Shaun O’Hara missed his third day of practice as he took treatment on his left ankle and Achilles, and was listed as doubtful after Friday's practice.
With O'Hara missing the last real practice of the week, it's all but certain that someone else will have to handle the exchange between the center and Eli Manning. But whether that’s Rich Seubert, moving over from left guard, or seldom-used Adam Koets moving in at center on a one-for-one swap, the fact remains that O’Hara’s replacement will have to be spur the Giants’ line to block bigger on the run than the past two games.
So far, the blocking has looked soft at times. Were it not for Ahmad Bradshaw’s cutback ability, the Giants might have had far less than the 238 yards and a touchdown they’ve accumulated to date.
Part of the reason was the concussion-caused absence of tight end Kevin Boss, who really is an adequate run blocker when he’s not getting cheap-shotted on passes over the middle. His return this week against the Titans will only help.
But from tackle to tackle, the once-ferocious line has appeared to have softened with age. They don’t seem to have the same push, especially in the early going, when it’s important to establish a solid ground game. Even Tom Coughlin alluded to that in his day-after press conference from opening week, saying they needed more ground production in the first half. Against the Panthers, Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs totaled only eight first-half yards on 13 rushes. The Giants would finish that game with 118 total rushing yards. And that was with O’Hara in there.
The next week found a better running game as Bradshaw and Jacobs got 50 of their 58 first-half ground yards. But the Colts still played the run effectively enough that they were tough, basically meaningless yards.
Now, Coughlin is faced with a tough Titans front of Jason Babin, Jason Jones, Troy Brown, and Dave Ball, and a middle linebacker in Stephen Tulloch who highlight Tennessee’s top-ranked overall defense. And he'll probably have to choose between changing just one position with Koets, the more likely option, or fiddling with two spots if he moves Seubert over and replaces the guard spot with Shawn Andrews But Andrews has spent most of the last two weeks taking snaps at tackle, so it would be hard to move even the former Pro Bowl guard back there on short notice.
Even if O'Hara were to drag himself onto the field Sunday -- a distant possibility right now -- Coughlin said it would be tough for the 11th-year veteran to be effective off zero practice time. The Giants have seen that situation before, and even survived it. But that was mostly with skill position players. And even then, it was far from an ideal way to go into a game.
“It’s tough. There are people which have done it (missed time and played),” Coughlin sad. “Plaxico (Burress) did it (in 2007), (Ahmad) Bradshaw did it (last year). But there’s always something missing from your game when that happens and you need the work.”
The bright spot is that if Koets is called upon, he at least has his extensive experience from preseason. He started the finale and played at least a half in the other three.
“I think we felt that Adam has been playing well enough that he deserved the chance to start because by doing that, we’ve made (fewer) overall changes,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “Rather than changing three, you’re changing one. If we didn’t think he could do the job or he hadn’t been playing well when we’ve asked him to do it, you couldn’t make that decision, but he’s earned it. We’re optimistic that he’s going to play well and confident that he will. We’ll see.”
Whether Koets or Seubert are in there, the one underlying issue will be how physical the overall run blocking will be. Perhaps a pair of fresh legs like Koets will solve that problem.