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Brett Jones: Starting center or key reserve for Giants?

The assumption was the former, the reality might be the latter

NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brett Jones
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Remember Brett Jones? The former CFL center who did a good job for the New York Giants last season? All of the chatter this offseason has been about how more and more it appears that Jon Halapio, a converted guard, may have bypassed Jones and become the leader in the competition to be the team’s starting center in 2018.

Today, let’s spend some time talking about Jones as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

2017 season in review

Jones started 13 games for the Giants last season, 12 of those at center after Weston Richburg suffered a concussion and ended up on injured reserve. The only offensive players who played more than Jones’ 966 snaps were Eli Manning and Ereck Flowers.

Jones proved to be an excellent pass blocker. Per Pro Football Focus, his 98.7 pass-blocking efficiency score tied for fourth in the NFL among centers. PFF had him for just 10 total pressures allowed (five hurries, one hit, two sacks) in 488 pass-blocking snaps.

Jones’ overall grade of 63.9, which ranked him 18th among centers and put him in PFF’s ‘below average’ category, would indicate that run-blocking was an issue.

2018 outlook

The Giants allowed Richburg to enter free agency and he signed a five-year, $47.2 million contract ($31.5 million guaranteed) with the San Francisco 49ers. They tendered Jones, a restricted free agent, and he signed a one-year deal worth $2.914 million.

The belief was that the Giants did that with the thought that Jones, coming off his solid 2017 season, was capable of handing the center spot.

Early in OTAs, Jones split first-team reps with Halapio. In the final OTA media witness, and all of mandatory mini-camp, it was Halapio taking the first-team reps.

Despite the appearance that Halapio is the starter, coach Pat Shurmur has continued to insist that “there is a competition right now” at the center spot.

Will Jones win it with his intelligence and pass-blocking ability? Or Halapio, whom the Giants are quite obviously enamored with?

If Jones, who turns 27 next month, doesn’t win the job, he will likely return to the role he filled in 2016. That would be backup at center and guard, most likely first player off the bench if there is a need at either position.