Giants need to add pieces to offensive line

Tackle Justin Pugh looks on during Giants mini

Tackle Justin Pugh looks on during Giants mini camp at the TIMEX training facility. (May 10, 2013) (Credit: Mike Stobe)

Three pieces.

That's what the Giants' offense consists of today, a week after the team's 2013 season came to an end. They have a quarterback in Eli Manning. They have a receiver in Victor Cruz. And they have an offensive lineman in Justin Pugh, although it is unclear where on the line he will play.

Beyond that, there are a handful of players with potential -- David Wilson, if he's healthy enough to return to football, along with wide receivers Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan, the rags-to-riches breakout star of the last three games -- but no other pillars on which to re-build the unit that John Mara famously described as "broken" this past week.

That's why whoever inherits the offensive coordinator's job from the recently retired Kevin Gilbride will not be the difference between success and failure in 2014. It was the players, not the play-calling, that stymied the Giants in 2013. If there is to be a turnaround for the offensive unit, it will come not from the sideline but the front office. "We can't go into next season with the same personnel," Mara said.

Mara said the primary focus of this offseason will be improving the offensive line and the protection for Manning, whom the Giants cannot afford to see leaving games on crutches, as he did in the season finale against the Redskins.

The team used seven different combinations of starters for those five spots; only Pugh played every down at the same position, right tackle. This from a team that, during its Super Bowl runs, prided itself on continuity up front.

It got to the point that Tom Coughlin, in a WFAN radio interview Friday, issued a rhetorical challenge to name the five linemen who finished up last week's Redskins game.

"My biggest concern coming into the year was would our offensive line stay healthy because I was concerned about the depth that we had there," Mara said. "And, of course, we get the center [David Baas] and Chris Snee hurt right off the bat and then the backup center [Jim Cordle] gets hurt and we just never seemed to be able to protect Eli well enough or get a ground game going well enough. That to me is the number one personnel priority going into the offseason; we need to improve the offensive line."

The Giants made their defensive line a priority last offseason and it paid off with solid interior play. Now they will hit free agency and the draft with a shopping list for the other side of the ball.

Baas and Snee come with high price tags in 2014 and are coming off multiple surgeries. The Giants aren't even sure if Snee wants to play anymore.

Other pieces also must be found.

The Giants will need another running back; general manager Jerry Reese said that because of Wilson's health issues, the team will not go into 2014 counting on him to be the clear No. 1.

They need to go back to having a bigger tight end the likes of Martellus Bennett or Jake Ballard; Brandon Myers was largely ineffective as a blocker.

And they need another playmaking receiver, especially if Hakeem Nicks walks in free agency (which the Giants might allow him to do without much of a fight).

And, of course, they'll need a new coordinator to pull all of the pieces together.

That seemed to be the simple solution as the first week of a long offseason began. But when a car won't run, changing the driver won't help much. The same applies to a broken offense.

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