The Giants spent all summer trying to get their offensive line to transform from five players into one unit. Just about every snap they took from the first one in training camp in late July to the first half of their Week 2 game in Dallas in mid-September had the same group line up in the same order. Even when they stood around, watching second-team reps in practice or when the defense was on the field, it was usually in that on-field formation from one tackle to the other.
But then things started to change. Center Jon Halapio suffered a season-ending injury in that game against the Cowboys. Right tackle Ereck Flowers was benched and replaced by Chad Wheeler in Week 3 against the Texans. All of a sudden, that continuity that the Giants had been working toward was up in smoke.
So why did it work?
Why did an offensive line that started last week with only one of the players lined up next to the same person or people he’d been next to every day for that last few months play well enough for a victory?
“I think it was our preparation during the week and the guys who were already in there being able to adjust and adapt from what they were used to,” John Greco, who stepped in as the starting center, told Newsday this week. “Credit to everyone, really the whole offense, for moving along, chugging along, like nothing ever happened. That’s what you have to do when there is a new body in there. You can’t really make excuses. You just have to keep playing and adapt on the fly.”
So much for chemistry.
The new lineup did work hard to cram as much bonding into their first week together as possible. On Sunday they’ll make their second straight start together, hoping to build even more on their cohesiveness.
“Guys came together during the week,” Wheeler said, noting dinners for the offensive linemen and extra time spent together studying film. “Doing just a little bit more to make sure we click.”
It seemed to work.
“I think everybody just got a little bit better, played a little more consistently,” said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula. “I think we did communicate better … We have to continue to improve on our communication. That’s probably one of the biggest areas of improvement we need to continue with, but there was some good. Good enough to win.”
The first thing that needed to be communicated in this transition is that Flowers no longer will start. Coach Pat Shurmur, who had reached out by telephone when the Giants signed Nate Solder during the offseason to tell Flowers of the plan to move him to right tackle, once again had to have a conversation with Flowers about a change that would affect him. This time it was one that would send him to the bench.
“He handled it like most guys would,” Shurmur said. “‘OK, Coach.’ That was it. Not enough there for a mini-series, just ‘OK.’ Then there’s the part of the conversation of ‘You need to be ready to go because you’re the third tackle, so keep your mind into it and get back out there and play well.'"
The move should not have come as a huge surprise to Flowers.
“We as coaches communicate with the players frequently about things we see and like, and things we see and don’t like,” Shurmur said. “That’s the day-to-day business that nobody sees, but we’re just open and honest about it. I think the players have responded well to that, but I do think that’s the way you’ve got to live your life.”
So they move forward, five players — two of them newer to the group — trying to forge into a cohesive unit. Trying to find a new consistency.
“You can’t be set in your ways, you have to be able to adjust,” Greco said of playing offensive line in the NFL. “I think we did a good enough job to get us a win last week and now we have to carry that over to this week for sure.”