The Giants offense has been clicking of late, which is a far cry from the miscues that plagued it dating from the preseason to the team’s 0-2 start.
While quarterback Eli Manning will get a lion’s share of the credit for the turnaround, the recent two-game winning streak can also be attributed to the improving play of the once-maligned offensive line.
Left tackle Will Beatty, who is the elder-statesman of Big Blue’s reworked line, has suddenly turned around his season and become a consistent force on Manning’s blindside.
“I am playing real good. I don’t feel like I am playing at my best yet, though. There are still things I can improve [like] running blocks, downfield hitting and things like that. But I do feel good. I feel like [I’m] focused and just going out there each and every play, one at a time,” said Beatty. “It’s just us coming together, knowing the playbook, owning up to [mistakes] and going out there and performing as one rather than 11 guys as individuals. It was just that mode and process that we try to work through the five preseason games and still building on it.”
Beatty added the early season struggles weighed on his unit’s minds, but he was proud of the way they’ve overcome.
“The first game wasn’t the way we worked. Second game, we improved. Third game, we improved. Fourth game, we improved. Now we have to keep up that trend,” Beatty said. “I feel the chemistry [is] there. We just had to put it together, bake it and come out right [through] reps.”
The offensive line has been preparing for a Falcons squad that has had its own share of inconsistencies — particularly a hit-or-miss pass rush.
Atlanta’s pass rush is led by old friend Osi Umenyiora, who noted during his Wednesday conference call that the Giants’ recent success can be attributed to the stellar play by the offensive line. He particularly singled out his former teammate Beatty, partially – and half-jokingly — taking credit for the lineman’s success.
“Will Beatty has always been a very good player. He’s very competitive [and] very mature beyond his age, even when he first he came in. I think they have him rated as the best left tackle in football. He is playing very well. I am very happy for him, and I am proud to see the type of player he has become,” said Umenyiora. “I left last year, so obviously he didn’t have anybody pushing him [and] that is why his game kind of slipped a little bit. But now he looked on the schedule and he sees me on there and all of a sudden he is an All-Pro left tackle again, so I am going to take credit for that.”
Beatty had to chuckle at Umenyiora’s assessment, but gave props to the veteran for putting him through the ringer during his earlier years when he was a going against the Giants’ starting defense whenever he helped out with the scout team.
“I was on his scout side trying to make him better. Now I get to go against him and that feeling that this is what you look for. You look forward to the big games and the good match-ups,” said Beatty. “This is almost a division game for me going against him because of how well I know him. Let’s see how much he changed. I get to show him how much I changed and how much I grew.”
Although Umenyiora has been mainly relegated to a situational third-down pass-rusher as an outside linebacker in the Falcons’ 3-4 alignment, Beatty said it’ll still be a challenge in slowing down his friend because getting after the quarterback has always been what Umenyiora does best.
“Third down is a pass and you know his strengths. You want to keep it third and short. We are not changing our game plan by any means [and] we are not doing anything different,” said Beatty. “But we still as a unit have to make sure we run the ball effectively and keep those [situational] pass rushers off the field. Down and distance is key. We do those things, work together well, and we know it is going to be a good game and a good turnout.”
Big Blue notes …
»Umenyiora had a lot to say during his conference call, but when asked about his reduced role as being nothing more than a situational pass rusher — and playing out of position as a linebacker — he clammed up: “Do I like my role? I am just going to leave that one alone and move on to the next question. It’s OK, everything is all right.”
»A former two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants, Umenyiora has 82 1/2 career sacks. But in his new and unfamiliar role, he’s yet to add to that total this year. Umenyiora has been credited with six tackles this season, but he does not have any of the Falcons’ three sacks.
»Umenyiora’s head coach, Mike Smith, also didn’t have rave reviews about his overall defensive play or his veteran’s experience in his new role: “We haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to rush the passer. We have to do a better job stopping the run. When you don’t stop the run, it limits your opportunities to rush the passer. Osi is playing a role as a pass rusher in our defense this season. We haven’t given him enough at-bats to really have an opportunity to affect the game.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.