just has to get more familiar with the right tackle position. I think he'll be just fine."
Diehl has drawn the ire of fans for his unsteady play this year, as the veteran has had difficulties. After playing at left tackle for most of his career, as well as left guard last year, the team moved him to right tackle for this year. He's only started four games, however, as he suffered a sprained MCL against Tampa Bay that knocked him out for three games.
While Flaherty, as well as offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, said there isn't any connection between sacks allowed and Diehl's play, the statistics show the team has given up more with Diehl in. In the four games Diehl has started, the Giants have allowed nine sacks. In the other six games, all with reserve Sean Locklear at right tackle, the Giants only yielded three.
"He's been a good football player for how many years? It's not all of a sudden overnight that he's become a bad football player," Flaherty said. "He needs to get better at certain things, as well as our left tackle, our left guard, our center and our right guard."
Diehl's play has been magnified because of the job Locklear did in Diehl's absence. While Diehl missed those three games, and then was used a backup tight end, Locklear played well on the edge. The team eventually made the move before playing Pittsburgh on Nov. 4 to put back in Diehl because a starter can't lose his job to injury. Flaherty said he told Locklear the switch had nothing to do with his play.
In the last two games, the Giants have allowed six sacks to the Steelers and Bengals, with a season-high four coming in the 31-13 loss to Cincinnati. Flaherty said the team will analyze all of the positions on the offensive line in a way to try to get better, not just solely looking at Diehl and his play. He believes the more games Diehl gets at right tackle will only help.
"When you miss that many games, and it's the first time on the right side for a while, it takes some time and unfortunately our time is pressed each and every week," Flaherty said. "That's one of the things about the technique, he had all of preseason and then he missed a month of it, something around there, and that has set him back a little bit with his technique. David will fight through it. He'll get it. I don't question that. He always has."
“He was under duress a lot today,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “The protection was not what you would want; it’s a combination. There were times when perhaps the protection was good and we were holding the ball a little bit longer due to people not being open or whatever.”
David Diehl started at right tackle for the second straight week following a return from injury. Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap beat Diehl for a 6-yard sack late in the second quarter on a first down play from the Cincinnati 14. The Giants eventually settled for a 31-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes.
Dunlap ended up with 1.5 sacks, another tackle for loss and three quarterback hits. He wasn’t alone. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins didn’t show up big on the stat sheet but he lived up to his Pro Bowl status by being a constant disruption in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage. Journeyman defensive end Wallace Gilberry had a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on one play in the fourth quarter.
“I got to see (Atkins) a couple of times but it seemed like he was one-on-one with the guards all of the time both ways. It’s disappointing. It was ugly all the way around,” said center David Baas. “I feel like, when the run was called, we did some good things with the run game but the pass game – I’m up there and I can’t see how long (Manning) is holding it and how people are getting to him. I just know that the outcome was bad.”
Diehl started the first two games of the year before suffering an MCL injury in the second week against Tampa Bay. Veteran Sean Locklear took over at right tackle and has started the last six games, including the last three when Diehl has served in the team’s jumbo packages as a tight end.
Coughlin commended Locklear for the job he did as the starter the past six weeks and did not mention any inefficiencies in Locklear’s play that led to the switch. While Coughlin did not outright say that this is a case of an injured player not losing his job due to injury, his comments seemed to indicate that's why the team is making the move.
“Sean has done a great job, a great service to our team. He came to be the third tackle, if you will. He was elevated to the role that he has played in and played so well, be it left or right. He helped us win, and will continue to do that,” Coughlin said. “We’re going to need all of these guys as we go forward. We brought David along trying to make sure that he was okay, and that his strength was there, his confidence was there. He started out in the same role that Sean will be in this weekend. That’s where we are on that.”
Diehl has played in just 25 of the team’s snaps over the past three games against San Francisco, Washington and Dallas. This will be his fourth game since he returned from his injury.
