NFL Nation: J.D. Walton

Giants' positive approach rewarded

September, 21, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Giants' 30-17 victory over Houston:
    Kiwanuka
  • Tom Coughlin said the team talked all week and all day "about being positive, including me," and several players made mention of the coach's effort this past week to keep things light and upbeat in spite of the 0-2 start. He played music during practice and held a punt-catching contest Friday. "That's just a prime example of him being able to adjust to the team that he has," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "He's constantly making adjustments to try and get his team motivated, and this group responded."
  • Right tackle Justin Pugh said the offensive line was sick by the end of the week of hearing questions about how great Houston defensive end J.J. Watt was and how the Giants could stop him. "It's more fun with you guys here asking what we did to stop him," Pugh said.
  • Center J.D. Walton smiled and declined to answer when I asked him what happened with him and Watt after that one play in the second half when they were jawing at each other after the whistle. "Football," Walton said, smiling. I'd never seen him smile before, for what it's worth.

Giants have a problem at guard

August, 24, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In an offseason in which fixing the offensive line was the New York Giants' clear No. 1 priority, Geoff Schwartz was their first call.

They targeted Schwartz early and signed him as soon as free agency began. They viewed him not as a cure-all but as a foundation piece -- a reliable veteran whose presence at left guard would help make the rest of their line problems easier to solve.

So while injuries happen and you can't fault the Giants if Schwartz's toe injury keeps him out for a significant period of time, it is a major problem for them, and they may struggle more than you think to solve it.

Schwartz
 The "next man up," to borrow from strained NFL parlance, is rookie Weston Richburg, a second-round pick who played center in college but has been working throughout camp at guard behind Schwartz and Brandon Mosley. Richburg obviously has talent. There was some thought when he was drafted that he might be a better option at center than current projected starter J.D. Walton. But he's also a rookie, and even he admits he's not where he'd like to be at this point in his development.

"Oh, no," Richburg said Sunday morning. "If you're content with how you're playing, I think you're cheating yourself. I always want to get better. I made some mistakes in the last game that I know I need to correct."

He may have no choice but to correct them on the fly. The Giants don't like to lean on rookies as starters, but they showed last season with right tackle Justin Pugh that they will if they have no other choice. Pugh played well enough as a 16-game rookie starter that it worked out. Problem is, there's no guarantee that it will work out again. Even if Richburg is an eventual Pro Bowler, no one can be sure he'll develop as quickly as Pugh did.

"What I'm doing best right now is having a short memory," Richburg said. "If I make a mistake, just clap it off and go on to the next play and not let it affect me. I think I'm doing a good job of forgetting about it and just playing fast and continuing."

Great, but the issue is that the understandable rookie mistakes are happening, and that mistakes on the offensive line are hazardous to the health and effectiveness of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. This wouldn't be as serious a concern if left guard were the only spot at which there was concern. But the Giants have had pass-protection issues with Walton, Mosley and left tackle Will Beatty this preseason as well. Adding a still-green Richburg to the starting mix leaves Pugh as the surest commodity, and even he is a second-year player whose growing pains likely aren't all the way behind him. There are still talent evaluators around the league who view Pugh as a guard playing out of position and think the Giants' line will be better once he's moved inside, but at this point they don't have any better options at tackle.

No, the issue here continues to be depth, and that's a failing of the organization's offseason. They brought in John Jerry on the premise that he'd be a quality veteran backup should something happen at guard, yet after Chris Snee retired and Schwartz got hurt Jerry remains in a backup role while Richburg and Mosley line up with the starters. Charles Brown, signed as the veteran depth at tackle, played terribly in relief of Beatty early and is now hurt, which has resulted in Pugh having to take some left tackle snaps in practice with Mosley moved out to right tackle. Reserve guard/center Eric Herman is suspended for four games, and reserve guard/tackle James Brewer is hurt.

