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Geoff Schwartz returns to Giants' problematic offensive line

Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz during OTAs at

Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz during OTAs at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on May 30, 2013 in East Rutherford, NJ. Credit: AP / Evan Pinkus

Geoff Schwartz is like a fireman who shows up when the house already has burned to the ground. There's not much he can do to help at this point.

Once considered a savior for the offensive line woes that scuttled last season, he'll finally take his first snaps for the team Sunday against the Cowboys only to find there is nothing to save. The Giants are 3-7, their worst record through 10 games since 1998. The season is pretty much over.

And once again, it can be tied back to those five bodies up front.

The Giants thought they had fixed the problem. They signed Schwartz as their priority free agent. They added veterans Charles Brown and John Jerry, players who had been NFL starters. They took a chance on J.D. Walton, who hadn't played in two years because of injury. They drafted Weston Richburg, hoped Justin Pugh would continue to develop and prayed Will Beatty would return to form.

All they did was change (some of) the faces. The problem remains.

In six of their 10 games this season, the Giants have failed to run for 100 yards as a team. In five of the last six, they haven't gotten to 90. In the last two, they haven't gotten to 70. Not even the return of running back Rashad Jennings was able to help Sunday against the 49ers.

"We game-plan the heck out of the run," Tom Coughlin said Monday, noting that the team runs nine-on-seven running drills every Wednesday. "I don't know if it's execution as much as when it comes down to knocking your guy off the line of scrimmage."

That doesn't even take into account the pressure that has been put on Eli Manning. According to Pro Football Focus, the right side of the Giants' offensive line alone -- Jerry at guard and Brown at tackle -- allowed 18 quarterback pressures Sunday. Eighteen!

"We had worked against it all week long," Coughlin said of the 49ers' twists and stunts that baffled the Giants. Jerry and Brown hadn't worked together much, even back in training camp. But Coughlin said that communication was not the issue.

"It's recognizing it, shutting the first phase of it down so that you can get the parties on the same level and switch it off," he said.

Manning dropped back for 45 attempts against the 49ers. Forty percent of the time, he was getting heat from that side.

"In a one-score game, my preference is not to be throwing the ball that much, so therefore, obviously, what is the other thing? You better be able to rush it," Coughlin said on Monday. "We didn't rush it very well . . . a lot of frustration."

And, likely, another offseason rebuilding project. One that likely starts to show itself Sunday.

Who knows if the Giants will be without Pugh against the Cowboys. He said he plans on playing, but his quad strain may prevent that. And Schwartz, who dislocated his toe in the preseason and was put on injured reserve with a designation to return, finally has. Coughlin said he didn't yet know where Schwartz will play, but he certainly will play.

"We need to finish on a positive note," Schwartz said. "We've had some struggles running the ball and that starts with us up front. We need to re-establish that identity of running the ball."

How much can he help?

"I have no idea," he said. "I have to see how it goes . . . As far as an offensive line perspective, it takes all five of us to be playing in harmony. Just me coming back, it doesn't guarantee that."

He may be too late to extinguish this fire before it consumes the season. But there will be other fires and other seasons. In fact, you can already hear the alarm bells for 2015.

New York Sports