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Giants like progress of developing offensive line

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants’ offensive line has caused quite a bit of hand wringing among its fan base leading up to training camp.

Slowly, but surely, the unit is making progress even if the right side of the line isn’t quite as settled.

“I think we made some progress between the first and second week,” center Weston Richburg said.

“I think pass protection for the most part was good, we had some tipped balls which is not something we want to have happen but I think we were physical in the pass game (and) kept (Eli Manning) clean.”

The starting offensive line, which this week opened with Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard, Richburg at center, John Jerry at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle, has not allowed a sack against Manning in two games.

The biggest leap forward for the unit, though, was in the running game. Last week, the Giants ran for 13 yards on five carries behind the starting offensive line. This week, they more than doubled that output.

The left side of the line in particular — tackle Ereck Flowers, a rookie, and guard Justin Pugh — have been solid, with both head coach Tom Coughlin and Richburg praising Flowers, the team’s first-round draft pick this year.

“We thought he played well technically. Very sound, and he is improving,” Coughlin said of Flowers. “If you watch some of the run game, you see him move people off the ball. He did a nice job of that. He and Pugh got involved in a couple of nice twist exchanges where we picked up in pass protection. You saw him aggressively go back and recover that ball on the ground.”

“I don’t think we’ve missed a beat with him,” Richburg added. “He is able to understand different plays and where we are going, all our terminology. He’s done a great job with that, he is very competitive (and) has the right mindset for an offensive lineman.”

The right side of the offensive line is yet to be settled, but there was also some good to come from that unit as well. The biggest thing of note was the return of Geoff Schwartz, who missed last week with a sore ankle.

Schwartz received snaps at both guard and tackle, the latter a position where he had some struggles according to Coughlin.

“He played pretty well when he was playing at the guard spot (and) I don’t think quite as good at the tackle spot,” Coughlin said, adding, “It was his first time out and he did get a lot of snaps, so it had to help him.”

Moving forward, the goal, according to Richburg is to continue building on what they have started and to begin cashing in on some big plays.

“I think we saw some opportunities kind of slip through our fingers (Saturday),” he said. “I’d (also) like to see us spring some big runs. I think that is going to be a key this year.

“Obviously we’ve got great wide receivers so I think we’ve got some good things ahead there and then we’ve got some good running backs back in the staple so I think it is going to be important for us to spring some big runs in this preseason and get everybody on point heading into the early part of the season.”

While the team is pleased by the progress made, Richburg is the first to admit that the unit still has some work to do.

“(There is) still a long way to go but I think if we keep improving like we did between Week 1 and Week 2, I think we should come together and be a pretty good unit.”

“Keep playing them all. Keep playing them all,” Coughlin added when asked what the plan is moving forward. “The plan is to let them play and practice and see where we can go and figure out exactly who are the best five. That’s the plan.”

–The Giants have now lost three safeties: Mykkele Thompson (Achilles), Justin Currie (ankle/fibula) and Bennett Jackson (ACL) to season-ending injuries.

Although head coach Tom Coughlin was optimistic that the team would be getting back some other injured safeties including Nat Berhe (calf), Landon Collins (knee) and Cooper Taylor (toe), the Giants are apparently going to explore boosting their depth at the position.

“We are trying to decide in the next hour or so what we have and what we are going to do in terms of practice and what our needs might be just in preparing for this next game,” Coughlin said on a conference call.

The Giants will also be holding a workout for free-agent safeties on Monday. One name that will reportedly be part of the mix is Corey Lynch, a sixth-round draft pick by the Bengals in 2008 who has also played for the Bucs, Chargers and Colts.

Lynch was out of football in 2014 after receiving an injury settlement from the Colts for an undisclosed ailment.

–Another year, another injury for the talented yet unlucky linebacker Jon Beason.

Beason suffered a knee sprain in the first half of the Giants’ 22-12 win over the Jaguars on Saturday when he broke up a pass play in the end zone.

“It is a knee sprain, but it’s minor; nothing too concerning in my book,” he said.

Always the optimist, Beason, whom the Giants list as week-to-week on their injury report, believes he’ll be back on the field sooner than later.

“Yeah for sure,” he said. “I totally believe that I can and I have my mind made up to make sure that happens.”

Head coach Tom Coughlin sounded a little less certain about the possibility of having Beason back, and declined to attach a timetable to the process.

“That is a tough one. These things are all different,” Coughlin said. “Without some doctor or expert telling me what to think in terms of the amount of time out, I’m not going to speculate, but all these things end up being week-to-week and sometimes in these cases, it is longer than you think.”

Coughlin said he wasn’t going to think about whether to include the 30-year-old linebacker in the team’s plans for Week 1 against the Cowboys just yet. “I’m not going to speculate on that probably until we see how this week goes and how the doctors have a chance to work with him a few days and maybe then they will have a better opinion about that,” he said.

Beason is going to leave nothing to chance though. While he won’t be able to do the physical part of practice, he said he plans on increasing his film study and meetings with the coaches. He even hopes to do some of the walk-through work that isn’t as physically demanding in order to keep up with any new installs and fine-tunes made by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

“The thing that’s most frustrating is the reps in the new system, getting comfortable and getting my feet back underneath me, I feel like I was just starting to come into a zone where I felt comfortable coming into a zone in the scheme in terms of doing my job at a high level,” Beason said.

“The good thing about it is I’ve been down this road before and know how to prepare not necessarily being on the field.”

In the meantime, the Giants will turn to Jameel McClain to fill in for Beason in the middle. McClain held the same role last year when Beason was forced to miss 12 games due to a lingering toe issue.

“Jon will be alright and that situation will be what it’s going to be,” McClain said after the Jaguars game. “My goal is to always be ready and that’s what being a pro is at the end of the day.”


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