It's thin, folks, and it's still very thin at the interior positions that were supposed to be upgraded this year. There's a lot of book from last year on how easy and effective it is to pressure Manning from the A-gap, and if the Giants don't get things figured out in there, defenses aren't going to need to alter last year's plan very much to beat them. After all the work that was done in the offseason, the Giants' biggest 2014 problem may end up being exactly the same as the one that sunk them in 2013.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For all of the very legitimate concern over the condition of Odell Beckham Jr.'s hamstring, the more pressing matter for the New York Giants with the season coming up quickly now is the state of the offensive line. The regular season begins in less than three weeks, and the Giants are still searching for the right starting-five combination of offensive linemen.

What's worse, the preseason has given them some reason to question whether they really are deeper on the line than they were during last season's meltdown.

The first-team line for Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis was Will Beatty at left tackle, Geoff Schwartz at left guard, J.D. Walton at center, Brandon Mosley at right guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle. That's what it's been in practice since training camp started, and I think the Giants' ideal plan would be to feel good enough about that line to run it out there Week 1 in Detroit.

Problem is, Mosley has been inconsistent, Schwartz struggled a bit Saturday and Beatty's still recovering from (A) a broken leg and (B) a poor season, so they can't know what they have with him yet. He still needs to take practice reps off, and he did again Tuesday.

Now, the fill-in for Beatty earlier in camp was veteran Charles Brown, but he's got a shoulder injury now and was playing poorly even when healthy. With backup tackle James Brewer also hurt, the Giants tried something interesting Tuesday when Beatty had to come off the field. They moved Pugh from right tackle to left tackle, kicked Mosley out to right tackle and put rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg at right guard.

"They're all playing pretty much everywhere," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You always attempt to be creative and flexible."

The goal is to find the best combination of five and let it play and jell together. But it seems clear at this point that the Giants don't feel they've done that yet. They could elevate Richburg, who's played both guard spots and center this camp, to starting guard in place of Mosley and put him and Schwartz on either side, really. If they ended up having to move Pugh to left tackle, they could play Schwartz at right tackle, where he has some experience, and keep Mosley and Richburg as the guards. Richburg could yet overtake Walton at center, which is the position he played in college.

What's disappointing, after a year in which they scrambled for depth on the line, is the backup situation. Brown was terrible at left tackle, and John Jerry has been a non-factor so far at guard. These were the veterans the Giants signed with the hope that they'd have more experience behind the starters this year than they did last year. Brewer hasn't developed and is on the roster bubble. Promising guard/center Eric Herman is suspended for the first four games of the season for a drug violation. Injuries to starters on the offensive line have a chance to put the Giants right back where they were when it all fell apart early last season. And in case you don't remember, that wasn't good.

Some other thoughts from Tuesday's practice:
  • This was a "cards" day, with time spent in preparation for Friday's preseason opponent, the Jets, specifically. So for much of practice, for example, the Giants' offense was running Jets plays. Eli Manning in the pistol, etc. And there were times when it was the defense's job to simulate Rex Ryan's exotic blitz schemes. This is the one preseason game for which the Giants devise a game plan, and it'll be interesting to see whether that helps the first-team offense look better.
  • Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard managed to tip and pick off a Manning pass in 7-on-7 drills while the defense was in a Jets-specific look. He's a fun player to watch in practice, though the special-teams coaches continue to work with him on technique on the coverage teams.
  • The Giants have tried the past couple of days to get Mario Manningham more looks on the outside at wide receiver to evaluate him and his balky knee. He does not seem to be performing at a high level. You wonder whether they will start using Victor Cruz outside more if they're not going to have Beckham to start the season, or whether they'll leave Cruz in the slot and use someone like Marcus Harris or Corey Washington on the outside.

