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Could the wait be over for Giants’ rookie DT Jordon Riley?

Trade of Leonard Williams might have opened space for preseason surprise

Carolina Panther vs New York Giants
Jordon Riley celebrates during a preseason game.
Perry Knotts/Getty Images

Jordon Riley was a surprising pick by the New York Giants in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Few considered the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Riley a draftable player. The Giants did, though, making him the 243rd player chosen.

“He’s got some gifts that you can’t give him as a coach. You know, he’s six five, he’s 325 pounds. He is a big strong man,” defensive line coach Andre Patterson said in the spring. “The gifts he has, a coach can’t give you that.”

Riley was an even bigger surprise during the summer, playing well during the preseason and leading some to believe that the Giants had stumbled into another monster to add to their defensive tackle rotation.

In yet another example, though, that the NFL preseason and regular season are two vastly different animals, Riley has been a non-entity through most of the first eight games. Riley has been active for only two games, playing 17 snaps Week 1 vs. the Dallas Cowboys and seven snaps Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills.

Mostly, Riley has had to sit and learn.

Severa weeks ago, defensive line coach Andre Patterson said not forcing a heavier workload on Riley before he was ready would pay off.

“I still like Jordon a lot, and I still think Jordon is going to be a very good football player in this league, but he’s still got some growth to go,” Patterson said. “I think it’s to our advantage that we’re brining him along at a good pace.”

Patterson, the Giants’ long-time successful defensive line coach, pointed to his work with Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings. As a rookie in 2015, Hunter played 23 snaps the first five weeks, then compiled 8.5 sacks the rest of the season in a specialized edge rusher role.

“Sometimes as a coach you have to be patient to do what’s best for the player for him down the road in his career,” Patterson said. “Because we’re fortunate enough that we can do that right now that’s a good thing for Jordon. His time will come before the season’s over.”

Could Riley’s time be now?

The Giants traded starting defensive tackle Leonard Williams to the Seattle Seahawks this week. Veterans A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches have been getting snaps regularly, as has second-year defensive tackle D.J. Davidson. Still, with one less player in the room and the Giants limping along at 2-6 it figures that there should be room in the rotation for a promising young player to show whether or not he can be part of the team’s future.

Riley admitted this week that the Giants’ plan has not always been easy to stomach.

“It’s a lot of emotion when it comes to that not being able to play out there, as a competitor. But then again, you understand that here’s a bigger plan for me, you know, in the far end. So, you know, I just take, I just try to take the coaching every day and listen to the coaches and what they want as far as the game plan week in and week out. I just stay ready. That’s the only thing I can do. Can’t be impatient, can’t be frustrated. I know I feel like every rookie had to deal with this at some point. So I’m just taking it day by day.”

This, of course, is Riley’s first NFL experience. He certainly isn’t going to complain.

“I mean, I’m a rookie man, and, and I’m not sure what’s going on,” he said. “I just come in and work every day. Whatever they want me to do, you know, I’m willing to do it.”

What Riley really wants to do, though, is play.

“It’s hard. Definitely frustrating, you know, I’m human still, you know, I still want to be out there with my brothers battling. And then again, just a different understanding. Uh, it’s a different, different space I was in coming from college and stuff like that. I just have to know that my time will eventually come and can’t be too itchy to get out there.”

Maybe, just maybe Riley will get to scratch that itch this weekend against the Las Vegas Raiders.