The offensive line of the New York Football Giants is considered to be one of the best units in the NFL, and has been for the past few years.  If you want to look for a reason for most of the Giants’ offensive success in the last five years, look no further: it starts with the offensive line.

In football, the offensive line, in some aspects, is much like a line in hockey. Once a good one is in place, with good chemistry, it should not be toyed with. Adjusting a line will destroy the chemistry the players have formed with each other, which in turn is detrimental to the whole team. The foundation for the Giants offensive line began construction in 2004. Tackle David Diehl was entering his second season (after starting every game as a rookie). Center Shaun O’Hara, in the league for just three years, was brought in through free agency. Guard Rich Seubert, an undrafted free agent from 2001, was already a fan favorite, and guard Chris Snee was the Giants’ second round draft pick in ’04. Tackle Kareem McKenzie was the last of the current unit to join, signing with the Giants through free agency just one year later in 2005. The Giants built their offensive line with young, talented, hardworking individuals, while allowing them to develop as a cohesive unit.

The Giants have had the same starting offensive line for the past five seasons, and counting. In the NFL, where constant change at any position is now almost impossible to avoid, the fact that the Giants have kept this group together for this long is remarkable. GM Jerry Reese and the Giants front office made sure to keep this corps around as long as possible, signing each of them through at least 2012. O’Hara and McKenzie are signed through 2012, while Seubert is under contract through 2013. Snee (27-years old) and Diehl (28) are signed through the 2014 season. But after the 2012 NFL season, possibly after the 2010 season, we might not see the same five lineman play together ever again.

As of the conclusion of this past season, three of the starting five are at least 30-years old: O’hara is 32, and Seubert and McKenzie are both 30. McKenzie missed the last three games of 2009 after spraining his MCL in week 13 against Philadelphia. Tackle William Beatty, Big Blue’s second round draft pick in 2009, is expected to be McKenzie’s replacement at the right tackle position. Expected to learn from the sidelines in his first year, the Giants were very impressed with Beatty, who saw playing time in 15 games and started the final three games last year in place of Mckenzie. GM Jerry Reese has said recently that Beatty could compete for the starting job in 2010.

Seubert noticeably took a step back in 2009. One of the toughest players in the League, he missed the final two games after playing the whole season with a shoulder injury. Coming back after completely shattering his leg in 2003, the courage and determination of Seubert will never be questioned; he’ll play for the Giants for as long as wants to. However, as much as I love the guy, it’s only a matter of time before the injuries he’s played through catch up to him. There have been rumors so far this offseason that Seubert would be released, which would result in Diehl being moved to left guard, and Beatty – whose frame and athleticism are ideal for the left tackle position – would shift to Diehl’s spot. Just like each past season of the Tom Coughlin era, just about every starting spot is open entering the Giants training camp. Players have to earn their starting jobs; they aren’t handed to them.

O’Hara, on the other hand, has no threats for his starting job. The leader of the offensive line, O’Hara has made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons. However, the ten-year veteran might have only a couple more good years left in his tank. Out of a possible 96 games in his Giants career O’Hara has played and started 91, including every game in the last three seasons. Starting 48 straight games will take its toll on any athlete, particularly an offensive lineman. It’s time to start grooming a replacement through the draft. Boston College center Matt Tennant, the consensus second-ranked center in the 2010 draft class behind Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey, could fall to the Giants at pick 77 in the third round. If Tennant is off the board by then, which is possible, Baylor’s J.D. Walton should still be avialable by then.

I don’t think the Giants should part ways with Seubert this offseason. If he continues to struggle this upcoming season, then it might be time to replace him. Until then, I think it’ll be difficult for the Giants to replace someone who will give everything he’s got, each and every Sunday. Whether he’s playing hurt or not, Seubert will be out there until someone drags him off the field. Replacing McKenzie presents a couple interesting scenarios. Will Beatty impressed a lot of people when given playing time. In one case, he could be the short-term right tackle, and if the Giants release Seubert following the 2010 season, Diehl would more than likely move inside to left guard and Beatty would move to left tackle. Or, Beatty could be the long-term replacement for Mckenzie at right tackle, meaning the Giants would need to find a replacement for Seubert very soon – either through the draft or free agency.

Instead of “rebuilding” the offensive line, the Giants should be in the mindset of “reloading”. There’s no need for a rebuilding phase; it shouldn’t be necessary and it can be avoided. The Giants have drafted well under Reese’s tenure as GM, and coach Coughlin’s staff is one of the better coaching staffs in the NFC. When the time comes to replace one or more players and “reload” the line, the successors should be able to do the job just as well, if not better.

For now, and for at least the 2010 season, I see the starting five remaining the same: Diehl – Seubert – O’Hara – Snee – McKenzie. However, the time to start reloading is right now.

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