Like Justin Pugh, who we discussed on Wednesday, the 2017 season is a critical one for New York Giants center Weston Richburg. Like Pugh, Richburg can be a free agent at the end of the season. Unlike Pugh, he was not a first-round pick. That means the Giants don’t have a fifth-year option.
Will the Giants end up having to decide between the two offensive line cornerstones? Will they find a way to pay both? Will one or both play themselves into or out of the franchise’s long-term plans?
Let’s look closer at Richburg as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
2016 Season In Review
In 2015, his second NFL season and first starting at his true position of center, Richburg looked like an emerging star. Prior to last season, yours truly wrote “Richburg should only continue to get better at this point. There should be Pro Bowl, and possibly All-Pro, selections in his future.”
Well, those things remain true, but they didn’t necessarily happen in 2016. As shown below, he graded out as the league’s best pass-blocking center. Torn ligaments in his snapping hand, though, affected his run-blocking and overall play.
These were the top pass blocking centers in the NFL in 2016. pic.twitter.com/nO8QKyYM5I— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 19, 2017
Richburg played with those torn ligaments all season, having suffered the injury in a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
“I had some hand stuff going in. I had to get my hand operated on. That’ll be good this year. I’ll be ready to go. I’m feeling a lot better than I was last year,” Richburg said during OTAs.
“That hurts you; your hand placement, your ability to grab, ability to work the chest plate is a big part of the game,” offensive line coach Mike Solari said this spring. “So that was tough for him, and he worked through it and he performed at the highest level that he could without being able to use that hand at full strength.”
Still, the 6-foot-3, 298-pound center started all 16 games, He has missed only one game in his three-year career.
The most efficient pass blockers on the interior offensive line in 2016. pic.twitter.com/Jmx7mVcFmI— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 27, 2017
PFF pass-blocking grades and a full season’s worth of starts aside, Richburg said simply “I didn’t” when a reporter opined that he had a pretty season despite the hand issue.
“There were things that I took from every aspect of my game that I saw that I can improve,” he said.
2017 Season Outlook
My thoughts on Richburg are pretty much the same as they were a year ago. He is one of the best centers in the game, and if he is healthy there could — maybe should — be post-season accolades in his future.
Richburg is a natural leader at the center position. He’s an excellent pass blocker. Maybe his run-blocking hasn’t quite been up to his pass protection, but it’s not like he can’t manhandle players in the run game at times.
The 25-year-old is a player the Giants should expect big things from, and should do everything they can to make sure he remains the center of their offensive line for years to come.