EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A year ago, left tackle Will Beatty was one of the main question marks on the New York Giants' offensive line. Now, he's its reliable constant. The right tackle's a rookie, the veteran right guard is coming off of hip surgery. The center was the left guard two weeks ago. The left guard was a backup tackle. Injuries and adjustments have thrown the Giants' offensive line into a state of uncertainty with the regular-season opener in Dallas just four days away. And while the Cowboys have their own injury issues in the defensive front, they also still have elite pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, who is on the Giants' minds.
"You know what he can do. You know how he can destroy a team," Beatty said of Ware. "You've played him before, so he knows your mistakes and you know his, so it's all about how you're going to change what you did last time. He has his technique down pat, so he can focus on you. So you've got to make sure you're going to show him something different than you did the last time."
Beatty is likely to get a full game's worth of Ware, who's a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' new defensive alignment and doesn't move around the formation the way he used to when he was a standup 3-4 outside linebacker. And while rookie right tackle Justin Pugh could get a break if the injured Anthony Spencer doesn't play, the interior lineman are prepared for a tough test from underrated defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. It's a lot for a group that has undergone significant change in the final few weeks of the preseason due to injuries to starting center David Baas and right tackle David Diehl.
"As a unit, we've done this before, moved guys around," Beatty said. "You've just got to know the guy who's playing beside you."
James Brewer is that guy for Beatty now, a converted tackle being asked to play left guard while Kevin Boothe moves over to center to take Baas' place. It's a position Brewer hadn't played before last week's preseason game, and he may be benefiting from a change Beatty made this offseason.
"Will's taken on more of a leadership role, out on the field and in the meetings, than he used to have," veteran right guard Chris Snee said. "It's good to see. Where it used to be me or Diehl or guys like Shaun O'Hara who used to do most of the talking, he's really taken over that role, which I think he has to. He'll be here for years, so he's got to be that guy."
Beatty signed a five-year contract this offseason as the Giants made what coach Tom Coughlin described as "quite a statement" that he's their left tackle of the future. Understanding the significance of that statement, and of his role in the most prominent position on the line, Beatty made a conscious decision to take on a veteran's role this season.
"Every year I've come in here feeling like I had to win the spot," Beatty said. "And this year, it's still the same, but you feel like you have to show a little bit more, I think. I don't want to say it's because of the money, because it's not, but you're older now. You bring guys along with you. You should know what the coaches want you to do by now, so your job is to show the young guys."
The youngest plays all the way on the other side of the offensive line, and rookie Justin Pugh expects to "feel like you're going to throw up" before his first NFL game. Pugh's pregame ritual at Syracuse included being the last player out of the locker room and onto the field for the game. He doesn't know whether he'll be able to dictate his routine to that extent as an NFL rookie, but he's confident he's ready for whatever the Cowboys are going to throw at him, and his teammates share his confidence.
"He's got great talent, great feet, and he can do anything we ask him to do," Snee said of Pugh. "When you have that kind of athletic ability and also an understanding of what's needed, you're going to be fine. A lot of times, young guys, they're thinking about what they have to do out there instead of just doing it. That's not the case with Justin."
Ready or not, this reworked Giants offensive line will be asked to do what it can to give Eli Manning and the offense enough time to operate Sunday night. These Cowboys-Giants games have tended to be shootouts in recent years, and the expectation is for more of the same. The rest of the week is about gearing up the intensity.
"You want this atmosphere, you want these games," Beatty said. "To open up the season? There's no other team but Dallas."