When the Giants chose Colorado State center Weston Richburg with the 43rd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, they knew they were getting both a talented player and a solid citizen. GM Jerry Reese was aiming to bring in the next generation of team leaders and he was dead on with the selection of Richburg.
After a slew of injuries along the offensive line in his rookie season forced him to play out of position at guard, Richburg was moved back to center last summer and it was evident that he was the Giants' answer and the future at the position. The website Pro Football Focus ranked Richburg the No. 2 overall center in the NFL last season.
As he enters his third NFL season, Richburg has molded into the leader the Giants had hoped. This past offseason, he criticized linemates for their lack of dedication because his winter work regimen was more rigorous than their. Some took umbrage to the remark, but others chalked it up to his intensity and leadership.
His leadership become more prevalent with each passing game. In last Friday's preseason loss to the Dolphins when the second team offense struggled with Ryan Nassib under center, Richburg took control on the sidelines.
"I think I pulled my offensive line aside," Richburg told reporters on Monday. "I think we didn't really help him (Nassib) out that much and I think he was under pressure a little bit and we kind of made it rough on him. I can only handle the guys that we have in our room. We get together on the sidelines and try to straighten things out and get things right and that is the only thing I can really worry about. Maybe I don't know anything about quarterbacks, so I am not going to go there, but I can encourage and that is my job as a good teammate, to encourage and help guys get over things like that."
Notice Richburg said 'My offensive line'. He has taken ownership of a group of players, three of whom all have more accredited NFL seasons than he does. Only LT Ereck Flowers has less.
The Giants first team offense played fairly well against Miami last Friday, jumping out to a 10-0 lead despite their signature stars, QB Eli Manning and WR Odell Beckham, Jr., watching from the sidelines. Richburg was asked to assess the first string's performance, which consists of himself, Flowers, guards Justin Pugh and John Jerry and RT Marshall Newhouse.
"I think we did some good things in the run game and that is what we wanted to come and do," he said. "We wanted to be physical and I know we talk about that all the time, but that really is the basis of what we want to do. I think we did some good things with our physicality. Communication, I thought, was good. I think we need to clean up the pass game a little bit and make sure we give whoever is back there plenty of time to make their throws and reads."
Still, it is Richburg's steady hand going forward the Giants are excited about. He is both a physical and cerebral figure in the offensive huddle. Now that he has his stature and has solidified himself as and integral part of the team's future, he has turned to mentoring his younger teammates.
"Every time they come over, they come to the bench and we all circle up and if we have any tips or if I see something that one of the centers did or something that a guard did, we are able to go in and give them suggestions and help them," Richburg said. "That is what we do during these preseason games, we really go over there and circle up when we are not out there and make sure we get things figured out with the younger guys."
And the Giants will need that. Even after several years of rebuilding the line and trying to fine-tune it, they are still considered mediocre ar best by a good portion of critics. Richburg hopes to change that.
The Giants opened the Miami game with a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive, something that Richburg found encouraging.
"It did feel good," he said. "I think we went out and like I said, I liked the physicality we had and I also liked our communication. I think we did a good job up front. There are still things we need to work on, but I think it was a good start, for sure."
That it was, and with Richburg running things the Giants hope to have many more scoring drives just like it.