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Shaun O'Hara knows what people are thinking about the New York Giants offensive line.
The center has heard the starting five has gotten old. "Long in the tooth" is the expression being thrown around often. Even Giants brass seems to think that the veteran line needs an injection of youth. The team is basically giving second-year tackle William Beatty every chance to start and bounce guard Rich Seubert from the starting unit.
But O'Hara has a message for those who think it's time for the Giants' offensive line to make a change -- hold the youth movement.
"I think hands down, our starting five from last year is our best offensive linemen going into the season," O'Hara said. "I think it is up to somebody else to prove us wrong.
|William Beatty only started three games last season, but the Giants expect him to fight for a starting spot in training camp.|
"This offseason we were all able to get healthy," he added. "We are going to have our starting five on opening day and, as long we are healthy, I think we are going to return to the form we were in a couple of years ago, taking over games."
The longtime starting five of O'Hara, Dave Diehl, Kareem McKenzie, Chris Snee and Seubert is motivated to rebound from last season's debacle. Following a season marred by injuries and failing to post a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2001, the proud unit is looking to regain its status as one of the best in the NFL starting on Sunday when the Giants open training camp in Albany.
The Giants offensive line used to be lauded for its longevity and durability. Now some think Eli Manning's protectors are old. The average age of the group will be 30.6 when Diehl turns 30 on Sept. 15.
"You hear people talk about it from both sides of their mouth because they say what makes a good offensive line is the continuity and being together for so long," O'Hara said. "And then in the same sentence they say, 'well these guys are getting up there in age.' Really in truth, the New York Jets offensive line was older than us last year. I don't really think any of us believe that anybody is aging ungracefully."
The Giants, though, are ready to give Beatty his shot. After the rookie started four games last season due to injury -- including the final three games -- the Giants want to see what their 2009 second-round pick is capable of now. General manager Jerry Reese spent most of his draft and offseason upgrading the defense. He used just one of his seven draft picks on an offensive player and that was spent on Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus. So offensive line is an area where the Giants want to get younger.
Should the 6-foot-6 Beatty play well enough in camp, he could start at tackle opposite McKenzie while Diehl is moved to guard with Seubert relegated to becoming a reserve.
Diehl believes the Giants already have their starting left tackle.
"I've always been a team player and a team guy but saying that, I think I am the best left tackle on our team," Diehl said. "I've shown that. I started every game since I have been here, I played in the Pro Bowl last year and I am going in there as I am the starting left tackle and until somebody tells me otherwise, that is my position."
No matter how well Diehl plays, it will come down to whether Beatty can outplay Seubert in camp to determine who starts where on the offensive line.
"It is the best five guys playing," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "So it is not that Will would beat out David at left tackle, it is can Will play well enough at left tackle that you would move David in? But he is really beating out Rich Seubert. He has played real well. But you are beating out a guy that may be the heart and soul of your offensive group. Richie kind of embodies everything that you want in an offensive lineman. And he is going to give him hell."
It promises to be a spirited training camp for the Giants offensive line. Not only is there competition but the big guys up front are extremely motivated to prove that they still can be dominant.
"Our unit takes everything personal," O'Hara said. "I can sit here right now and say the best five offensive linemen we have on our team are starting and there's no two ways about it. We definitely have some younger guys that are talented that are going to take these opportunities to get some reps. They just need some reps, that really is what it is. Guys on our team want to play, they don't want to watch. It is all about being earned."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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