Do you need all top 100 picks to build a successful O-line? (Part I)

In response to some of the other fan posts and fan shots complaining about how Dallas has gone cheap at offensive line in the last several drafts, I've decided to take a look at the starting offensive linemen for the current Super Bowl champions.

Granted, the G-men were ranked 30th in the league in rushing last December when the team got hot. But part of that could be attributed both to injuries to Ahmed Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs as well as the fact that their passing efficiency often made up for their weak running game -- think of the 2011 Detroit Lions, where handing it off was often simply a wasted play unless they had a huge lead.

Victor Cruz probably won't rack up about 1,500 yards again this season even though he should easily crack 1,100 as teams seek to shut him down and take their chances on Hakim Nicks and Martellus Bennett beating them.

P.S To ensure we get plenty of thoughts on the Monday night tilt against the Oakland Raiders here in the FanPosts section, I won't post Part II until late next week before the Chargers game, as I fully expect to-line to be the main 'issue' the Raiders take advantage of in the preseason match up.

Click on the jump to see where our most distinguished NFC East foe found their starting linemen...

My source for this Super Bowl XLVI depth chart is the Los Angeles Times website. Players draft status highlighted in BOLD indicates they were originally drafted/signed by the Giants.


LT - Dave Diehl, 5th round NYG, 2003

We start the depth chart appropriately enough with Left Tackle Dave Diehl, who protects Ei Manning's blind side. The 31-year-old 6"4 300 pound tackle was picked by the Giants in the 5th round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- not exactly known as a football powerhouse despite the Chicago area-native Diehl playing alongside future NFL wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Diehl's back up incidentally at LT is listed as former Indianapolis Colts' 2nd round "bust" Tony Ugoh (2007 42nd overall), who's from Houston. Has said mea culpa maxima for a drunken driving incident this offseason in which thankfully no one was seriously injured.

To keep my FanPosts from reaching their usual whopping length I'll try to truncate some of the remaining starters/backups.

LG - Kevin Boothe, 6th round OAK, 2006

The 6"4 320 pound Boothe was a typical Al Davis/Oakland Raiders lineman -- very big -- who was picked up by the G-men off waivers in 2007. He was backed up in the Super Bowl by former Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus -- a 2010 5th round pick by the Giants who blocked for Felix Jones and Darren McFadden at Arkansas. The 29-year-old Boothe came from the Ivy League football powerhouse known as Cornell. If he was not facing the fiercest competiton at least you can say he has to be pretty smart to have attended Cornell. Also big enough to play right tackle in a pinch (versatility, a theme emphasized in this 2012 Cowboys traning camp by who...? Jason Garrett, of course).

C - David Baas, high 2nd round (33rd overall) SF, 2005 -- Baas was picked out of the University of Michigan which was an offensive line/running powerhouse under then head coach Lloyd Carr. Nonetheless he was let go and signed as a free agent with the Giants in 2011, and the then (now 30) 29-year-old was perhaps one of the Giants' best signings last season. Baas was backed up by Ohio State UDFA Jim Cordle, who signed with the G-men in 2011.

RG - Chris Snee, 2nd round 34th overall, 2004 -- perhaps the best lineman the G-men have drafted in the past decade, the 30-year-old son-in-law of head coach Tom Coughlin is a three time All-Pro. Definitely an example of successfully using a high pick on a lineman and Exhibit A for the prosecution that the Cowboys have failed to do so.

T - Kareem McKenzie, 3rd round (79th overall) NYJ, 2001 -- again a New York/New Jersey guy taken fairly high who didn't pan out with the Jets but may have simply been a late bloomer. A 33-year-old perennial starter from a Big School (Penn State) since 2005 for the Giants. Probably the first guy the Giants were looking to draft a replacement for in the 2011 draft, where they selected backup James Brewer out of Indiana with the 117th overall pick.


So in quick summary:

Combined age of the Giants' most recent Super Bowl starting o-line: 153 years

Median age of the Giants starting o-line: Since I wasn't that great at high school math, let's say 30

Number of players the Giants drafted or signed as UDFAs who started: 2 out of 5 starters

This means three other players who started for the Giants were signed as free agents and/or acquired from other teams' waivers, like Bill Parcells did with tackle Mark Colombo and Kyle Kosier and Wade Phillips did in signing Leonard Davis.

Number of players the Giants drafted or signed as UDFAs who were back ups: 3 out of 4 backups
(G-men carried nine o-linemen, but the Cowboys are probably carrying 10 due to injuries this year)

Which team is also attempting to develop UDFAs at least as competent backups if not starters, including Kevin Kowalski and Ronald Leary (excluding the despised Costa from this analysis) while relying on veteran free agents who never reached their full potential with their previous teams (Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau aka former JAGs (at least according to theone Bengals fan I know who was not a Big Nate fan) -- as Boothe and Baas both were before becoming Giants)? That's right, your Dallas Cowboys.

What else can we say about the Super Bowl champions offensive line in comparison to our own and other teams' units?