Giants Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. continues to make significant progress from the hamstring injury that has held him out of practice since the first day of camp. The team's first-round pick even took a couple of snaps Wednesday in 11-on-11 drills and caught a touchdown pass on one of them. Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't even rule out the possibility that Beckham could play in Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis, though I have to think that's a long shot and that next Friday against the Jets is more likely.
  • Coughlin said left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride, who have been practicing but didn't play in the first two preseason games as part of the plan for their recoveries from offseason surgery, would play Saturday. He said to expect Beatty to play about as much as a starting offensive lineman would play in a first preseason game of the year. For comparison's sake, Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton played 20 snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and right tackle Justin Pugh played 24.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond continues to dazzle, and I have to think it will be a huge relief for Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz to go up against whoever the Detroit Lions are using as a nickel cornerback Sept. 8 in Detroit. Thurmond's highlight plays Wednesday included a pass breakup on which he had tight end Larry Donnell blanketed over the middle and a stop on running back Rashad Jennings when Jennings caught a pass in the flat.
  • Other highlight plays: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard knocking rookie running back Andre Williams to the ground in the backfield on a run play; Rueben Randle's acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in one-on-one goal-line drills; Rookie cornerback Bennett Jackson ripping the ball out of wide receiver Travis Harvey's hands at the end of a long pass play; Interceptions of Curtis Painter by Mark Herzlich and Chandler Fenner in early team drills.
  • Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan was back at practice after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with a knee injury. New to the list of injured players sitting out practice was cornerback Zack Bowman (unclear what his injury was). Also sitting out were running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring), tight end Daniel Fells (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder).
  • Cruz, who had some knee issues in practice this week, seemed completely fine and appeared to do everything in Wednesday's relatively short practice.
  • Though they will continue to practice here next week as they have been, Thursday marks the final official day of Giants training camp. That means Thursday's 1:20 pm practice will be the final practice of the year that is open to the public. So take off work and come out to say hi. Tell your boss I said it was okay.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants right guard Brandon Mosley pulled left and helped center J.D. Walton open up what Rashad Jennings would later call a "gaping hole." Jennings ran through it and all the way to the end zone, 73 yards for a touchdown on the Giants' second possession of Saturday night's 20-16 exhibition victory over the Steelers.

It was a beautifully designed and executed play. It was all the Giants' first-team offense did well.

Eli Manning was on the field for 12 snaps and threw two passes, completing neither. The Giants' new offense remains a work in progress with 30 days to go until their "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit.

Some other thoughts on the Giants' second preseason game:
  • You want to know who's leading the race for starting tight end? The Giants ran 26 offensive plays in the first half, and Larry Donnell was on the field for 25 of them. The only other tight end who even played in the first half was Kellen Davis, who was in on four plays, all of which also included Donnell. I think the Giants would like to be able to give Daniel Fells a longer look, but he is injured and did not play. Adrien Robinson is doing nothing in practice to help himself.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley, the team's third-round pick, looked good in the second half against the Steelers' backup line, getting into the backfield to snuff out a run play and putting pressure on the quarterback.
  • Cornerback Charles James muffed a punt in the third quarter -- not the kind of thing that's going to help the feisty return man make a team that has this many good cornerbacks. Preston Parker replaced him on the next punt return.
  • The "NASCAR" package of four pass-rushers on third downs featured Cullen Jenkins and Robert Ayers at defensive tackle, with Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul at end when the first team was in the game.
  • The Giants were flagged for 10 penalties for a total of 109 yards. Of those, two were Jayron Hosley pass-interference penalties of 12 and 47 yards. Zack Bowman was called for illegal contact and Mark Herzlich was called for defensive holding (though he wasn't on the field that play, so it's unclear which Giants defender was flagged). Bennett Jackson received a five-yard holding call. And Prince Amukamara was whistled for an illegal-contact penalty that was declined. Giants defensive backs continue to struggle with the new rules/points of emphasis governing illegal downfield contact.
  • Amukamara made a great play to run down speedy Pittsburgh rookie Dri Archer on a 46-yard screen pass that looked to be a sure touchdown. It's the second time in two games Amukamara has shown the speed to keep up with a touted rookie, as he covered Buffalo's Sammy Watkins well Sunday night.
  • Jerrel Jernigan struggled badly with the first-team offense, and the Giants are eager for rookie Odell Beckham Jr. to get healthy and take over that spot.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We got to talk to New York Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty on Friday, and it was excellent. He told us a story about how his father taught him to play center by having him practice in front of a huge oak tree that he'd have to jump up and hit every time he snapped the ball. It was horrifying and awesome all at the same time. I would like to talk to Pat Flaherty every day if possible, but it's not, so we enjoy what we get.

