Brett Jones is set to play center Sunday, and has confidence at the position:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -When Justin Pugh looked to his right in practice this week, he saw a veritable stranger preparing to snap the ball to Eli Manning.
The fifth-year pro has started 26 games at left guard since the beginning of the 2015 season. In every one them, Weston Richburg played center. But Richburg suffered a concussion last week in Tampa Bay, and will not play when the Giants host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. His replacement will be Brett Jones, who will make his second career start and first at center (he started at left guard for an injured Pugh last Nov. 14 vs. Cincinnati).
"(Richburg) has been a mainstay since he got to that center spot (in 2015)," Pugh said. "We got a lot of confidence in Brett, though. He's been out there. Every time Weston would go out, Brett comes right in and picks right up where we left off. So we are fine with it, it's just continuing to make the calls and be on the same page."
"I feel good," Jones said. "I'm excited at the opportunity and ready to go out there and play. We got to try to get this W as a group, so I'm excited."
Although he has scant NFL regular-season experience at center, Jones is no stranger to the position. He played two seasons (2013-14) there in the Canadian Football League, where he was named the league's Most Outstanding Rookie one year and Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman the next.
The Giants signed him in 2015, but he hurt his knee in the preseason and spent the year on injured reserve. Jones has since found a niche as a versatile and valuable reserve lineman who now steps into the center of the line as the Giants seek their first victory of the season.
Coach Ben McAdoo said he has "a ton of confidence" in Jones. "Brett, he's a pro," McAdoo said. "He prepares very well. He can play guard, he can play center for us. Has a high IQ and a high football IQ and has some toughness."
The center carries a lot of responsibility for making the protection calls at the line of scrimmage, and Jones said he is up to the task.
"I feel comfortable at center," he said. "It's fun to get out there and play and sort of be the leader and yeah, I am excited for the opportunity."
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"(The center does) a lot," Pugh said. "Eli (Manning) can always override and help out, so that's the beauty of it. It's not all on Brett. And as veteran guards, me and J.J. (John Jerry) can give him some calls, and what we see and kind of keep him going. But he's probably one of the smartest guys in the room. I know we just got a guy from Harvard (practice squad lineman Anthony Fabiano, signed this week), but I would say Brett was the smartest guy in the room before yesterday."
Although he weighs 312 pounds, the 6-2 Jones is the Giants' shortest offensive lineman. But that sometimes works to his benefit.
"He's a bulldog," Pugh said. "He's got a low center of gravity, it's tough to move him and at center, you don't have a lot of one-on-one blocks as is. Most of the time you're doubling up with somebody. He's great to work with on double teams, because he gets up under everyone's pads and lifts them up. So he's a great player, we're happy for him to get this opportunity."
"I think that sometimes the size limits me in certain aspects, but I think it also gives me a good advantage in others," Jones said. "I definitely think that being able to lift those guys and get movement in the double teams is a big bonus."
*In addition to Richburg, running back Paul Perkins (ribs) has been declared out of Sunday's game. Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen, and rookie Wayne Gallman are expected to split the rushing duties.
Three of the four players listed as questionable are defensive ends: Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/knee), Olivier Vernon (ankle), and rookie Avery Moss (shoulder). Jerry (hamstring) is also in that category. "The back of his hamstring tightened up on him a little bit yesterday at practice," said McAdoo, who added that Jerry finished practice. Jerry has played in 89 consecutive games for the Miami Dolphins and the Giants, the second-longest active streak on the team behind Manning's 203.
The Giants don't practice on Friday, but Vernon, Jerry and Moss would not have participated if they had. Pierre-Paul and Odell Beckham, Jr. (finger/ankle) would have been limited. Beckham left yesterday's practice early.
"Odell's doing well," McAdoo said, "We didn't know if it was a hamstring or cramping or what it was, but it seems to be cramping at this point."
The Giants will make a final determination on the status of those players after practice tomorrow.