New York Giants center David Baas is back practicing this week, apparently healthy again after missing three games with neck and head injuries. All indications are that Baas will be the Giants' starting center in Saturday's game against the Jets, with Kevin Boothe moving back over to left guard and Mitch Petrus back to the bench. Given the relative experience levels of those players, that seems like the sensible move. Baas doesn't deserve to lose his job just because he got hurt, and the Giants believe they're at their best when he's playing center.
The question is whether they're right.
As Matt Ehalt pointed out Wednesday, the Giants have been a considerably better running team the past three weeks with Boothe at center and Petrus at guard than they have been at any other time this season. The Giants are averaging 100.3 rush yards per game in that stretch. For the season, their average is a league-worst 86.1.
Now, that's not to say it was all Baas' fault that they couldn't run. It's entirely possible other things have conspired to help out in the past three games. The return of Ahmad Bradshaw from his injury (though they weren't running it that well with Bradshaw in the first half of the season), or the fact that Brandon Jacobs seems so energized in Bradshaw's first couple of games back. But each of the three teams they played when Baas was out rank in the top half of the league in rush defense, so the reason for the improvement would seem to be something the Giants are doing on their end.
Boothe looks like a good player, and who knows? He may be a better run-blocking center than Baas. But there were some issues with the center-quarterback exchange while Boothe was in there, and the Giants' bread-and-butter is Eli Manning and the passing game. If Manning is more comfortable with Baas, that must trump everything else. But it's worth at least asking the question of whether the offensive line combination the Giants have been forced to use the past three games due to injuries to Baas and Will Beatty is, in some ways, more effective than the one with which they started the season.