EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was optimism in recent days that New York Giants center Weston Richburg would return from a concussion in the next few weeks. Then suddenly he landed on injured reserve a day before they faced the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium.
It opens the door for the Giants to receive an extended look at Brett Jones at center. Richburg, who has been the team’s starting center since he was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, and Jones are both set to become free agents this offseason.
The Giants know what Richburg can do. They’ve been impressed with Jones in his three starts at center since Richburg suffered the concussion and are about to find out whether he can hold up over an extended period the rest of this season.
Richburg was placed on IR Saturday so the Giants could elevate cornerback Tim Scott from the practice squad. They didn’t have many roster options with their inactive list all but set with six players ruled out by injury and third-string quarterback Davis Webb a regular not to dress. The Giants needed an extra cornerback with only four on the active roster and Donte Deayon questionable after rolling his ankle at Thursday's practice.
So the Giants likely ended the season of their starting center to create a roster spot for a cornerback who is likely to have a one-week stint on the active roster? Call it a curious move, at best. They could've sacrificed a defensive lineman for the roster spot, but instead decided to likely end their starting center's season.
It's highly unlikely Scott sticks on the active roster. Janoris Jenkins is expected back next week from suspension. He was disciplined earlier in the week when he failed to show for Monday’s practice or even provide an explanation to anyone in the organization for his absence.
It has been that kind of season for the 1-6 Giants, who seem to be in evaluation mode prior to the midway point of this disappointing season.
Jones, 26, was the Canadian Football League’s Rookie of the Year and Offensive Lineman of the Year before signing with the Giants prior to the 2015 season. He’s impressed with the mental part of his game. Several of his teammates considered him the smartest player in the huddle recently. The coaches have been impressed as well.
“Yeah. I think, you know, obviously, Brett prepares very well,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “He’s a smart player. He’s cerebral. Studies the game. He’s physical. Plays with good pad level and he has some thickness to him and he finishes.”
The Giants running game has also improved since Jones and D.J. Fluker have been inserted into the lineup, although the coaches consistently say it’s not one player when it comes to the offensive line. Jones has a sub-par 50.5 Pro Football Focus grade out of 100 this season, including 45.2 as a run blocker. Richburg was at 71.3 overall and 71.8 as a run blocker.
Jones may be filling in adequately, but talent evaluators around the league don’t consider them on the same level. But what this does is give the Giants time to collect a bigger sample size on Jones. He is going to be their starting center now for the final nine games and will likely come at a much cheaper price tag this offseason than Richburg, a proven center that one pro personnel scout called a “good player.” Another NFL executive considered Richburg, along with Justin Pugh, also an impending free agent, easily the Giants’ best linemen.
The Giants will be without both Richburg and Pugh (back) on Sunday. It will be an opportunity for Jones, right tackle Bobby Hart and the rest of a questionable offensive line to impress as evaluation mode appears to be in full progress.