EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — While injuries have forced the Giants to shuffle their offensive line the past month, Eli Manning certainly hasn’t felt any effects.
Far from it. Manning hasn’t been sacked in the last four games, and he’s been taken down just 12 times all season, fewest in the league.
If this was the Giants line of their 2007 Super Bowl season, no one would be surprised. Left tackle David Diehl, left guard Rich Seubert, center Shaun O’Hara, right guard Chris Snee and right tackle Kareem McKenzie were constants.
This year has been the exception.
O’Hara has played only four games because of ankle and foot injuries. Diehl has been out the last three with hip and hamstring problems, marking the first time in his eight-year career he has been sidelined. Backup center Adam Koets was lost in midseason with a knee injury, and backup tackle Shawn Andrews missed last week with a back injury.
While Snee and McKenzie have remained on the right side of the line, the center and the left side have been in flux for the past month.
Seubert has moved from guard and taken over at center. Kevin Boothe, who started the year on the physically unable to perform list, has been the starting left guard for three weeks. Second-year pro Will Beatty took over at left tackle last weekend against Jacksonville, replacing Andrews, who started the previous three weeks.
“Maybe this is not the norm, with the guys doing all the shuffling, but you got to do it and the results need to be there,” Snee said. “You definitely get down to more of the basics (in practice).”
Seubert gives much of the credit to offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
Since taking over the line job, Flaherty has made sure everyone can play at least two positions, the left and right side, while filling in at center.
“You never know when something is going to happen,” Seubert said. “You don’t want to let the guy next to you down. You have to ready to go at any position. Even Chris knows. He is out there getting snaps with the quarterback since Day 1. If something happens, the next guy has to step up and you only have so many guys. If you’re the sixth or seventh guy you better know how to play different spots.”
Manning said the older guys on the line did a great job of making sure Beatty was ready for his first start of the season.
“They’re going to work with him all week, they’re going to get him in the film room, they’re going to grind them during the week and make sure these guys are ready, whether they have to watch extra film or whether they have to talk things through in walkthroughs or practice,” Manning said.
Flaherty and assistant Jack Bicknell also went with protections that everyone knew, Manning said.
“This might not be the perfect way to block it, but at least everybody will know what they’re doing, we won’t confuse things. So guys can play fast, they can play confident knowing exactly what is going on and sometimes that’s the key to football,” Manning said. “You can try to change things up and have certain calls and do things perfectly and sometimes you create a disaster. You can overload some things instead of just blocking it up and being sound.”
Boothe, who tore a pectoral muscle in the offseason and missed the first eight games, said the tight ends and running backs are just as important in helping protect Manning, while the receivers are also helping out by getting open quickly.
“On this team, if you are playing, you are expected to contribute,” Boothe said. “We have a good group of veterans. We follow their lead. They have been here for such a long time and shown what it takes to be successful. So you try to learn as much as you can from them and play at their level.”
The last time the line allowed Manning to be sacked was Oct. 25 against Dallas. But it was a statistic the linemen didn’t want to hear.
“You hear, ‘The longest streaks of O-lines not giving up a sack’ and then, kapoof, there it goes,” McKenzie said. “You draw attention to it and that drives the mystique from it.”
Snee smirked when told about it.
“See, now you talk about a four-game sackless streak and throw some bad luck on us,” he said.
The line could be getting some help soon.
Diehl participated in some of the individual drills and took some snaps during the team practice Wednesday, calling the work “a step in the right direction.”
“I just want to play, be back on the football field,” said Diehl, who started 120 consecutive games before his injury. “I’m not used to this. Sitting the last three games is something I’ve never done before. I miss not being out there with my teammates.”
His family also wants him back on the field.
The other night at dinner, his 2-year-old daughter asked for candy despite not having eaten her dinner.
Diehl refused: “She said: ‘Daddy, when are you going back to work?’ ”
O’Hara also is working without a boot on his foot but he seemingly is not as close to returning as Diehl. Andrews did not practice Wednesday.
“I think we have shown what kind of depth we have,” Snee said. “Hopefully, we get people back. But if we don’t, we’ll move on.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.