Flaherty is beginning his eighth season as the Giants' line coach. For most of the last four-plus years, his starters were the same core group - Kareem McKenzie and David Diehl at tackle, Chris Snee and Rich Seubert at guard and Shaun O'Hara at center. But that familiar gang has been splintered and newcomers and holdovers have combined to form a new line.
Seubert and O'Hara, who played a combined 17 seasons for the Giants, were released last week, transactions that resulted in major changes up front. McKenzie and Snee remain at right tackle and guard, respectively. Diehl has moved from left tackle to guard. Third-year pro Will Beatty is the new left tackle. Seven-year pro David Baas came over from the San Francisco 49ers to play center. Another veteran acquisition, Stacy Andrews, will compete for a job.
The look is new, but Flaherty's job is not. He must construct the very best line for the Giants. The challenge of doing it with some new faces, and players in new positions, has energized him.
"I feel young. I feel refreshed," Flaherty said today. "I've always coached and talked like I was talking to the youngest player. The older players will get it. You have to do enough in your teaching progression and also variety to keep them from getting bored, but you're always talking to the youngest guy that hasn't heard it enough. It's a bigger challenge for me to get to see the product out there. It might be more of a technique on the field teaching with a William as it would be a Kareem, for example."
The changes will develop beyond the field. The offensive line room – where the group meets and watches practice and game tape – has long required thick skin for entry. Amid the serious study, barbs, needles and insults fly fast and furiously. No one was sharper, funnier or more outgoing than Seubert. O'Hara was right behind him.
"We bust each other's chops," Diehl said. "When you mess up in the room and you do something wrong, you're going to hear about it. You want to see how they react. Adversity either makes or breaks somebody. You want to see how when times are tough and things are hard, are they going to blow up and stick their chest out and go to work or are they just going to let it deteriorate? That's part of playing this game - when something happens you have to learn from it and let it go because if you don't, it'll hurt you."
Now both the look and the sound of the room will change. But Flaherty is confident his players will quickly adjust.
"I think that you're going to see Chris and David and Kareem take over that personality," Flaherty said. "That room developed the personality. I didn't. They developed it and that's how every veteran, after they work out, if they have a chance to sign here, here's what they anticipate: when you walk into that room it's not that I developed that personality. They developed it. It is what it is. This is what the personality is. These guys are coming to work every day. They're serious about their jobs. We do have fun. We bust on one another. Do I have thick skin? Do you have think skin? We're not worried about hurting one another's feelings. You're not worried about hurting my feelings. It's a two-way street.
"But when things need to be corrected, it's going to be corrected. If you don't like my tone of voice, I'm not going to apologize for it. If I don't like your tone of voice, I'm not going to ask you to apologize for it. We're going to get to work. We've been around it long enough to know how to get the job done. That's kind of the personality that's been developed the first few years here. When you walk in that room you see it. I've had veterans in the past on the phone coming in say, 'Coach, what should I expect?' I said, 'Well, you should expect that room to be like you are. If you're a tough, physical, hard-working, conscientious person, you'll fit right in that room. If you're not, if you're a lazy guy and you don't care about your job, you won't be in that room. You're not going to fit and you're going to know it. You won't want to be there.'"
Diehl is eager to help set the tone in the meeting room and on the field. Now in his ninth season, he is not only the longest-tenured lineman, but the active player who has worn the Giants uniform longest. Diehl believes that the private interaction between the linemen is just as important to the group's development as the work they do with the rest of the team on the practice field.
While the focus has been on the veterans, Diehl is keeping an eye on the team's young linemen, like fourth-round draft choice James Brewer and second-year guard Mitch Petrus.
"That's part of being a veteran and being one of the guys that's been around here," Diehl said. "Especially in the short period of time of being around these rookies, you want to show them how a Giant plays football, how a professional acts. It's not just about what you do on the field. It's about the way you lift weights, the way you watch film, the way you approach everything. When you're here in this building, yeah you have your down time where you can laugh at guys and do that type of things that Coach Flats allows. But when you get into the meeting room and when you get to the field, it's all business. That's the time when you focus in and you put all the jokes aside and you focus on the job and task at hand. That's the thing that the younger guys need to learn and appreciate is that we've gotten to this point by working."
