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Offensive line continues to improve


It's hard to imagine an NFL offensive line playing better right now than the Giants' front.

In victories over Cleveland and San Francisco the last two weeks, the Giants have rushed for 392 yards and extended their streak of games without allowing Eli Manning to be sacked to three.

So what do the offensive linemen talk about when they're alone in their meeting room?

"To see those totals, it's always great, but usually the first thing we look at after the game is the plays that we missed," guard Kevin Boothe said. "There's a lot more yardage out there to be had, so it's not perfect by any means. But it's definitely a good start and hopefully we can maintain that consistency. "

"We all know we do have good plays," tackle Sean Locklear said. "But to make corrections, you have to go over the bad things. We don't even know if he's sacked after the game. It's in your mind, but the coaches tell you and we go over film. Everything is not blocked perfectly. You guys probably see the final stats, but we see all the flaws. There were two occasions (last week) where my guy came almost untouched. Eli stepped up and got rid of the ball. What if he had to hold that ball a split second more? It would have been a sack or a hit, so we look at it. I know eventually that if that happens, it's going to catch up with us. So I'm always trying to prepare myself. You take the good with the bad and you take it as it is that there weren't any sacks. Eventually somebody is going to give up a sack. I hope not, but if he had to hold the ball a split second longer, there was a sack there."

Clearly, these guys are not easily satisfied. Though they will concede under persistent interrogation that they've played, well, okay the last couple of weeks, they know their good work will be forgotten if they don't play to that same high level in the Giants' home game Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

"It's a new week," center David Baas said. "Especially going into San Francisco, there was an emphasis to keep Eli clean and do a better job than we did last time. But that's an emphasis every week. So I feel like it's good to see those numbers because it just builds (our) confidence."

The line wasn't exactly struggling prior to the last two games. The Giants are third in the NFL in yards per game (414.7) and tied for third in points per game (29.7).  But the group clearly took a step forward vs. the Browns and 49ers. So what happened?

"I'm not sure," Manning said. "But, I'm not complaining about it. So, they're playing great, we're running the ball well, the pass protection has been good, and the receivers have been getting open. Things are going well, everybody's doing their assignments well, the offense tends to flow a little bit better, I'm not sitting back there, holding the ball very long, and putting the offensive line in a bind. So, it's been a combination of the running backs helping out, chipping on things. So, it's been pretty smooth, and hopefully, we keep it that way."

"Everything is working a little better," guard Chris Snee said. "The run game was something that I've said all along, starting last year and even from the Dallas game (the season opener), it's just something that you have to stick with and we continue to work in practice. We never got discouraged. We just kept churning away and working on individual techniques and we were able to run against a very good defense last week, but we've got to do it again this week."

The line's current configuration – Will Beatty and Locklear at tackle, Boothe and Snee at guard and Baas at center – has started the last four games. Beatty didn't start the first two games after missing the preseason with a back injury. Locklear started for him at left tackle. When right tackle David Diehl suffered a knee injury in Week 2 vs. Tampa Bay, Locklear moved the right side and Beatty took back his job at left tackle.

The group got a welcome addition against San Francisco when Diehl, a much-admired 10-year veteran, returned to play the third tight end position.

"We'll see how he feels, and how much further along he's advanced and practicing better and longer this week, and see where we are," coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's a good problem (to have three healthy tackles)."

Neither Beatty (on injured reserve after undergoing eye surgery) nor Locklear  (who was with the Redskins) played for the Giants last January and February when they swept four postseason games, including Super Bowl XLVI. But the new group has quickly jelled into a cohesive, productive unit.

"We've been playing together now for a little while," Boothe said. "I think last year, not having the offseason and a shorter preseason for those of us that signed contracts in August, I think it could make life difficult. It was kind of going uphill, but we got better as the season went on last year and I feel that's just been a growth from there to this year. We're all comfortable playing next to each other. We've been playing next to each other now since April, so I think that has definitely helped us and whoever is in there, I think we expect to do a great job and that's where we're at now."

"These last three games, no sacks and the amount of yards we put up on offense and the points we're scoring, I guess you can say that things are coming along," Locklear said.

With 10 games remaining on the schedule, they have to keep it going for a long time.

"As an offensive line, your momentum is keeping the quarterback clean, opening up pockets in the run game so the running back has a crease," said Beatty. "That's your momentum, driving the ball down the field extending the drive. That's your offensive momentum.

"All coach is harping on is offense, 11 as one. We're a unit. Everybody has to flow together and when you flow together, you see how plays develop. You're also seeing the game as when one guy was off, how the play could have been better than it was. So it's that pride in your fellow teammate as we're pulling together, we're working as a unit. There are still some things that we can clean up, but this is what we're going for."


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