Also, I know most of you would rather hear about what is going on with the New York Giants' offensive line than what Flaherty did to that oak tree (or what that oak tree did to him). So here's a spot-by-spot breakdown of some stuff Flaherty said Friday:

Left tackle

Beatty
Beatty
Will Beatty has practiced a lot more than anyone expected he would coming off the broken leg he suffered in Week 17 last season. Beatty also has a bit more of an edge to him when he talks to you this summer. Not a ton, mind you. He's still mild-mannered Will. But he definitely seems extra motivated to get back out on the field and show what he can do. And the coaches have noticed.

"Will Beatty's working, and anytime you're at work playing football and putting the pads on, you're going to get better," Flaherty said. "The thing we don't have to have happen is regression with his rehab, but he's handling both things very well, as expected. He's got a ways to go, but he's progressing more now than he would by standing on the sidelines talking to me."

Beatty is coming off not just a broken leg but a rotten 2013 season in general. He signed a long-term contract extension with the team prior to last season and admitted late in the season that the pressure of it affected him.

Schwartz
"He's not that player," Flaherty said of the 2013 version of Beatty. "That starts with me coaching. To be able to coach somebody, he has to be out there on the practice field. If he's not out there practicing the day-to-day drills, then that sets him back and affects your technique on Sundays. Your flaws get magnified. That's what happend last year. This year, we'll see. He's attacking and making sure it doesn't happen again."

Left guard

Geoff Schwartz is a proud, beaming father who misses his newborn baby but looks forward to seeing him again when the family comes to town following the Aug. 3 Hall of Fame Game. The free-agent signee projects as one of the few sure things on this line. Flaherty didn't address him to any significant extent during his news conference.

Center

Walton
J.D. Walton is getting the first-team snaps ahead of rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg, and the sense I get is that the Giants are happy with Walton so far. The center is tasked with more responsibility in the new offense this year in terms of making the protection calls, and Walton told me it's been the toughest thing for him to learn. But Flaherty seems to think he's made a breakthrough. Walton missed the past two seasons with an ankle injury, and Flaherty was asked whether Walton was still shaking off rust.

"If he was rusty, I think he's had some WD-40, because he's out there greasing pretty good, each and every day," Flaherty said. "Was there mental rust? Was there physical rust? Probably. But I don't see rust anymore. He just has to go out and play. He's excited about the opportunity."

So is Richburg, who has been working at both center and right guard but is a rookie. The Giants think he's great, and drafted him in large part because of their belief that he could handle the center's responsibility in their new offense. But 2013 Justin Pugh notwithstanding, they don't rush rookies here.

"If and when Weston continues to develop, he's going to be a very good offensive lineman," Flaherty said. "But he's got to get in there and grow into that position. There's a sense of urgency about being able to grow into a position, and the only way you're going to be able to do that is if you have an opportunity to play."

Hence, all of the extra reps for the rookie at two positions. If Richburg dazzles the Giants at both, he improves his chances of winning one of the two starting spots.

Right guard

Mosley
With Chris Snee having retired Monday, this is wide open. Flaherty is a fan of John Jerry, but Jerry is still quite limited as he works his way back from knee surgery. So Brandon Mosley has been running with the first team at right guard.

"He has to be consistent," Flaherty said. "Somewhere in your career as a player, you have to get off the waves, and that's the point he's at. There will always be peaks and valleys, but you need to have more peaks than valleys. You have to be consistent as an offensive lineman. (Thursday) I saw more consistency. Those guys are pretty good that we're blocking in practice -- Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins. They're as good as there are in the league, and that's a great challenge for a guy like Brandon Mosley."

Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the defensive tackles who await the Giants in Week 1 in Detroit, might dispute Flaherty's assessment. But if Mosley takes advantage of his opportunity, he could get a shot at those guys Sept. 8.

Right tackle

Pugh
After starting 16 games as a rookie in 2013, Pugh projects as the starter at right tackle once again. Flaherty says he's told Pugh that he believes he wasn't 100 percent physically last season and that he needed to get into the weight room and hit it hard this offseason. Pugh apparently took that advice.

"It started in the weight room," Flaherty said. "His approach these past few months, starting back in February, has been a difference. I saw it for the first time when he came back. He was stronger. He weighs more, but more importantly he's stronger. And what he has between his ears in terms of wanting to be good, that's always going to be there. He wants to be the best at his position."
New York GiantsAl Bello/Getty ImagesAfter a disastrous 2013 season for the Giants offensive line, did the team do enough in the offseason to upgrade?
The New York Giants will arrive at the gates of the 2014 season as great an unknown as any team in the league. An offseason of change has brought a new offensive coordinator and a dozen new starters. And while there's little doubt that change and rosterwide upgrades were needed after last season's 7-9 flop, the amount of change the Giants have undergone brings with it a flurry of questions.

By this point in the offseason, those questions have grown familiar: Can Eli Manning bounce back from the worst season of his career? What will the new offense look like? Can young receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. make a major 2014 impact? How will the running back rotation shake out? Who in the heck is going to play tight end? Is there enough leadership left in the locker room? Can Tom Coughlin and the coaching staff get it all to mesh together in such a short period of time?

All good, important, worthwhile questions. But I'd argue that not one of them matters nearly as much as this one:

Did the Giants do enough to fix their offensive line?

Tell me the 2013 Giants had a lot of problems and I won't say you're wrong. I was there for all 16 games. They were awful. Much worse, I believe, than their final 7-9 record would indicate. But there's no question that, of their myriad problems, the offensive line was the biggest and most devastating. Everything else can be traced to the meltdown on the line.

Sure, David Wilson was an early-season fumbler and he and Andre Brown got hurt. But even if he'd held onto the ball and they'd stayed healthy, there were no holes for Giants backs to run through unless they were playing the Bears or the Raiders. Flanking Jim Cordle with Kevin Boothe and 2013 David Diehl is no way to push the pile.

And, yeah, you can argue that part of Manning's job is to overcome adversity and raise the level of play of those around him. But even the best quarterbacks need at least some time to do that stuff, and Manning's pass protection was cripplingly bad last year. The Carolina Panthers sacked him six times in the first 17 minutes of the Week 3 loss in Charlotte. It's easy for you and me to say a guy should do more to rise above his circumstances. It's quite another to actually do it when your circumstances include defensive linemen running next to you during your drops.

The point is that the biggest and most important of the Giants' 2014 unknowns is that offensive line, which still has legitimate question marks at all five positions. To wit:

Left tackle: Even before breaking his leg in the season finale, Will Beatty was having a bad enough season that he was soul-searching in December. Beatty has got to get right physically and mentally if he's to justify his contract and keep Manning from playing legitimately scared again all season.

[+] EnlargeGeoff Schwartz
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants added former Chief Geoff Schwartz to take over the left guard spot.
Left guard: Upgrading from Boothe to Geoff Schwartz in free agency was a solid move, and Schwartz should be fine. The only reason he's a question mark is that he's new and people don't always do well in new surroundings. There's nothing about Schwartz specifically to engender concern, but until we know for sure ...

Center: Is it J.D. Walton, who hasn't played in two years because of an ankle injury? Is it second-round pick Weston Richburg, who's a rookie? Regardless of which is the answer, will it be good enough? The player at center has more responsibility in this new offense than he did in the old one, and Manning has no prior relationship with either of these guys.

