Center Brett Jones is ready to be part of the solution along the Giants new-look O-Line:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – From the day he took over as general manager, Dave Gettleman set out to fix the Giants' offensive line problems. "Let's be honest," he said at his introductory press conference in late December. "Let's not kid each other."
By now, it is safe to say he thinks Brett Jones is part of the solution.
The Giants recently re-signed the restricted free agent center just in time for the first day of the team's voluntary offseason program. Jones reported to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Monday along with recent additions Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh, a pair of proven offensive linemen signed by Gettleman and company early in free agency.
"It's very exciting," Jones said of remaining with the Giants. "I'm ready just to get back to playing football and finish off where [we left off]. I think our group, we were ascending at the end of the year. We added some new faces. It's definitely really exciting for us. We've got some good things ahead."
If you squinted hard enough, you could see a light at the end of the tunnel of last year's 3-13 campaign in the way the unit performed against the Redskins on New Year's Eve. For most of the game, the Giants had Jones at center, Jon Halapio and John Greco at guard, and rookies Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty at tackle. Of those players, only Jones and Wheeler were on last year's opening-day roster, and none of them started a game until Week 5, when Jones replaced Weston Richburg (concussion) at center.
The season-ending unit went out and paved the way for 260 yards on the ground in an 18-10 victory over Washington.
"That game, we were just able to go out there as a group and have a lot of fun together, enjoy the moment," Jones said. "We didn't know if we would be back together or not."
"The group that finished the season against Washington, what I really liked was that they played tough," Gettleman said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, two weeks before free agency opened. "They were physical and they got after it. They did a really nice job. I said in my opening presser that I'm not going to lie to anyone, give me a break. We are going to do it piece by piece. If the right guy is there, we will make a move."
The offensive linemen from that game (John Jerry started but was replaced by Greco in the first quarter after suffering a concussion) are all back – plus Solder and Omameh, who came off deep playoff runs with their former teams.
"Those guys are really knowledgeable," Jones said of the newcomers. "Those guys come from different systems, so it's always cool to hear the way they sort of see things, their terminology, and I'm excited to work with them. Nate with the Super Bowl experience and Patrick is a great player. So I'm going to learn a lot from them."
With those additions came the subtractions of Richburg, Justin Pugh and D.J. Fluker, who all headed to separate teams in the NFC West as free agents. Bobby Hart, another former draft pick on the offensive line, was waived/injured the day between Gettleman's first press conference and the Giants' season finale.
Now Jones, a former All-Star from the Canadian Football League who was just looking to get his foot in the door with the Giants in 2015, is looking to retain his starting job.
"When I first came out, I had great success in the CFL, but the CFL is the CFL," said Jones, who was named the league's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman and won the Grey Cup in 2014. "It's a great league, but coming here, I knew that it would be a challenge with the different rules. Especially for offensive line play, it's a lot different (for instance, defenders in the CFL must line up one-yard off the line of scrimmage). I wanted to get my foot in the door and make a good impression. The injury in the first year was tough, but I was able to come back the second year and just keep getting better. And that's always been my focus – just keep improving as a player and good things will happen. I see myself ascending and just keep getting better."
As the offseason program progresses, players will be able to dive into the playbook with their coaches, but Jones does know they are "going to be able to go fast" in new head coach pat Shurmur's offense.
In the meantime, outside of football, Jones is looking forward to finishing his petroleum engineering degree from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. Before reporting to East Rutherford, he was back in his home country completing his fourth-year project. Jones has three more classes to get his degree.
"We do a lot of different classes in that it's a chemical base but still a lot of mechanical principles," Jones explained. "Football, it ends. So you've got to have a job afterwards."
For now, he is gainfully employed.
The Giants have returned to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center to begin offseason workouts!