“What we want to do is have as many players play and help us win as we possibly can. Sometimes when a player comes back from injury, it takes a little time for them to get the position they’re in to where we think they can, again, be as effective as they were in the beginning,” Coughlin said. “I think it goes case-to-case. I understand what’s best for our team, and sometimes it’s to bring someone along in a limited role while they strengthen and gain confidence. That’s basically where we are right now.”
"I'm not sure," the quarterback said on Wednesday. "But I'm not complaining about it.
"They're playing great, pass protection's been good, receivers have been getting open. Things are going well. Everybody's doing there assignments well. ... It's been pretty smooth and hopefully we can keep it that way."
Manning was hit just once and was not sacked in the Giants' 26-3 win.
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw broke the 100-yard barrier against San Francisco, something that an opposing running back hadn't done in 23 games. Furthermore, the Giants scored a rushing touchdown, something San Fran hadn't allowed in 14 games.
But with Washington in town Sunday, the line knows they don't much time to celebrate, nor would they.
"You congratulate each other for good play. But it's not, 'Oh look what I did,'" Will Beatty said. "We're a team. As our coaches say, we're 11 as 1."
Offensive line may be one of the most unheralded positions in pro sports. But, right now, it may be the most important for the Giants.
"We don't even like (giving up) quarterback hits," tackle Sean Locklear said.
That's great. But can it continue?
David Diehl came back from an MCL injury last week, spending several plays at jumbo tight end. There has been chatter that he will return as a tackle at some point, taking either Beatty or Locklear's spot.
Locklear admitted that there was some concern the chemistry may be disrupted.
"Sure," he said. "We can't expect to be perfect."
They can't. But lately, it seems like they have been.
Canty will be back on the field, but Beckum will not.
NFL rules state that players on PUP have a three-week window to resume practice before a determination must be made to add them to the roster.
The Giants will have to make a corresponding move on the 53-man roster to make room for Canty, if they choose to activate him.
It is unclear if Canty will be ready to play Sunday against Washington.
He has missed training camp and the preseason, so his conditioning may be an issue.
But the veteran defensive tackle recently expressed confidence that he will be ready to play as soon as he starts practicing.
“The knee does feel better than if I had been activated at the start of the season,” Canty said last week. “At the start of the season, my knee was significantly better than it was during the regular season and playoffs, and now it is even better than that. I lost a little weight, leaned out a little bit. I am excited to see what I can do out there.”
The 6-7 Canty should provide depth for a Giants defensive line that broke through for a six-sack performance against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Beckum, who tore his ACL last season during Super Bowl XLVI, is not ready to start practicing, according to Coughlin.
Beckum would add depth at tight end but the Giants seem to be doing just fine with free-agent pickup Martellus Bennett.
PHILLIPS UPDATE: The Giants appear to be taking a cautious approach with Kenny Phillips (knee). They will wait until Tuesday before making a determination on how much he can do during practice this week.
“He’s going to get some more opportunities to practice,” Coughlin said. “I don’t know how far we can go with him. We’re going to have to, again, asses where he is, and that determination probably comes Tuesday afternoon.”
Phillips suffered an MCL injury and has sat out the past two games.
DIEHL ROLE UNCLEAR: Lineman David Diehl had started all 142 regular season games with the Giants prior to Sunday’s game against San Francisco.
The veteran was activated on Sunday after having missed three weeks with an MCL injury. The Giants opted to start Sean Locklear at right tackle and Will Beatty at left tackle with the line playing well.
So instead of lining up at tackle, Diehl played 13 snaps as jumbo tight ends.
Coughlin said Diehl did “OK” on Sunday.
“He came into the game and it was good for him to play, it was good for him to work and be in the competitive aspect of it,’’ Coughlin said. “I think it answered a lot of questions for him.”
But Coughlin was noncommittal when asked if Diehl would return to his starting role on Sunday against Washington.
“I haven’t thought about that just yet,” the coach said.
SAN FRANCISCO –- Tom Coughlin said nobody gave the New York Giants a chance to win. But they left Candlestick with another victory over the favored San Francisco 49ers, 26-3 on Sunday.