Although he hasn't been permitted to practice until the today after the NFLPA certification of the new CBA, Baas has quickly fit in with his new linemates. He has the durability the Giants crave with 61 consecutive games played and 43 straight starts.
"We have been unable to participate the last couple days," Baas said, "so I just have to get my head into the books and transfer over what I know from other playbooks, get the calls down and just make sure that I can do as much as I can to prepare myself so that when I do get out there on the field, it is a smooth transition. Of course, it is going to be little things here and there that I am going to have to be able to correct but that takes a little bit of time and practicing it with the guys."
Flaherty has been impressed with Baas' work ethic and is eager to see him perform on the field.
"It's all mental with David Baas," Flaherty said. "We're going to put him right in. There are going to be some things that won't be as smooth as you want, but he's going to be the guy that is snapping balls and making calls. You'll have David Diehl on one side and Chris Snee on the other so there are two guys that have been in our system that will be a lot of help to him. From what I can tell right now from being around David Baas, he's an intelligent guy and an extremely hard worker. He's a veteran and takes things home with him and he does study. I'm excited and looking forward to him."
Andrews should have no trouble finding a comfort zone in the group, since he was encouraged to join the Giants by his brother, Shawn, who played here last season.
"He spoke highly of the Giants since day one and continuously," Stacy Andrews said. "When he found out that I had the opportunity to come out here, he was very excited.
"Right now, I am just getting the plays down and see where that takes me. I'm just trying to learn everything I can whether it's right guard, left guard, right tackle or left tackle."
On the Giants' rebuilt line, he's not alone.
*Ahmad Bradshaw tested the NFL's free agency waters, but was happy to sail back to the Giants.
"There's no other place that I want to be," Bradshaw said today.
Bradshaw re-signed with the Giants yesterday and Brandon Jacobs and he are prepared to again carry the heaviest load in the Giants' ground game. The two backs combined for 2,058 yards last season with Bradshaw running for a team and career-high 1,235 of them.
Bradshaw had ankle surgery after the 2010 season, but said he is now in top condition.
"I feel great," he said. "I've been in Miami with the best trainers there. It was nothing really wrong with my ankle, just a lot of junk in it. My ankles feel tremendous."
Tom Coughlin today reiterated what he said in February, that he would like to get more carries for Jacobs this year. In 2010, Bradshaw had 276 rushing attempts, while Jacobs had 147.
"I think it is a part of the plan and we'd like to see that happen," Coughlin said. "I think between our runners we've always had two maybe three around here that have contributed and we're excited about having a chance to do that again."
"That's fine," he said. "Like I say, he's a big brother to me. I'll share whatever I have with him. (It) keeps us healthy and makes the team better."
*After starting all but two regular season and postseason games the previous five seasons, Barry Cofield has joined the Washington Redskins as a free agent. That has created big opportunities for second-year pro Linval Joseph and rookie Marvin Austin, both second-round draft choices, to earn playing time.
Joseph has been working with the starters in the early practices.
What is defensive line coach Robert Nunn's early evaluation of the young tackles?
"So far, outstanding," Nunn said. "Linval's in very good shape. Not having the OTA's is a big concern for a guy like him. He seems to have worked on the things that we talked about before he left. He made some improvements – much more suddenness, good quickness coming off the ball. With his size and strength, he's got a real chance. We'll see when the pads come on and once he gets started in a preseason game. Marvin is showing the explosiveness that you saw as a junior, a very explosive player (Austin did not play in 2009). Technique-wise he's a long way away. That's obvious that it was going to be that way because he missed all the OTA's and all the offseason training. Right now we're sitting in a pretty good situation with the young guys."
*Coughlin said he and free agent tight end Kevin Boss have left voice mails for each other but have yet to connect.
*Third-year pro Travis Beckum has been used primarily as a receiver, but Coughlin said he could line up as a traditional tight end and block.
"You'd have to change some things in the run game to be able to do that, but he had a couple of nice blocks down in the green zone last night that were pretty physical," Coughlin said. "He has a special skill set and certainly we'd like to take full advantage of that skill set. He's always been a guy that's been on special teams, a personnel combination kind of a player that you used accordingly. We've brought him inside to the fullback position this fall, we've put him on the edge and done that with him and then we've lined him up at the point. You certainly don't want to do that all the time and run the power or whatever right at him but he can do it."