>> FULL COVERAGE OF CHRIS SNEE RETIREMENT
Among the issues to be resolved are: 1) who will replace Snee, the starter at right guard for the last decade? 2) Can Will Beatty recover from a broken leg and a poor season to stand tall at left tackle, and 3) Will free agent signee J.D. Walton (who hasn’t played since 2012) or rookie Weston Richburg (a second-round draft choice) play center when the Giants open their season on Sept. 8 in Detroit.
Justin Pugh at right tackle and Geoff Schwartz at left guard seem secure, but they have just as much to prove on the new-look line in the next seven weeks.
“There are a lot of new faces in that O-line,” said Pugh, who started every game as a rookie last season. “I was talking to some of the older guys yesterday, and I said, ‘Hey, it’s a little bit of a different feeling in that room.’ There’s no real veteran presence. I mean Will Beatty is a six-year guy, but there are no two-time (Super Bowl) winners anymore with Snee, (David) Diehl and (Kevin) Boothe all gone. But someone has to step up, we have to play well. The team can’t stop when guys leave, so it’s the ‘next guy up’ mentality. I think that’s how the Giants have always been and will continue to be that way.”
That approach was on display in practice. Brandon Mosley worked with the first team at right guard (before leaving practice early with an upset stomach). Mosley is a bit of an unknown commodity. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve with an ankle injury before seeing limited duty in 13 games last season. In his lone start, on Dec. 22 in Detroit, Mosley broke his hand in the first quarter and did not play again in 2013.
Now, after two years of relative inactivity, Mosley could become an important cog on the offensive line.
“I’m excited,” he said. “The opportunity opens up and I get to show the coaches and my teammates what I’ve got. There are a lot of great guys that are competing for the same position, so it will be a fun year.”
Mosley’s primary competition could eventually come from John Jerry, who played his first four seasons for the Miami Dolphins. He started all 32 games the last two seasons at right guard there.
Jerry missed the Giants’ spring practices and minicamp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. He had the same procedure last year and returned in time to play the entire season. Though currently limited, he expects the same outcome now.
“I only had two and a half weeks to get back and go play then,” said Jerry, who worked with the second team today. “I do what I’ve got to do. I think at the end of the day if you’ve been through something, you know how to deal with it and get through it the next time.”
Beatty also has experience returning from a serious injury. He broke his foot in 2010 and underwent surgery to repair a detached retina the following year. But in addition to his now-repaired fractured tibia, Beatty carries the burden of proving that last year’s subpar play was an aberration. Beatty played well in 2012 and is certain he will reach that level this season. Some people think the left tackle job is up for grabs. Beatty isn’t among them.
“I feel it’s still my spot,” he said. “I’m going to go out there and claim the spot until somebody says, ‘It’s no longer yours.’ I’m not going to give it up. You’re going to have to take it.
“I came in here when I was a rookie wanting to play. I didn’t come here wanting to sit behind somebody. They allowed me the opportunity to play left tackle and get a little bit of right, some tight end stuff, trying to get some special teams. I’ve got this left tackle locked down and yes, I’ve been through a few injuries. But everyone goes through injuries. There is a 100% statistic rate of guys getting injured in the NFL. You can’t say, ‘Woe is me’ because I got injured. It’s how do you respond from that, how do you get back from that. I’ve been blessed that this is not a damaging, permanent injury that I can’t recover from. In that case itself, I’m just going out there trying to have fun and counting my blessings.”
At least the always-playful Beatty hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Asked if he faced limitations in camp, Beatty said, “Physical limitations? There are certain rides I can't get on due to being tall.”
Another potential piece to the puzzle up front is Richburg, the 43rd overall selection in the draft who made 45 of his 50 starts at center at Colorado State. After Mosley departed, Richburg played right guard with the starters and center with the backups.
“That’s something you have to be able to do, since they don’t carry a ton of guys on the offensive line,” he said. “I’m not really focusing on one specific spot. Wherever they need me to go, I’m happy to do that.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, it’s a lot of pressure. There’s always a lot of pressure when you’re on a professional football team. But just being able to come in and contribute would be big for me.”
He’s not alone. Let the competition begin.