New York Giants: The Starting RB is Irrelevant Unless O-Line Improves 2
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25: Orleans Darkwa #26 of the New York Giants celebrates with Ereck Flowers #74 and Bobby Hart #68 after he scored a touchdown in the first half against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

It won’t matter who starts at halfback for the New York Giants if their offensive line continues to be a nagging liability.

With the NFL preseason now in full swing, many are anxious to see the New York Giants new-look offense. With the addition of veteran Brandon Marshall and rookie Evan Engram, the Giants passing attack is projected to be lethal. But their running game remains a massive question mark, mostly due to the inconsistent offensive line that remains present.

Last year, the Giants offensive line was its biggest liability. Whether it was the struggles of Bobby Hart and Ereck Flowers on the outside or Justin Pugh‘s midseason leg injury, the Giants line was incapable of being a reliable bunch for its offense in 2016.

By not holding their ground and at times being blown by, their line was unable to help establish any consistent run game. Finishing the year with the 4th fewest yards on the ground in the NFL, the Giants run game was immensely affected by their inconsistent line. And unless that core can improve this upcoming year, the Giants run game may face a similar fate as it did last season.

While they did sign former Chargers first rounder, D.J. Fluker, and drafted tackle, Adam Bisnowaty, neither lineman started in the Giants’ preseason opener Friday night; Flowers and Hart were on the outside, Pugh and John Jerry were at guard, and Weston Richburg manned the middle — the exact same starting line as last year.

Friday afternoon, the Giants offense got its first crack at going up against another defense not in blue and white. But despite the new-look faces present, the end result for the Giants run game was the same, if not worse.

Finishing the night with a total of 73 yards on 3.2 yards per carry, the Giants inability to rely on their run game continued to show. But was even more alarming was the limited output they received from projected starter, Paul Perkins.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 22: Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants hands off the ball to running back Paul Perkins #28 against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 22, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Rushing the ball a total five times for just three yards, the second-year back (Perkins) struggled to show any sort of improvement in the Giants preseason opener. While the knee-jerk reaction to his rough-go versus Pittsburgh could be to swap in Orleans Darkwa or even rookie Wayne Gallman, the reality is that it won’t matter who the lead back is as long as the Giants line cannot hold its own.

With the O-line additions that have been made, the Giants 4th ranked rushing unit should be able to produce at a higher level. But the issue is that the same starting line remains, regardless of the offseason maneuvers. The reasoning for that being the case is one of two scenarios: Either A) McAdoo thinks that his offensive line from last year can improve or B) they’re of the belief that neither offseason addition can make a bigger impact.

Whatever the reasoning is for the new faces not starting at the moment, the Giants need to find a way to improve their line. Whether that be swapping around the lineman they have or trying to execute a trade, change needs to transpire on their line, in terms of production; at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be much, as Friday night proved. If no change comes internally or from the outside, then the running game will only continue to be a liability — making it irrelevant who gets the starting reps at halfback.

Perkins appears to be the starting back, but after his disappointing showing versus Pittsburg, Darkwa or anyone else on the Giants depth chart could begin to receive more attention. But as long as their line continues to be unreliable, it won’t matter who starts at halfback.

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop - part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos