Giants, Seahawks face offensive line challenges (Oct 22, 2017)
The New York Giants, who host the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, have some common ground.
The biggest similarity is that both teams have had issues on their respective offensive lines.
In the case of the Seahawks, they have fielded two different combinations this season. The constants have been left tackle Rees Odhiambo, left guard Luke Joekel, center Justin Britt and right tackle Germain Ifredi.
At right guard, Mark Glowinski started the first two games but struggled and was benched in favor of Oday Aboushi, who has played there for the last three games.
This week, with Joeckel recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, the Seahwks are looking at their third different offensive line combination.
"Yeah, it's really difficult because it's the area of the game that needs to be so connected and that means the chemistry and the communications and the ability to talk to one another, identify in similar fashions so that you can play this game, is really a challenge," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll via a conference call with Giants reporters Wednesday.
"We have been very young for the last couple years and that keeps you in the transition mode because you're not able to bank on the chemistry and that background and the resources that you need to really communicate like you need to be a really high functioning team. It's a process and we're in progress making it that way."
The struggles for the Seahawks on the offensive line have been particularly noticeable in run blocking. The Seahawks have rushed for more than 100 yards only twice this season, in Weeks 2 and 4.
While losing running back Chris Carson has been a big part of Seattle's struggles, the run blocking as a whole just hasn't been consistent.
"We're making progress, but it's the process that we're going through to just get tight and get clean and get sharp," Carroll said. "A couple weeks ago, we ran for 194 yards and then the next week we ran for 60. So we're not as consistent as we need to be.
"The (teams) we're playing have something to say about that, but we have to do a better job, we've got to be on the mark, we've just got to be more precise about what we're doing and that just comes with time."
The Giants' offensive line situation has been a lot worse. New York has trotted out five different offensive line combinations since Week 1 largely because of injuries to right tackle Bobby Hart and center Weston Richburg.
But unlike the Seahawks, the Giants might have found an offensive line combination in left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard John Jerry, center Brett Jones, right guard D.J. Fluker and right tackle Justin Pugh that they can hang their hats on.
With Jones in the lineup, the Giants, who have also replaced struggling running back Paul Perkins with the tandem of Orleans Darkwa and rookie Wayne Gallman, have rushed for 300 yards on 57 carries in their last two games, making this the first time they've rushed for more than 100 yards in consecutive regular-season games since the final three games of last year, when they ran for 114 yards (twice) and 161 yards in winning efforts.
"Brett has done well," Giants offensive line coach Mike Solari said last week. "Brett is a hard worker. He's always prepared. He's always working hard and did a nice job with learning the offensive technique and the fundamentals.
"Critical for the center. He's the kind of leader of the offensive line, making the calls because calls come from inside out and he did a good job. Doing a great job. He's improved every day."
Another key for the Giants has been the willingness of Pugh, their starting left guard in Week 1, to move back and forth between guard and tackle this season.
"He's a pro. I mean, 'Whatever you want me to do to win,'" Solari said. "And I'm trying to say not only is Justin, but all the men making moves and making adjustments and trying to get the best vibe on the football fields they're competing and to get better. The nice thing is, is they're competing and it's good. It's what you want. It's what makes us better."
Giants coach Ben McAdoo said last week that he liked what he saw of the latest offensive line combination. Although he wouldn't come right out and confirm that he'll be sticking with it this week, that's the assumption given that Richburg is still in the league's concussion protocol.
Where the Giants' offensive line can improve is in pass protection. Although New York only attempted 19 passes last week, quarterback Eli Manning was sacked three times despite deploying that quick-release passing game in which he's not holding onto the ball for long.
If they can stay with one combination, that would be a step in the right direction.
"It's been challenging with the offensive line," Solari said of the musical chairs. "They're working hard and next man up mentality. And, again, just the changing of the different positions is an adjustment we're making. We're getting better."