The New York Giants have a well-established identity: they're a physical football team that likes to run the football, make big plays through the air, and get after you defensively. They're doing two of those three things well this season during their 3-2 start; the one area in which they're lacking is running the football.
Heading into their Week 6 game with the Buffalo Bills, the Giants are averaging just 83.8 rushing yards per game, ranking them No. 28 in the league. Brandon Jacobs is injured and averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw is producing fairly well (286 yards, two touchdowns at four yards per carry), but something about the running game is off.
I asked Ed Valentine of BigBlueView.com for an explanation. His was the simplest: "Poor offensive line play."
"The Giants have a completely new left side of the line - center David Baas, left guard David Diehl, and left tackle William Beatty," explains Valentine. "They have a first-year tight end, Jake Ballard, and a rookie fullback, Henry Hynoski. There have been communication issues at times, and simply bad play at other times. Ballard is a 270-pound blocking tight end by reputation who has been a better receiver thus far than a blocker."
While it's true that there has been some shuffling for the Giants up front, aside from Beatty at left tackle - who'd made only a handful of spot starts entering the season - the unit is fairly experienced. That hasn't helped matters, according to Valentine.
"We had hoped Diehl, who was a good guard early in his career but played poorly at left tackle the last couple of seasons, would be fine at guard," said Valentine. "He's been awful. Kareem McKenzie, the Giants' right tackle and best lineman a year ago, has always been a terrific run blocker. This year, though, he has not been good."
Something has to give on Sunday, as the Bills have the No. 29-ranked run defense in the NFL and are giving up 5.5 yards per rush - the second-worst figure in the league behind Chicago.