EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The start of the preseason may finally begin shedding light on the New York Giants’ offensive line and their running game.
Since training camp opened two weeks ago, no parts of the team have been watched more closely than the line and the running backs.
The line was horrible last season and the backs are a major question mark with the release of veteran Rashad Jennings.
General manager Jerry Reese gambled in the offseason, basically keeping his line together and only adding veteran D.J. Fluker for depth. The lone loss was right tackle Marshall Newhouse, who signed with Oakland as a free agent.
Bobby Hart has replaced Newhouse. The rest of the line is the same with Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard, Weston Richburg at center and John Jerry at right guard.
So there should be more cohesion this season.
Paul Perkins, who showed flashes as a rookie, is the No. 1 running back, with veterans Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa and rookie Wayne Gallman, a fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson, pushing him for playing time.
So far, the running game has been inconsistent in camp. While the line has provided an occasional push, there have been other plays where the backs have been stuffed. Perkins did have a big run on Tuesday in a team drill, but Flowers struggled at times.
“I think we just understand the run game as a whole better,” Richburg said Tuesday. “We’ve had time in the offseason to talk about it and think it over, go over some things that didn’t go well last year and put those things into practice this year. I think we’ve made some good strides so far.”
The problem in getting the running game going is the missed blocks. Too many times someone whiffs and the play breaks down, and it not just the linemen missing their assignments.
“In the game, it’s going to take all 11,” Richburg said. “So I think we’ve done a better job of all 11 guys being on the same page, and we’ve just got to continue with that consistency and carry that in through the preseason and regular season.”
If the Giants can get the running game going, it will make their receiving corps and offense even more dangerous.
A year ago, Eli Manning had two mains targets in Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Sterling Shepard. Veteran Brandon Marshall was signed as a free agent to give Manning a threat on the other side of Beckham. Tight end Evan Engram, the first- round pick, has been creating matchup problems for the defense with his speed down the middle.
“We have to run the ball better, and I think that a bunch of different moves we made throughout this offseason will help us,” Pugh said. “There’s competition at the offensive line position right now. You know, you bring in a guy – D.J. Fluker – who was a 12th overall draft pick. You’re going to add competition to the room, so that’s exciting. That’s going to make us better because if you’re not putting your best production on the field someone is going to replace you. I think that’s not even a question.”
What the Giants do Friday against Pittsburgh at MetLife Stadium will be an indication if they will be able to run the ball this season.
NOTES: WR Tavarres King (ankle), LB Mark Herzlich (soreness), DT Robert Thomas (soreness), CB Mykkele Thompson (quad) and WR Kevin Snead (lower body) did not practice. Rookie DE Avery Moss left with a shoulder injury. … Manning connected with Engram on a touchdown pass and found Marshall wide open for a 2-point conversion in a late-game drill in which the Giants needed eight points to tie the game. Marshall beat CB Janoris Jenkins with a great double move to get open.
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