2013 was a disastrous season for the New York Giants along the offensive line. They were never able to get on the same page, as injuries caused chemistry and performance problems right from the start. The Giants made the offensive line a focus of the 2014 offseason, signing Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Charles Brown, John Jerry and most recently claiming Rogers Gaines on waivers. They did not stop there, as they used their second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on Weston Richburg, center from Colorado State.
Richburg fills a major need for the Giants — a youth infusion along the offensive line. For too long, the Giants relied on older veterans without refilling the pipeline along the offensive line with younger players. Richburg now makes it two consecutive seasons the Giants used a high draft pick on a lineman after drafting Justin Pugh in the first round last season. The need for a constant, productive player on the inside of the offensive line has been the something the Giants have had for a long time, and Richburg looks like the one to fix it.
He gets into position well, using his good timed speed and long arms to his advantage. He also fits perfectly into the zone-blocking scheme that new offensive coordinator Bob McAdoo is expected to deploy. The familiarity with the scheme McAdoo wants to run is a big reason why the Giants used such a high draft pick on Richburg.
Walton is the player standing in Richburg’s way of starting right away at center. Walton was signed about a month prior to Richburg being drafted, so he is a little ahead of the curve in learning the new offense and jelling with his teammates. Through OTAs thus far, Walton has been running with the first-team offensive line while Richburg has been on the second-team.
Kind of surprisingly, Richburg has not been practicing at center on the second-team. Instead he has been playing guard, with Dallas Reynolds taking the reps at center. While Richburg projects by some people at guard down the road, he will not be a help to the Giants at guard for a couple of seasons. He needs to work on his physicality to succeed at guard, so his success in his rookie season and in the beginning of his career will come at center.
Richburg’s ability to play multiple positions speaks to his high football IQ, and it could also be the reason he doesn’t start. The battle between him and Walton for the starting center spot will most likely last through OTAs and much of training camp, but it is something the Giants need to figure out quickly.
The offensive line is a unit that needs to be cohesive and on the same page, so it is imperative the Giants figure out their first unit sooner rather than later. Richburg will push Walton for the starting spot, but if he does not make it right out of the gate the Giants will have a versatile player at their disposal to come off the bench. It is only a matter of time until Richburg is on the field when it matters most for the Giants.