What it means: The Giants wanted to see how they measured up to an NFC contender. When it was over, the Giants reminded everyone who the defending Super Bowl champions are and how good this team can be when it is motivated and healthy.
The Giants made a statement by dominating the Niners on their own turf. The defense came up with its best performance of the season, suffocating the Niners' offense. Eli Manning and the offensive line were sensational. The Giants moved the offense against perhaps the best defense in the NFL.
More importantly, this is the kind of win that can propel the Giants to a solid winning streak. The Giants have won two straight and will roll into two critical division games with a ton of momentum.
The ball hawk: The Giants got the sacks they wanted, but they also collected something even better –- three rare interceptions of Alex Smith.
Smith came into this game having thrown just one interception on the season. But Prince Amukamara picked off a pass in the first half and Antrel Rolle intercepted Smith twice in the third quarter, helping to set up two Giants field goals.
Rolle said last year that he often was not put in position to be the ball hawk that he wants to be. He certainly harassed Smith on Sunday.
No Vernon: Vernon Davis scored three touchdowns against the Giants in two games last season. On Sunday, he was invisible when the game was on the line. He made just two catches for 13 yards in the first three quarters.
O-line: The Giants' offensive line felt as if it had something to prove after giving up six sacks and 12 official quarterback hits to the Niners defense in the NFC title game. This time, Manning's jersey was kept clean and Ahmad Bradshaw broke the 100-yard barrier for the second straight Sunday, this time against an elite run defense.
Salsa time: After all the back and forth about the salsa with Carlos Rogers last week, Rogers had to watch Victor Cruz do it at his expense in the first half.
Cruz caught a Manning bullet over the middle in the back of the end zone and delivered his patented salsa celebration. Rogers initially said he might mimic the salsa again if he made a play. But after finding out that Cruz dedicated the salsa to his late grandmother, Rogers said he wouldn't do it.
Diehl comes off bench: David Diehl was active for the first time since Sept. 16 when he injured his MCL against Tampa Bay.
He came in as the extra blocker. The Giants opted to keep Sean Locklear at right tackle and Will Beatty at left tackle with the offensive line doing well. Diehl had started all 142 regular-season games he played in for the Giants.
Special-teams miscues: The Giants had a field goal blocked near the end of the first half, but the Niners helped the Giants' cause with two missed field goals. David Akers missed from 43 and 52 yards.
What's next: The Giants get their first taste of Robert Griffin III next Sunday at home. At 0-2 in the division, the Giants need an NFC East victory.
Nicks went through pregame warmups without any setbacks and tested his left knee and right foot. He ran sprints and routes and looked good. Swelling in his knee and pain in his surgically repaired foot kept him out of the previous three games.
Like Nicks, tackle David Diehl is also active for the first time since playing against Tampa Bay on Sept. 16. He has missed the last three games with an MCL injury.
Diehl will not start, however. The Giants will keep Sean Locklear at right tackle and Diehl is available as an extra blocker.
Nicks, Diehl and cornerback Corey Webster (hamstring/hand) were all listed as questionable entering the game, but all three are active.
Former Giant Brandon Jacobs is inactive and will not get a chance to play against his old team. The 49ers running back has not played this season after suffering a knee injury in the preseason.
Here is the Giants' inactive list:
• Safety Kenny Phillips (knee)
• Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quad)
• Running back Andre Brown (concussion)
• Defensive end Adewale Ojomo
• Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan
• Tackle James Brewer
• Tight end Adrien Robinson
T David Diehl (knee) and WR Domenik Hixon (concussion) also sat out the portion open to the media.
Cornerbacks Prince Amukamara (ankle) and Michael Coe (hamstring) worked in early practice drills. DE Adewale Ojomo (hamstring) and LB Keith Rivers (hamstring) also worked in positional drills.
Diehl suffered an MCL injury in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. The extent of the injury is unknown at this point.