They certainly didn't build it from within quite as much as the NFC runner-up San Francisco 49ers have done (I'm going from memory without taking a similarly exacting look at the 49ers starters). But the Giants and Cowboys certainly haven't been picking as high as the Niners for as many seasons in a row until Jim Harbaugh took them deep in the playoffs last year. So lo and behold, the NFL Draft works over time and takes perennial doormats back up (49ers, Lions). But what of the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots? Isn't the secret to their perennial contention that they always value the big guys up front the most in the draft?

In Part II to give more credit to the 'we don't draft o-line' critics I'll look at the Steelers and Patriots, and possibly throw in the perennially contending Baltimore Ravens (who're often considered one of the best drafting teams in the league) for good measure. But for now, let me make the following conclusions about the G-men:

1) Like the Cowboys, the Giants could also be accused of not having spent high draft picks during the past two drafts, as they also did not use a pick above a 4th rounder in 2011 when the Boys attempted to carpet bomb the position and see who would stick. However a Giants fan could rightly argue that the team was so stacked at that position that the age of the line didn't become an issue until last season when the G-men struggled to run the football.

2) Notice in WHICH drafts the New York Giants acquired their current core group of offensive linemen. Notice in which years the linemen acquired from other teams scrap heap who've gone on to have Pro Bowl or near Pro Bowl-level season in New York (i.e. Baas and Boothe) were acquired. Even though as OCC says we're working off a small statistical sample, that's right -- 2003 to 2006. Who was running our drafts then? Saint Bill Parcells. Even Wade Phillips -- while whiffing on several picks (James Marten) -- still gave us Doug Free.


As many have long observed here, the greatest failure of the Parcells regime despite the undeniable strides made on both sides of the ball was failing to draft linemen who could serve as the core for a Super Bowl contender in 2007 when the pieces almost all came together for us. Imagine if instead of having to rely on Patrick Crayton after the G-men shut T.O. and Witten down in the 2nd half we'd been able to simply run Marion Barber and Julius Jones down the throats of Tuck, Strahan and company. History would've looked very different, although I still believe the Giants would've won at least one Super Bowl in the past five years, particularly in last season's lockout fueled bit of defensive mediocrity.


3) As I've observed Giants value VERSATILITY in their offensive linemen which is why injuries to aging starters have not hurt them as badly as other teams -- the likes of Chris Snee or big Kevin Boothe had the intelligence to slide over and play another position along the line without very much difficulty (think of Doug Free admitting in camp he's had some struggles playing on the right instead of left tackle last season). Now which coach has been having his starters and even backup offensive linemen take multiple snaps at different positions this training camp? That's right, one Jason Garrett.

Which team is trying to develop offensive linemen who could play at least right tackle and guard? That's right, the Cowboys with current backup Pat McQuistan and hopefully future emergency tackle Levy Adcock (I haven't read anything about Jeremy Parnell being big and strong enough to play inside yet). Some commenters have made the suggestion that if Doug Free's game struggles at right tackle and he doesn't return to 10' form this year that we could see Free attempt to move inside with a much improved Jeremy Parnell on the outside. I think that remains a far fetched scenario given that Free isn't a drive blocker.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and if you're Invictus or the other Giants fans who lurk here you can take heart that Garrett is trying to emulate your team's success in that respect. However the glass half empty fans here would simply dismiss Garrett as making a virtue out of necessity. I beg to differ, there is a plan, and in fact their is a blueprint.

Thanks to this excellent post done by the OCC back in June, we also know that age-wise we are further along in rebuilding our o-line than the Giants are as the "refurbishing" for them is likely to begin in earnest in the 2013 draft. The Giants have been in the 'sweet spot' of peak offensive line age/experience for the past four or five seasons and now they have to fill at least one if not two spots via the draft or free agency in 13' as this season's injury report (probably led by McKenzie with either Boothe or the second year man Brewer having to step up) will make clear.


The Redskins offensive line situation remains a mess and the success of Jason Kelce has made the Philly o-line rebuild under coach Howard Mudd look like the best in the division by far. However, once you subtract All-Pro Jason Peters from last season's line you'll see that even Shady will have a tougher time getting the yards this year against tougher (AFC North) defenses, including our own. The preseason NFC East champion Iggles' starting o-line certainly didn't look great against Pittsburgh this weekend and I expect the same to be true when the two teams meet in the regular season.

So cheer up, BTBers! The fate of Phil Costa will not ultimately determine whether our offensive line has success this year. Alabama's Barret Jones and other prospects should make the 13' draft look much better than the 12' draft for interior linemen (as I wrote in this comment, pay attention to where the top ranked guard/center prospects went off the board in 12' compared to 10' or 11'). "The Serviceables" Jeff Faine and perhaps Jason Brown are still out there on the market, if it comes down to brass tacks in late August. And Mackenzy Bernadeau may still be able to slide over giving us more beef at center for those pesky goal line situations that have dogged this unit for the past four seasons. As many commenters have pointed out, we don't need a Pro Bowl center to be a successful offense, just someone who's average.

Take another shot of koolaid with me and think about how much nastier our defensive line will be this season.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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