It didn’t matter what team called his name during the 2014 NFL Draft in May, the goal was always the same for Weston Richburg.
Come the first game of the season, he wanted to step on the field with the starters.
When he picked up his phone during the second round of the draft and heard Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s voice, nothing changed. Richburg knew the Giants had just signed J.D. Walton and Geoff Schwartz. He knew Chris Snee was looking to make a comeback.
It just didn’t matter. He wanted to start.
“I had that picture in my mind,” Richburg said.
The Giants are now two days away from kicking off their season on Monday Night Football. When the offense takes Ford Field in prime time, Richburg will be lining up next to Walton with the ones.
“It’s a heck of a beginning to an NFL career,” Richburg said. “I’m very excited about it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just a great way to start it.”
Going up against one of the best defensive tackles in the game? Well, that just makes it even better.
Not only will Monday be Richburg’s first career start, but he’ll also be matched up against Detroit Lions defensive tackle and former first-round pick Ndamukong Suh.
Suh, 27, has a resume that’s already chock-full of awards and accolades in his short four-year NFL career. In 2010, Suh’s first season in the NFL, the 6-4, 307-pound tackle won Rookie of the Year honors and earned the first of his three Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors.
Throughout his career, Suh has recorded 27.5 sacks, 186 tackles and two forced fumbles while terrorizing opponent’s interior offensive linemen with his rare combination of size, speed and strength.
In his two previous meetings with the Giants, Suh has recorded five tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Richburg has spent countless hours in the film room watching tape on Suh. He’s taken note of his moves, and how he gets an edge on those he faces. The biggest observation the rookie’s made? Suh has impeccable timing jumping the count.
“He catches a lot of guys off guard,” Richburg said. “You can mix up the snap count a little to counter as an offense, but as a guard, that’s your advantage. You know the snap count.
“If we’re going to a silent count, it makes that a little more difficult, but you need to be able to anticipate it as well as you can and be able to fire off right when the ball is snapped so you can negate his perfect timing.”
Playing the Lions in Detroit, quarterback Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants offense will almost certainly have to turn to the silent count, and even if Richburg is able to get the initial step on Suh, he still needs to contain him.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010, Suh bench-pressed 250 pounds 32 times. Richburg wasn’t too shabby, either, putting the same weight up 26 times. But Suh has played 63 regular season games in the NFL, Richburg five preseason games.
“He’s big and strong,” Richburg said,” I’m gonna have to buckle up, strap the cleats on a little tighter and just try to drive him off the ball.”