Right guard: Chris Snee is back, and he says he feels great. The question here is whether his surgically repaired hips will allow him to last and play with the same fierceness that characterized the prime of his career. If Snee is what he used to be, this could be the key to the whole line. If he struggles, then they have the same problem they had last year, except with John Jerry as the fallback plan instead of Diehl.

Right tackle: Justin Pugh played well for a rookie and offered reason for hope. He says his footwork improved as the season went on, and the Giants' hope is that he continues to make the necessary improvements. If he has a sophomore slump, that brings up a fresh question mark on which they aren't currently counting.

You can make the argument that this year's starting group looks more talented than the one with which the Giants started the 2013 season -- especially if this year's version of Snee is healthy, which last year's was not. But what remains to be seen is how they'll play together and how they'll all hold up. More than any other item on the Giants' list of offseason questions, the answer to this one will determine how much the team can improve over last season.
We get to watch the New York Giants' OTA practice Thursday, but they had one Wednesday, and the team's official website has a report on some of what happened there. You can read the whole thing here, but here are some of the more noteworthy items:

David Wilson was practicing. Wilson still hasn't been cleared for contact, as far as we know, following last season's neck surgery. The Giants have said they are optimistic that he will be, but they've also said they have to prepare as though he won't be, just in case. But it has to be taken as a good sign that he's working in these late-May non-contact drills. Giants.com reports that Wilson worked as a running back and a return man Wednesday.

Eli Manning was practicing. As we discussed earlier. The Giants' team site reports that Manning "put in a full day" and took first-team snaps.

The offensive line alignment. Apparently, the first-team offensive line was, from left tackle to right, James Brewer, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Chris Snee and Justin Pugh. No surprise that Walton, who signed before Weston Richburg was drafted and has been practicing in the new offense longer, gets first crack at starting center. But there will be a camp battle there. Mild surprise that Brewer and not Charles Brown was the starting left tackle in place of rehabbing Will Beatty. Richburg worked at right tackle with the second-string offensive line, next to Dallas Reynolds at center. But make no mistake, the Giants used an early second-round pick on Richburg because they liked him at center. And while they'd like to know whether they can count on him as guard insurance, center is the position at which they plan to use him.

Giants offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the New York Giants' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeGeoff Schwartz
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants knew they needed help on the offensive line, so signing Geoff Schwartz was a move in the right direction.
Best move: Signed to start at left guard after a season in which the interior of the Giants' offensive line crumbled completely and decimated the offense, Geoff Schwartz will be an immediate upgrade at a key position and should help the run game as well as Eli Manning's protection in the passing game. The Giants needed to make the offensive line a priority, and signing Schwartz at the start of free agency showed that they understood that.

Riskiest move: Letting defensive tackle Linval Joseph leave for Minnesota in free agency. Joseph is still just 25 years old -- younger than any free agent the Giants signed. He and Justin Tuck (who left and signed with the Raiders) were the Giants' two best defensive linemen in 2013. The Giants are hoping 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins can fill Joseph's shoes, but letting him go risked leaving the Giants too thin on the defensive line -- a position of renowned strength during their last two Super Bowls.

Most surprising move: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and in general the amount of free-agent attention the Giants paid to cornerback. They spent big to acquire Rodgers-Cromartie and also signed Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman at Trumaine McBride. They obviously needed to replace Corey Webster (who they should have replaced last offseason), but the extent to which they beefed up at the position was surprising for a team that appeared to need more help on offense than on defense.

Draft pick impact: First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. has a chance to make a rookie-year contribution as Hakeem Nicks' replacement at wide receiver if he can learn the offense quickly. Ditto second-round pick Weston Richburg, who has a chance to beat out J.D. Walton for the starting center job. And fourth-round pick Andre Williams, who led all of college football in rushing yards last year at Boston College, could get into the mix early at running back. The Giants are counting on their draft picks to help fill holes on the offensive side.

New York Giants draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
May 10
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NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A wrap-up of the New York Giants' draft. Click here for a full list of Giants draftees.

