Geoff Schwartz was brought in to be a stabilizing force on the Giants' revamped offensive line. Now the Giants may have to play the season without him.
The left guard dislocated his right big toe in the second quarter of Friday's game against the Jets and will have the injury evaluated by foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte this week. Anderson, who has worked with other Giants with foot issues, including Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, Eli Manning and Jon Beason, is expected to clarify a time frame and course of treatment for Schwartz that could range from a month of rest to season-ending surgery.
The Giants are bracing for the worst.
"Losing Geoff is a major disappointment," coach Tom Coughlin said in a conference call Saturday. "Let's not jump to conclusions. Let's see what happens when the evaluation is concluded."
Even at best, Schwartz will miss several weeks of action and needs to be replaced. The most likely candidate is rookie Weston Richburg, who has played both guards and center in training camp. He filled in for Schwartz on Friday.
"He did OK," Coughlin said of Richburg. "He's a talented young man who is in a position where he's going to have to help us."
Other options on the roster include free-agent acquisition John Jerry, veteran Dallas Reynolds, tackle James Brewer, who has played guard in the past, and the possibility of moving starting right tackle Justin Pugh inside to guard. From the time he was drafted, many believed that Pugh's best position would be guard.
"We've done various experiments with people at different spots," Coughlin said. "We've had a chance to maneuver people around. We'll continue to operate in that fashion."
Coughlin said he hopes the Giants have enough depth to withstand the Schwartz injury, having stocked up on veteran blockers in the offseason following the depletion of the offensive line in 2013.
"That's why these guys are here," he said.
The Giants also might explore a trade for 49ers holdout Alex Boone and they will certainly keep a close eye on the waiver wire and free agency as NFL rosters are pared down over the next week.
That's all Plan B. And C and D. Plan A was to have Schwartz at left guard (and Chris Snee at right guard, which didn't work out, either, with his retirement just before the start of training camp). That's why they signed Schwartz to a four-year, $16.8-million contract this offseason, just months after the offensive line was a critically poor component to the 7-9 record in 2013.
Schwartz's injury occurred in pass protection on an incompletion on the Giants' fifth possession. Doctors removed Schwartz's shoe and were able to put the toe back in place, but that might not have been a good sign. The easy reduction could mean that more tissue was torn in the injury, which would be the reason for surgery. Schwartz had to be carted off the field.
The Giants have a history of losing starting players to injury in preseason games against the Jets. Jason Sehorn, Osi Umenyiora and Stevie Brown have all suffered season-ending knee injuries while playing in the crosstown rivalry. Eli Manning also suffered one of the most gruesome injuries of his career in the game, taking a gash on his forehead in 2010.
Prior to the game, Coughlin said he spoke with Jets coach Rex Ryan and they exchanged the usual small talk.
"What normally is said between the two coaches is 'Let's have a heck of a game, let's compete, let's be able to recognize the talent on our own team, and then let's keep everybody healthy,' " Coughlin said. "Of course when it doesn't happen that way, it's a real disappointment . . . It's not what preseason is about."