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Jerry Reese on Giants' offensive line

5/1/2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants GM Jerry Reese has a reputation as a guy who doesn't say much publicly. And listening to his pre-draft news conference Thursday, it was easy to find some evidence to support that reputation. Lot of "we want good players" and "we keep all options open" kind of GM-speak in there, for sure.

But I don't agree that Reese never gives you anything. When I listened at the news conference and played it back to transcribe it, I heard a guy who took several opportunities to offer honest assessments of the state of his roster. Especially with regard to the offensive line.

This is what Reese said about the line in general following a free-agency period in which he signed four outside free agents, two of whom project as starters right now:

"We have work to do still on the offensive line. We brought some offensive linemen in, but we're still going to try to get players on the offensive line. And the defensive line, linebacker. Every position could be upgraded more for us."

It's that last part that feeds into the notion that Reese is just giving GM spiel and not offering any real insight. And I'm sure he has no interest in baring his deepest concerns to a group of reporters in a May 1 news conference. But the first part of what he said there indicates an honesty about where things stand with this roster and a line that fell apart so completely last year as to cripple the offense in its crib every single week.

Reese signed Geoff Schwartz to play left guard and J.D. Walton for center, but Walton hasn't played in two years due to injury and wasn't super-great in the two years he started for the Broncos prior to that. The Giants have looked at a few centers in advance of this year's draft, and it's clear that Reese isn't averse to upgrading that position just because he signed Walton. He was asked who besides Walton on the current roster could play center, and he said this:

"Well, Dallas Reynolds is a center, and there are some more guys. [Chris] Snee can play center if you wanted him to play that. He takes snaps in there in practice at times. So we'll continue to add depth at every position."

Yeah, somehow I don't imagine Snee, coming off a second hip surgery in as many years just to try and get back to the right guard position he's played for the past 10 years, all of a sudden starting at center for the Giants. I think the guard spots are where the Giants want to be strong, but center is an important position in today's NFL, and Giants fans should be encouraged by the notion that Reese isn't satisfied with what he has there.

As for Snee and that recovery, here's what Reese said about him:

"You never know with a guy coming off injuries like he's had the last couple of years. Chris would probably be the best judge of that, for me. I think Chris will be honest with us, and if he feels like he can't do it, he'll definitely let us know. But he's feeling very good right now, and hopefully he'll continue to feel good and he'll be back to help us out."

We've discussed this on here before, but if Snee is healthy and returns to something resembling mid-career form, that's a huge difference-maker for the Giants' offensive line. If he can't answer the bell and they have to mix and match at right guard with guys like John Jerry and James Brewer and Brandon Mosley, that's a problem -- especially if center is a question mark as well.

Over on the left side, left tackle Will Beatty is coming off both a down year and a broken leg, and the first name Reese mentioned as a backup option for Beatty was former Saints tackle Charles Brown:

"We brought some offensive linemen in. The kid from New Orleans that we brought in, he played a lot of football there. So right now he's probably the next option behind Will. You could even move Pugh over there if you wanted to. Brewer is a kid that has talent and could play out there, but we haven't played him out there."

No, they haven't, because for all of Brewer's perceived talent, he's never shown the ability to translate it into effective NFL play. They've used him at guard mainly, but some at tackle, and he's had plenty of opportunities. But I'm thinking that if Brewer had to play left tackle, Eli Manning might just come down with a severe head cold that day if you know what I'm saying.

I was more intrigued by the idea of 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh, who started 16 games at right tackle as a rookie, sliding over to the left side. Because that feels like the kind of thing you'd do for the long term -- as in, if you don't think Beatty is the answer there after all and you think Pugh is ready to take over the big chair. But Reese backed off a bit on that and indicated he was just talking about potential short-term solutions if Beatty had to miss time:

"We're just keeping all of our options open. Pugh is one of those guys who can play all over your front. We like the flexibility he brings."

They like him at tackle and don't intend to move him, but when the Giants drafted Pugh last year they did discuss his versatility amid their uncertainty about what their long-term offensive line needs were going to be. If they were to draft a tackle in the first round next week, for instance, Pugh surely could play guard. Many teams viewed him as more of a guard prospect than a tackle prospect in advance of last year's draft.

Reese said versatility was one of the things the Giants look for in an offensive line draft prospect but that it wasn't essential:

"I think we like guys who are versatile -- versatile players, if a guy can play guard or tackle. But we're not going to pass up a left tackle who we think is only a left tackle because he can't play guard or center or a different position. But the more you can do in this league, the better off you are. You may save yourself a roster spot if you get a guy who can swing from guard to tackle or from center to guard, something like that."

A guy in this year's draft who seems to fit that profile is Notre Dame's Zack Martin, who could be in play for the Giants at that No. 12 spot in the first round. Reese was asked whether he saw Martin as a guard or a tackle:

"I just see him as a good offensive lineman. That's how I see him. I think he has some flexibility to play both, but I just see him as a good offensive lineman."

Could he play center?

"I'm not sure. I don't think he's ever played that position for Notre Dame, but probably. It's a possibility that he could play center, yeah. "

See? Lots of information in there about the way Reese views this portion of his roster. I think you can safely speculate that they wouldn't pass up a chance to take a top tackle like Taylor Lewan if he were available just because they signed Beatty to a large contract and picked Pugh in the first round last year. I think you can safely speculate that they've looked at Martin and like him, and that they will be looking out for a center if one presents itself in the second or third round. My sense from Thursday was that offensive line remains a major concern for the Giants, and after the way they played it last year it's tough to blame them.

I also think it's clear that Reese views himself as still in the process of solving this and the Giants' many other roster problems -- as opposed to viewing himself as having already solved them in free agency. But I'll have more on that idea Friday.