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Fixing Giants Running Game Will Take Tough Decisions

Problem from last season must be identified and corrected

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    One day of training camp isn't nearly enough to draw any meaningful conclusions about the state of the 2010 Giants. It is soon enough to start watching the players and positions that need those conclusions before the end of camp, however.

    Near the top of that list is the running game, which means that there needs to be serious attention paid to the goings-on along the offensive line and at running back. Unlike the defensive issues that caused the Giants to turn into everyone's favorite opponent, the reasons for the ground struggles weren't particularly easy to identify. Whether you use traditional statistics or more advanced metrics, the Giants came up middle of the pack which is a surprise to anyone who watched them on Sundays.

    One place where the team's struggles were most clear were on runs to left end and left tackle. Football Outsiders grades them as below average in those spots, as well as in runs between the guards, which means our gaze must fall on left tackle David Diehl and left guard Rich Seubert. Both of those men have been fixtures on the line for the last three seasons when Diehl moved to tackle after spending his first four years at guard. Both have been proud warriors and both have meant a lot to the Giants over the years but replacing one or both has to be examined as part of the way to return the running game to prominence.

    The problem is that the easiest solution might not be the best one for the running game. William Beatty would be an upgrade over Diehl against speed rushers on the outside but he's not the bullish lead run blocker that would instantly make things better on the left side. Diehl would be at left guard and perhaps that would result in a net positive but the Giants would need to really look at that alignment in the preseason to figure out whether its the improvement.

    Diehl, naturally, wants to stay at left tackle. He makes more money playing left tackle, it is a glamorous position and, any way you slice it, moving back to guard would be a demotion. The Giants can't let that get in the way of them giving Beatty a serious chance to win the job, though. Whatever Diehl has done in the past has to stay there.

    Of course, that presupposes that the problem with the running game was solely about the line. There's also the Brandon Jacobs conundrum. His drop off in yards per carry was tremendous and his explosiveness was never part of a Giants offense that was built to rely on it to move the ball effectively. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride doesn't seem to know what's the root of the problem.

    "He wasn't as effective, so I'm going to say it's his knee. That's the only way I can try to begin to explain it, but with anything it's never just one thing. Maybe we didn't block some things so well, maybe he didn't make some good decisions quite as often, maybe I didn't call the plays at the right times. Who knows?"

    That's a nice job of avoiding saying anything remotely critical about Jacobs but it also underscores just how little the Giants know about what turned him into such an ineffective player last season. They didn't do a thing to cover themselves in case he doesn't make it back this year so they don't have the same wiggle room that they have up front. If the Giants seriously consider the situation and find Jacobs lacking, however, they can't simply keep throwing him out there in hopes that something suddenly clicks into place.

    The Giants resisted calls to make sweeping changes in spots where things weren't working. They can't resist making any changes and expect to find better results.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.