[+] EnlargeWeston Richburg
AP Photo/G.M. AndrewsWeston Richburg, a center out of Colorado State, should be in a good position to compete for the Giants' starting job this season.
Best move: The Giants addressed an immediate and long-term need with the selection of Colorado State center Weston Richburg with the 11th pick of the second round. Richburg played multiple positions and in a variety of different offensive schemes in college, and his versatility, athleticism and intelligence make him a strong fit for the center spot in the Giants' new Ben McAdoo offense. I don't see any reason he can't beat out J.D. Walton for the job right away, and having a center who can handle a variety of responsibilities before the snap and after it should help the offensive line play on either side of him. Richburg's play can also offer the Giants a number of ways to jump-start a running game that never got going in 2013.

Riskiest move: The selection of LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with the 12th pick of the draft isn't "risky" in the traditional sense -- meaning, I don't think he's a threat to be a bust. I think Beckham is likely to be a very good player for the Giants. But passing on offensive lineman Zack Martin for a potential game-breaking receiver was a risky move. The Giants have let the offensive line decay too much in recent years, and Beckham's ability to separate from defenders isn't going to help them much if the line can't get the play blocked and Eli Manning doesn't have time to get him the ball. The Richburg selection mitigates things somewhat, but adding a first-round talent to the offensive line mix was the best move the Giants could have made in this draft, and they chose not to make it. There's a decent chance that will come back to bite them.

Most surprising move: It was surprising that Boston College running back Andre Williams was still available for the Giants in the fourth round, but it's not surprising they took him. He'll fill a role right away as a power back who can fight for tough yards in the middle of the line -- doing the dirty work while Rashad Jennings and maybe David Wilson get the highlight-reel work. The biggest surprise was the selection of Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley in the third round, with the No. 74 pick. This was a clear reach for a player who mainly had fifth- and sixth-round grades. And, although the Giants cited his 10 sacks from an interior line position in his senior season and the fact he was a team captain as support for the pick, even Bromley said he was shocked to be picked on the draft's second day.

File it away: San Diego State safety Nat Berhe was the Giants' pick in the fifth round, at No. 152. It's the second year in a row they took a safety with the No. 152 pick (Cooper Taylor in 2013). Berhe was also a reach but also a team captain/leader type, like almost everyone they picked. Scouting director Marc Ross said the Giants can envision Berhe as a hybrid safety in what Ross called a "Deon Grant role" in the defense. He wasn't necessarily talking about this year, but if Berhe develops, he could have a path to playing time. Taylor is the only Giants safety under contract beyond 2014 at this point. Antrel Rolle is in his final year; Stevie Brown is coming off ACL surgery; and Will Hill is facing a third drug suspension in as many years.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The fast and furious action in the second and third rounds of the NFL draft Friday night didn't leave us much time to delve into the New York Giants' second-round pick, but Weston Richburg is worth some Saturday morning delving. So let's delve, shall we?

Richburg was the 43rd pick in this year's draft, and there is little doubt he'll be expected to compete for (and likely win) the starting center's job this spring and summer. His top competition right now is free-agent addition J.D. Walton, who hasn't played since September of 2012 due to an ankle injury.

[+] EnlargeWeston Richburg
AP Photo/G.M. Andrews"He can pull, he can block the zone schemes and he makes all the calls," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of second-round pick Weston Richburg.
"He can pull, he can block the zone schemes and he makes all the calls," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "The center position here for us is one of responsibility in terms of dictating to the rest of the offensive line exactly how the scheme is going to go. This guy will fit right in in terms of that."

Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese both said the center's responsibility for handling line and protection calls will increase under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross said Richburg scored an impressive 31 on the Wonderlic test and impressed the Giants in his combine interview with his intelligence. The idea that they're excited about Richburg as a potential starter says less about Walton, who himself was a not-too-shabby 80th overall pick in the 2010 draft and would have projected as the Giants' starting center if they hadn't addressed the position in the draft, than it does about Richburg himself.

