Like most offensive linemen, Weston Richburg dislikes being the center of attention but enjoys being in the middle of the action.
So Richburg, the Giants' 2014 second-round draft choice, is thrilled to be back at center, his natural position. As a rookie last year, Richburg started 15 games at left guard. But the Giants wanted him to be their long-term center. They released J.D. Walton, who started every game last year, to open up the position for Richburg, who played there with the starters throughout the spring practices.
The center and left guard line up next to each other, but to Richburg they might has well be a mile apart. Why, exactly, does he like playing center so much more?
"I am in control of things," Richburg said as the Giants wrapped up their three-day minicamp and headed into their six-week pre-training camp break. "I enjoy it. It is like a mind game, figuring out where everybody is and telling everybody where to go. I am making adjustments."
Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said Richburg is well-suited for center.
"I think that Weston has a little bit of boss man in him and he likes that," Flaherty said.
Richburg is in the middle of a revamped line in which the players at all five positions have changed. First-round draft choice Ereck Flowers has taken over at left tackle for Will Beatty, who had surgery last month to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Free agent acquisition Marshall Newhouse is the first-team right tackle. Justin Pugh has moved from right tackle to left guard, Geoff Schwartz is playing right guard after missing most of last season with injuries, and Richburg is in the middle.
Check out photos of OL Weston Richburg from the 2014 season
"Weston is a natural center," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. "I am excited for him. I am excited for the offense. I think he brings some energy to the position and to the offense. He's a guy who likes to have control of things and likes to have his hand on the football. He works very hard at it. I like Weston."
Richburg, now 6-3 and 296 pounds, started 50 games in four seasons at Colorado State – 45 of them at center. The Giants wanted him in their lineup, but they had Walton to play center. So Richburg spent his first season in relatively unfamiliar territory at guard.
"It was a great learning experience," Richburg said. "Sometimes, things didn't go the way I wanted, but I learned a lot. I really did, playing against the talent I played against in the position I did. I definitely learned things that will help me when I am inside at center."
To Richburg, the center position is like an old friend he's happy to have back in his life.
"It has been nice," he said of the move. "Compared to last year, I feel very comfortable where I am at. After doing that last year, I think it is easy to come inside and make that transition. There are still some things you have to get used to, but I did those things in college. It'll be an adjustment, but not as much as it was going to guard. Still a long way to go as a unit and individually, but I am really proud of the work we put in and the progress that we made."
The switch to center is more for Richburg than moving a few inches to his right. "Everything happens a little quicker than it does at guard, because there is a guy right on you," Richburg said. "You get hands on quicker and make contact quicker. I like that, because there is less space for the defense."
Richburg played impressively as a rookie, but Flaherty believes he can take a big leap forward as an NFL sophomore.
"He learned an awful lot last year," Flaherty said. "But I knew that he was going to be a player for a very long time and I believe it because he likes the game of football. He really has embraced the center position, because you are the voice of everybody to start out and the quarterback may change things, but you are telling everyone what to do."
That's just how Richburg likes it.
Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. received plenty of attention this spring for their injury-induced absences. Wide receivers coach Sean Ryan was asked to select the receiver on the field who caught his eye during OTAs and the minicamp."
I thought Corey Washington had an excellent spring," Ryan said of the second-year wideout. "I thought he had an excellent spring in the classroom and in the meetings. His attitude was outstanding. He worked. He got better and we will compile all the catches, but he is right up there. I am not sure if he didn't lead the pack in catches and productivity for the spring. He certainly stood out to me. I thought Preston (Parker) made some great strides, in particular playing in the slot. He is seeing things a little bit better. He is seeing defenses, reacting to blitzes better, so I thought Preston did a great job. I think those two guys really stuck out to me."
- The Giants have plenty of talent in their offensive backfield with Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa. But specific roles have yet to be defined.
"It is fluid," running backs coach Craig Johnson said. "We aren't really sure, because what you learn in the spring is getting them acclimated to the system and make sure they can make all the adjustments that we have and see what they bring to the table. I think that as we get closer to the opener, we will find out more role defining roles for them. Right now, I try to put them in every situation, so I can see what they can do. I try not to say, for instance, 'Shane is only going to run the ball.' I want to see if Shane can catch the ball. I know he can, but I want to see if he can under pressure situations. I do that for all of our guys, because that way you can find out what they all can do. A great thing for this room is there is great competition, because Rashad watches what Shane does and that makes Rashad play better, and then Andre watches it and so on. It creates great chemistry for the room. I feel good that all of them are pushing each other to really compete and be the best."