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Giants could have either a center controversy or their 5th starting left guard this season

NJ.com 11/29/2022 Bob Brookover, nj.com
Will Jon Feliciano be back as the starting center Sunday when the Giants play the Washington Commanders? © Andrew Mills/nj.com/TNS Will Jon Feliciano be back as the starting center Sunday when the Giants play the Washington Commanders?

Over in Florham Park, everybody wants to know who’s going to be the quarterback when the Jets play the Minnesota Vikings Sunday in Minneapolis.

Here in East Rutherford, the question is this: Who’s going to be at center Sunday in the Giants’ critical game against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium.

As controversies go, the center position is never going to muster the same sort of interest that arises whenever a team is unsure about its signal caller.

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Mike White or Zach Wilson? That’s a story, although not really because we all know Jets coach Robert Saleh is going with White on Sunday and forever more if he continues to play the way he did against the Chicago Bears. Wilson has a long rope to climb before he gets back on the field.

New York Giants guard Mark Glowinski (64) and center Nick Gates (65) double team Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill (54) as Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) releases a pass during the fourth quarter on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 in East Rutherford, N.J. The Lions won, 31-18. © Andrew Mills/nj.com/TNS New York Giants guard Mark Glowinski (64) and center Nick Gates (65) double team Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill (54) as Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) releases a pass during the fourth quarter on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 in East Rutherford, N.J. The Lions won, 31-18.

Nick Gates or Jon Feliciano? Believe it or not, it is a good story and it even has a little twist.

Feliciano, a free-agent signing in the offseason, started the Giants’ first 10 games at center this season before suffering a neck injury in the second quarter of the team’s Week 10 loss to the Detroit Lions. He left the game late in the third quarter and was replaced by Gates, who underwent seven surgeries and spent more than a year rehabilitating from the devastating leg injury he suffered in Week 2 of last season at Washington.

Prior to his injury, Gates, an undrafted free agent in his fourth season, had started 19 straight games at either guard or center for the Giants dating to the final game of 2020. His exhaustive trip back to the playing field this season earned Gates the Ed Block Courage Award Monday. It’s an award given annually to one player from every team. Teammates are asked to vote for the player that best exemplifies inspiration, sportsmanship and courage.

With Feliciano sidelined by his neck injury, Gates returned to the starting lineup on Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys and graded out very well according to Pro Football Focus.

So the natural question to Giants coach Brian Daboll Tuesday as the Giants prepared to practice in pads in an effort to kickstart their running game was about the center position.

“I would just say relative to the guys coming back (from injury), there are still a few days here,” Daboll said. “Let’s get through practice today. I don’t want to make a split-second decision. One of the reasons we’re going pads is, ‘Let’s work a little bit on the running game and then let’s get some of these guys back and see how they operate in contact stuff.’ ”

Daboll said he does not have any rules about players losing their job to injuries.

“I think we just do what’s best for the team,” he said.

While the head coach would not commit to who will be at center Sunday, he also did not discount that Feliciano could return to his job as the starting center with Gates moving over to play left guard.

That, in fact, happened for one play Tuesday while practice was still open to the media.

“Yeah, I think we’d consider whatever we think is best,” Daboll said. “If we have a bunch of guys out here we’ll roll them in and see how everybody operates.”

A team source indicated the most likely scenario for Sunday is Feliciano at center and Gates at guard.

If Gates does start at left guard, he would be the fifth player in that spot this season. Ben Bredeson and rookie Josh Ezeudu opened the season sharing the job at left guard, but Bredeson took over as the starter in Week 3 and remained in that position until he suffered a knee injury in Week 7 at Jacksonville.

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Ezeudu took over the starting role for two games, but Shane Lemieux returned from injured reserve and started the Giants’ Week 11 game against Detroit. Lemieux, however, was benched at halftime of that game and replaced by Ezeudu.

Stick with us here.

Neither Lemieux nor Ezeudu was able to play on Thanksgiving because of injuries. Lemieux aggravated the toe injury that kept him out of the Giants’ first nine games and Ezeudu was sidelined by a neck injury that he had first suffered earlier this month against Houston.

Jack Anderson made his second career start against the Dallas Cowboys.

Now, it’s possible that Gates will be at left guard Sunday against the Commanders with Feliciano back at center.

Bredeson has also returned to practice after missing four games.

Just another typical week at the Giants’ practice facility.

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Bob Brookover can be reached at rbrookover@njadvancemedia.com.

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