The decision-makers raved about Richburg's athleticism, which apparently also will be an asset in the new McAdoo offense, and his durability. Coughlin couldn't wait to tell the story of how Richburg broke his right hand in 2012 and played the final game snapping with his left hand while his right was in a club cast.

"Yeah, that's something I take a lot of pride in," a proud Richburg said when asked about that story. "You don't see a lot of guys who can do that."

The Giants' execs pointed out that Richburg was a team captain who didn't miss any games in college. Richburg said it was important to him to be the first center taken in the draft (as he was). And in general, there's nothing not to like about the guy at this point. Even if the Giants really were comfortable with the idea of Walton as their starting center, they recognized that they needed to re-stock with top talent on the offensive line. Richburg helps them do that, and at a position where there may be an opportunity to start right away.

"Last year, we had a couple of injuries early on the offensive line and it was pretty devastating," Reese said, accurately. "We had to bring in some guys that struggled some at those positions, so we're trying to make sure we have enough depth at every position. This guy will help provide that for us."

The Giants have overhauled the interior of their offensive line, which was extinction-level bad in 2013. Left guard Kevin Boothe signed with the Raiders, right guard David Diehl retired and they released center David Baas. They signed free agent Geoff Schwartz to start at left guard, Walton for center and John Jerry for a reserve role, and they're hoping Chris Snee can make a healthy return from hip surgery at right guard. Richburg is the latest move in their effort to make sure they don't get caught short with underprepared guys at those spots if injuries happen again.
video The pick: Weston Richburg, center, Colorado State

My take: It's good that they took an offensive lineman. It would have been irresponsible and negligent for them not to do so. They should have taken one in the first round and chose not to, and with Richburg, they get a center with whom they spent a great deal of time prior to the draft and whom they likely think can start for them early in his career, possibly right away.

As we discussed Thursday, the Giants lock in on a player they like and they take him. That's how they do business. And this is a pick that fills a short-term and long-term need. He's a good player who can help them. However, was he the best offensive lineman available here? Could they have moved down and still drafted him? Could they have waited until the third round? You'd like to think so, and if tackles Morgan Moses and Cyrus Kouandjio were better players, I'd have advocated taking them even though they play tackle, which is not as obvious an immediate need. The point is to improve the overall talent level on the line with elite players or close-to-elite players, and they can sort them out later. They might have reached a bit here, but as was the case Thursday with Odell Beckham Jr., they found a player they liked and grabbed him.

Path to playing time: The Giants released center David Baas earlier in the offseason and signed former Broncos center J.D. Walton, who was projected as the starting center prior to this pick. I'd have to think the Giants would give Richburg a chance to win the starting job in camp, though they did go into this draft thinking they could go with Walton if they didn't find anything better, so they could also give him time. The Giants generally don't like to throw rookies right into starting roles, but last year's first-round pick, Justin Pugh, started 16 games at right tackle as a rookie and performed well.

What's next: The Giants hold the 10th pick in the third round (No. 74 overall) later tonight and could still find good value on the offensive or defensive lines, where they continue to need to stockpile talent. I don't expect them to hunt for a tight end or a running back tonight. Safety is a possibility if they find one they like at the spot. They have four picks tomorrow -- a fourth-rounder, two fifth-rounders and a sixth-rounder.
You ask the questions (and use the #nygmail hashtag) on Twitter, I answer them here. And we all have a lovely weekend.
 
You've got questions, I've got answers. Especially if you used the #nygmail hashtag with your question on Twitter.
 
The New York Giants hold the No. 12 pick in the 2014 NFL draft following their 7-9 season. The Giants have been the NFL's most active team so far in free agency, signing a total of 13 free agents, including 13 from outside their own organization. They have filled a lot of holes, but that doesn't mean they are without needs both immediate and long-term.

Mel Kiper's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out today. If you're an Insider, you have access to the three-round mock and will see that his first-round pick for the Giants fills a glaring present-day hole with a pick that could bring long-term benefits as well.

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