Bradshaw underwent X-rays on his neck after exiting in the second quarter against the Bucs. His status for Thursday's road game against the Carolina Panthers is up in the air.
Hixon also left Sunday's game in the first quarter with a concussion. It would be very unlikely for a concussed player to be cleared for contact in four days under the new NFL protocols, which require approval both from the team doctor and an independent physician.
Nicks was likely resting his surgically-repaired right foot on Tuesday. He said after a breakout performance Sunday (10 catches, 199 yards) that he'd be fine.
The Giants, of course, don't have much time for players to recover from injuries. They leave for Charlotte on Wednesday.
The Giants' only full practice of the week was Tuesday; they will likely go through a walk-through on Wednesday before leaving for Charlotte.
The team is hopeful that Amukamara, out since Aug. 24 with a high ankle sprain, can take the field Thursday. We will have more injury information after speaking with coach Tom Coughlin this afternoon.
"I don't know a heck of a lot," Coughlin said. "I know [Diehl] had some swelling and they were going to do the MRIs and all the testing. I can't really tell you anything right now."
When asked about a report by NBC that Diehl had injured his MCL, Coughlin confirmed Diehl had injured that part of his knee.
"That is the part I do know, but I don't know the extent and hopefully that is it," he said. "I can't tell you anything more than what you are asking me. There's an MCL and don't know anything more."
At the time of his morning conference call with reporters, Coughlin did not have any further updates on running back Ahmad Bradshaw, wide receiver Domenik Hixon or any other Giants who may have been injured in Sunday's 41-34 win over Tampa Bay.
"I don't really know much yet on a day when players don't come in until late," Coughlin said.
The Giants don't have much time for players to recover from injuries. They play on Thursday at Carolina and leave for Charlotte on Wednesday.
Yes, Eli Manning threw three picks that led to three Tampa TDs in the first half. But as only Eli can do, he orchestrated yet another stirring comeback with three Giants' fourth-quarter touchdowns (two passing and one rushing). He threw for a career-best 510 yards and Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were sensational with a combined 21 receptions for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Martellus Bennett also had five catches and a touchdown. And kudos to the O-line as Manning wasn't sacked once on 51 passing attempts. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants are the first team to have two players with at least 10 catches and at least 175 yards receiving each in the same game.
Ahmad Bradshaw was knocked out of the game with a neck injury after just five carries but Andre Brown gave the Giants a spark with 71 yards on 13 carries. The Giants rushed for 94 yards total but Brown scored the game-winning touchdown after purposely going down at Tampa Bay's 2-yard line to kill more clock at the end of the game. And he also converted a critical two-point conversion. David Wilson only had three carries for six yards.
The Giants sacked Josh Freeman twice and picked him off twice, including a game-sealing interception at the end. But the defense allowed 27 points and let Freeman tie the game near the end way too easily. Charged with protecting a 34-27 lead with 3:59 remaining, Freeman only needed five plays to go 80 yards and tie the game with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams. The Giants' corners continue to struggle.
The Giants did a good job of containing Doug Martin for the most part. The rookie rushed for 66 yards but did score on an 8-yard touchdown run. The Giants also stuffed Martin on a third-and-1 at the 50 midway through the third quarter that helped start their comeback from down 27-13.
Lawrence Tynes nailed four field goals on a busy day and the Giants needed all of those points. Steve Weatherford only had to punt twice but did land one inside the 20. Rueben Randle returned punts for the first time and had an impressive 45-yard return called back due to penalty. David Wilson continues to look good as kick returner, averaging 28.7 yards per return on Sunday.
The Giants struggled early again, falling behind 27-13 with 13:14 remaining in the third. The defense gave up too many big plays again. And the offense looked flat early on. The Giants did lose three key players in the first half (Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl and Domenik Hixon) to injury but adjusted. And in the end, the Giants called the right plays to come back and win with Eli's brilliance. There's still a ton of work to be done but Tom Coughlin never stopped fighting, even letting Greg Schiano hear it at the end for Tampa charging the line on a kneeldown.