If you are reading this, it is my hope you are one of the many who is worried about the interior o-line and is legitmately wondering what the FO was thinking (rather than looking for another chance to crow about how much smarter than Jerry you are). I haven't addressed y'all yet, and that's mainly because I by and large agree with you: the interior o-line is basically duct tape and bondo. Where I disagree is in calling that neglectful.
There are two reasons for this. As I showed in my last, duct tape and bondo solutions can work. 60% of the famous line of the early 90s was precisely the same kind of player we were working on developing this year. Another example: the Steelers have been using that method for years and just the last two seasons gotten around to using some premium picks (Pouncey and DeCastro) to shore that up. The Giants have only used 10 total picks on the o-line in the last 10 years and only 3 have been 3rd round or better. There's a few recent Lombardis there.
But the main reason is that we had bigger fish to fry.
The conventional wisdom is that the Giants destroyed our o-line in their games against us. And, indeed, they got 9 sacks in those two games. But there's much more to that story-- Murray went down early in the first game. By the second game we had an injured Felix Jones and an aging Sammy Morris at RB. There was no real threat there and the Giants could pretty much play pass rush all the way. More significantly, Kyle Kosier was badly hurt but trying to play. 4 of those 9 sacks from the two games came on the first 4 possessions (all basically 3 and out) of the second game, when Kosier was struggling. As soon as he came out for Kowalski, Dallas started moving the ball.
Do you see? That was Kowalski and Costa in there when the team started to turn it around in the second game. Bringing the game to within a TD when the defense folded yet again (more on that in a minute). It was also Costa and Kowalski in when we hung 34 (should've been 37 but for a JPP FG block) on them in the first game. There was absolutely reason to believe Kowalski and Costa would be good enough. So, instead of bringing in expensive progress stoppers, we brought in competition-- Livings and Bernardeau. Guys who could challenge or even pencil in as starters, but not too expensive to be relegated to depth or cut after a couple of years. Stop-gaps.
"BUT", I hear you scream, "we could've solidfied that position instead of spending it all on the defense!" Which is true. One of you is even now reaching for the keyboard to again remind us that there were five games where the offense failed to produce more than 16 points. We get it.
I'm here to tell you that the defense needed more help. To prove it, I will go back to those same New York games. Like NFL scouts, let's see how they did against top competition. I think we can all agree that New York has an elite front four, yes?
"The offensive line gave up 9 sacks," you say, and you are correct. But despite that, and despite having a crippled running game, here's what Tony Romo was able to do behind that patchwork line (patched, I again remind you, by Kevin Kowalski): 50/68/610yds/6TD/1INT -- pretty salty. 8.97 yards per attempt. 8.8% TD passes. 1.54% INTs. a 124.0 passer rating. And the offense was far from anemic-- scoring a combined 48 (should have been 51) points in those two games. So the line was clearly "good enough".
But take a look at Eli's numbers: 746 yds passing, 9.33(!) yards per attempt, 109.7 passer rating.
Now, Romo has long been king of the Yards per Attempt stat. Until Aaron Rodgers' recent super bowl run, Romo was #1 in the super bowl era. Yet here is Eli, nearly half a yard better than Romo at YPA, when Romo's was significantly above his league-leading career average. Romo absolutely torched the Giants, but Eli obliterated us. For further reference, before last season, Eli's highest YPA for a season was 7.9 and he only had two seasons at or above 7.0! Last season, he suddenly jumps to 8.38...and here, in the midst of a career year, he has TWO games against Dallas that are a full yard per attempt above THAT.
So again, let that sink in. Tony Romo played some of the best football of his career against the Giants last year. And Eli Manning outproduced him significantly-- *that* is how bad the secondary was by the end of the year last year.
This same secondary also gave up 9.9 ypa to Kevin Kolb (109.9 QBR), 9 ypa to Matt Moore (99.5 QBR), and 7.7 ypa to Rex Grossman (95.5 QBR). Dallas was 23rd in passing yardage given up, 24th in yardage per attempt, and 25th in opponent passer rating... this despite having games against the above luminaries (2 against Grossman) as well as Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez, A.J. Feeley, and Tavaris Jackson.
The secondary in particular and pass defense in general desperately needed attention. The FO dealt with that. It was the greater need.