EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — It’s time to start worrying about the New York Giants’ offensive line.
With two weeks to go until the season opener at Detroit on Sept. 8, the unit is undergoing a major change in the wake of guard Geoff Schwartz’s foot injury. The free agent dislocated a toe in Friday night’s preseason win over the Jets, and it is likely that the high-priced free agent is going to be sidelined indefinitely.
So what happens now?
Second-round draft pick Weston Richburg replaced Schwartz at left guard at practice on Sunday, but the concern isn’t whether he can do the job.
The concern is across the board in a season where the Giants (4-0) are revamping the line. Guard Chris Snee retired at the start of training camp. Fellow guard Kevin Boothe was lost to free agency and tackle Will Beatty is returning after breaking his right leg in the final regular-season game last season.
Newcomer J.D. Walton is starting at center after missing the past two seasons with a major ankle injury. That leaves second-year pro Justin Pugh as the only returnee with no baggage.
It’s not the type of experience one would hope to have on the line which is adjusting to a new offense under coordinator Ben McAdoo. In the past three preseason games, the first-team offense has scored two touchdowns.
“You always want consistency, obviously, in your play,” halfback Rashad Jennings said Sunday. “You want as much consistency as you can in the personnel. With rotating, that doesn’t change the expectations. It doesn’t change how we communicate. Everybody’s capable of getting the job done. That’s just something that’s a part of football and we’re going to knock that wall down.”
The new line will get a short test Thursday in the preseason finale against the New England Patriots (2-1) at MetLife Stadium. The first team usually plays only a series or two before turning its attention to the opener.
It’s doubtful that coach Tom Coughlin would change plans to get the line more action.
Having Richburg in the starting lineup against the Lions would not be a surprise. While drafted as a center out of Colorado State, Coughlin and line coach Pat Flaherty have given him plenty of work at both guard positions in recent weeks.
He played well after Schwartz was hurt in the second quarter and was in the lineup when the Giants scored a touchdown late in the second quarter against the Jets.
“What I’m doing best right now is having a short memory,” Richburg said. “If I make a mistake, I’m able to clap it off and then just go to the next play and not let it affect me.
“I think that’s something that sometimes can hurt players. You know they get hung up on making a mistake and it hurts them, it carries on play by play. I think I’m doing a good job of forgetting about it and just playing fast and continuing.”
Schwartz, who left the Chiefs to sign a four-year, $16.8 million contract with the Giants, was not made available to reporters on Sunday. He saw a foot specialist over the weekend.
Walton said that it was hard seeing Schwartz go down, but the line needs to come together and straighten things out in practice.
“We’re in the NFL, it’s next guy up,” Walton said. “Everybody is ready to go and we have to be on the same page.”
Richburg isn’t going to be handed the job. Veteran John Jerry, who started with the Dolphins the past two seasons, and Dallas Reynolds, who started with the Giants late last season, also will get a look from the coaches.
Jerry started at right guard in practice on Sunday because relatively inexperienced Brandon Mosley, who replaced Snee, was experiencing some back issues.
“This is why you are here,” said Jerry, who has battled a knee problem in training camp. “You are here to compete for a job. Jobs are always open.”
That said, Jerry has been impressed by Richburg.
“He’ll be fine,” Jerry said. “He’s a tough young guy, very smart, very competitive. He’ll definitely be fine.”
NOTES: RB Peyton Hillis (ankle) practiced for the first time in more than two weeks. …First-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) did not practice.
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