Tackling some NFC East tackle issues

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
10:10
AM ET
It appears as though oft-injured Will Beatty, who started the first 10 games of the season last year for the New York Giants, has lost his job for the time being to Sean Locklear, who's actually been playing while Beatty worked through a back injury for the past five months. Washington Redskins fans who remember not being at all impressed with Locklear while he was in Washington may laugh at this, but it speaks to a larger issue regarding offensive lines that's also affecting the Redskins, as you'll see in a minute.

[+] EnlargeSean Locklear
AP Photo/Evan PinkusWith offensive line continuity a key, Sean Locklear has earned a starting role in New York.
The basic point is that coaches very often prioritize offensive line continuity over anything else, sometimes including talent. The Giants almost certainly believe Beatty is a more talented player than Locklear is, but Locklear's been playing for weeks with the rest of the linemen while Beatty has sat out. The Giants' line isn't exactly crushing people right now, but Tom Coughlin liked the way Locklear and Kevin Boothe worked together on the left side in the opener and likely doesn't want to add to the problems by making a potentially disruptive Week 2 personnel change. Also, it's not as though Beatty was operating at an All-Pro level last year before an eye injury ended his season. If he's to get his job back, he'll need to show an ability to stay healthy week to week, and at this point he may need Locklear and/or David Diehl to play poorly enough in games to warrant a change for change's sake.

What's going on in Washington at right tackle is a somewhat similar situation, with one key difference. If Jammal Brown were 100 percent healthy, the Redskins would not hesitate to throw him right back into their starting mix. They believe the line functions best with a healthy Brown at right tackle. But they also don't believe (because they've seen so much evidence to the contrary) that they can count on Brown to stay healthy. So they started him on the PUP list, and after the first six weeks they'll see where he stands. They do think a 100 percent Brown is better than Tyler Polumbus, but they don't think an 80 percent Brown who might have to come out of the game at any time is a better option than a 100 percent healthy Polumbus. So again, the continuity factor wins out. Don't be surprised if Polumbus just holds down the gig all year.

The Philadelphia Eagles seem a little less concerned with the idea of cohesiveness on the line. They made changes to the starting five late in training camp last year, putting Evan Mathis at left guard and slinging Todd Herremans over to right tackle, and the changes went smoothly. They put 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins into the starting lineup at right guard in midseason once they determined he was ready. Howard Mudd believes in his schemes, which seem to require less concert movement than, say, Mike Shanahan's schemes in Washington do, and he's going to go with his best five guys. So while King Dunlap has the starting left tackle spot right now, the Eagles haven't ruled out the possibility that Demetress Bell wins it back if he shows something in practice over the coming weeks and/or months.

As for the Dallas Cowboys, for better or for worse, they're set with their tackles. Second-year man Tyron Smith believes he won't struggle with the transition from right tackle to left tackle as much as Jason Pierre-Paul made it appear he was in Week 1. And the Cowboys continue to believe, in spite of a relative lack of evidence, that a move back to the right side will help Doug Free. The Cowboys simply don't have much depth at tackle, and with everything they have invested in their two starters right now (as well as the question marks they have on the interior of the line), they can't afford to be playing around at those spots. Smith and Free just need to play better.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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