As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.
Position: Offensive line.
Projected starters: LT Will Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee and RT David Diehl.
Projected reserves: T James Brewer, G Mitch Petrus, C Jim Cordle, T Sean Locklear, G/T Brandon Mosley, T Matt McCants.
New faces: Locklear, Mosley, McCants, T Joel Reinders, G Stephen Goodin and C Chris White.
Going, going, gone: RT Kareem McKenzie, T Stacy Andrews and T Tony Ugoh.
Player to watch: Beatty. His back kept him out for most of OTAs and minicamp. He still took mental reps and was in on all the classes. But Tom Coughlin was concerned about his left tackle's health. Beatty assured reporters his back will be fine once camp starts. But backs are always tricky and you never know when it can flare up. If his back continues to be problematic, Brewer and Locklear will see snaps at left tackle or they could move Diehl back to left tackle and play Brewer or Locklear at right tackle.
Potential strength: The Giants are hoping that their offensive line will be better this season by having a healthier line. Last season, Baas, Snee and Diehl battled through injuries while Beatty’s season ended after 10 games due to an eye injury.
The Giants also believe moving Diehl to right tackle to replace McKenzie and having Beatty back at left tackle is the answer. The versatile Boothe will start at left guard unless there’s an injury at center which could always force the Giants to move Boothe there to plug a hole. The feisty Petrus showed last season he is a capable starter when he started three games due to injury.
Baas had an up and down season due to injuries but the Giants are banking on a healthier Baas to play better and be more comfortable in his second season with the Giants. If Baas performs the way the Giants believe he can, the offensive line will be better and more physical.
If the offensive line can stay healthy, it should be better having had a full offseason and camp to work together. Last year, Eli Manning and the line had basically just a month in camp to come together due to the lockout.
Potential weakness: The running game. The Giants finished last in rushing last season and the offensive line has to show that it can dominate at the line of scrimmage and open holes for the running backs.
The Giants did improve late in the season, rushing for 100 yards or more in six of their final nine games, including the postseason.
But if the Giants can’t get the running game going, Manning will have to shoulder the load once again. He passed for nearly 5,000 yards and had to produce several fourth-quarter comebacks. He will be even deadlier with a potent running game.
Also, the Giants must protect Manning. While the line allowed Manning to work his magic in so many of those fourth-quarter comebacks, it did allow three or more sacks in eight games last season, including a total of six sacks against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game.
Wild card: Brewer. If Beatty’s back becomes an issue throughout camp and even during the season, Brewer needs to be the guy to step in either at left tackle or at right tackle if Diehl moves back to left tackle in the case Beatty is injured. Locklear provides veteran insurance at tackle and the Giants also liked Selvish Capers to keep him on the practice squad last year. But Brewer is the guy the Giants want to see emerge because they have high hopes for their fourth-round pick for the future.