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Greco steps in for injured Halapio at center

At this time last year, John Greco was at home. At this time last week, he was a backup interior offensive lineman. Now, he is the Giants' starting center.

The Giants, like Greco, have meandered to where they are today at the position. The offseason began with incumbent Brett Jones and Jon Halapio competing for reps. Halapio eventually won the job, and the team traded Jones to the Vikings. On Sunday night in Dallas, Halapio fractured his lower leg and ankle, forcing him to undergo season-ending surgery the next day. Greco, who played the vast majority of his 117 previous career games at guard, stepped in at center.

"I wouldn't necessarily say [it's] strange because if you're kept on the roster, it's because you can play multiple positions," Greco said. "And when you're a backup that's what you have to be ready to do, and that's the situation we're in right now. Just have to be ready to rock and roll."

The offense has yet to make music this season, and the acoustics won't be any more forgiving this week at NRG Stadium, home of J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans.

"Any time you lose your partner in crime, one of your buddies in your room, you feel for him and we know that he's going to come back stronger than ever," Greco said of Halapio. "But at the same time we just have to do everything we can this week to try to get a win. It's going to be a tough road game, awesome atmosphere down in Houston, so we are excited about the challenge and opportunity. We've just got to work hard. If everybody just gets a little better each day, that's all we can ask."

Greco, who was coming off stints with the Saints and Browns before the Giants picked him up last November, will be the third starter to snap the ball to Eli Manning in the past two seasons.

"A year ago this time, I was at home," Greco said. "But I knew I still had enough gas in the tank that I could've been playing and I was just happy I got the opportunity here last year and then again this offseason, and here we are. So, that really hasn't entered my mind. It's more of a laugh thing I can do at myself, but yeah, I'm excited about the opportunity."

Three centers will likely soon turn into four. Before Halapio's injury, the team signed Spencer Pulley, who started all 16 games at the position last season for the Los Angeles Chargers. The plan is to start with Greco and get Pulley "ready to go." Manning envisions a seamless transition given Greco's 11 years of NFL experience.

"I think it will be," Manning said. "Greco's a vet. He's been here, he came here last year. He's been here all training camp. We've worked together, we've gotten snaps throughout training camp and everything so that shouldn't be a problem. He knows what's going on. We've met this week, we've talked a bunch on some calls, making sure we're saying the same thing and hearing things the same way."

Greco, who is now responsible for making the calls, will see one of the best defensive front sevens in the league across the line this week. In addition to Watt, the Texans boast Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. Nose tackle D.J. Reader leads the team with two sacks.

"Yeah obviously, you've got to take care of [Watt]," Manning said. "You've got to know where he is and it's not just him. They've got a couple of studs on that defensive line who do a good job getting to the quarterback getting sacks. You got to plan different ways to attack it whether you're doubling or getting the ball out fast, just have a lot of different things, different looks for him, try to slow him down. Again, he's a good player. He's going to make some plays, but hopefully it's not the ones that can change the game too much."

Like the ones in Dallas.

The Giants allowed six sacks last week, their most since 2014. The Cowboys used a variety of ways to get to the quarterback through blitzes and stunts. So does Houston do the same?

"Every scheme is a little bit different with their coordinator, everybody has that in their playbook and in their arsenal," Greco said. "There's a question of whether we're going to see a higher frequency of them, and we are preparing for that but at the same time were going to prepare like we do each week and watch the tape, work on their stuff. Everybody does something new because it's not going to just be a vanilla thing that you're not going to see the same thing you've seen the first two games, they're going to throw a wrinkle in here or there but at the end of the day they have some talented players they can just pin their ears back and go so we've got to be able to block them."

Meanwhile, Greco is playing under coach Pat Shurmur for the second time in his career. Greco was traded from St. Louis to Cleveland in 2011, Shurmur's first year as the Browns' head coach.

"Never too high never too low," Greco said of the coach. "Just have to keep approaching each day like we have been and eventually if we keep putting in that effort and investing the time and energy into it the wins are going to come. Hopefully sooner than later, and that's kind of our mindset we just have to do it. Every man has to look deep in themselves and find one thing to get better on each week and that's going to help us."

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