Jordon Riley recalled the play with a big grin.
It was the moment he realized he belonged, a fourth-and-1 stop on which Riley pushed the offensive line back and made the tackle on Spencer Brown behind the line of scrimmage last Friday in the Giants’ preseason win over the Panthers.
“I know our team needed it and for me personally, a few plays before that, my technique wasn’t as great,” Riley told The Post. “Having that fourth-down stop, hearing MetLife’s reaction to it and getting love from my teammates, it was a special moment for me.”
The play also represented what the Giants have experienced often in recent weeks: Riley making an impact up front.
The massive defensive tackle didn’t enter training camp with much hype.
He was a seventh-round draft pick this year who attended four colleges in six years, most recently Oregon.
But he has made too many strong plays to be ignored, and it is now looking like he could be in the rotation up front once the real games start.
Riley has received more reps because veterans A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches have missed time, and he has taken advantage.
“He’s got some gifts that you can’t give him as a coach. You know, he’s 6-5, 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 wasn’t upset that he was drafted low, just 16 picks before the end of the entire three-day event. Some players might use that as motivation.
He was thrilled to get selected, particularly by a team like the Giants, which had established veterans like Robinson, Nunez-Roches and Leonard Williams from which he could learn.
“I took the approach of being thankful the Giants took their time out to get their information on me and draft me,” he said. “Only thing I can do for them is just get better every day.”
In time, Riley could prove to be a diamond in the rough.
Last October, he wasn’t on anyone’s radar, assistant general manager Brandon Brown said.
Dennis Hickey, the Giants’ assistant director of player personnel, saw him at Oregon and thought Riley fit the Giants’ defense under coordinator Wink Martindale as a physical lineman who could help control the line of scrimmage.
Brown and director of player personnel Tim McConnell watched the Ducks play California and came away further intrigued by Riley, who stuck out “like a sore thumb,” because of his size and athleticism, Brown recalled.
The Giants had defensive line coaches Patterson and Bryan Cox work him out before the draft, and saw enough potential to take a chance.
“There’s not just that many men walking in the world that have his size,” Brown said. “So, it’s on us to kind of bridge that gap with, can he take to the coaching? The development, getting his weight right, all those things that every time we put a benchmark in front of him, he’s met it.”
Brown added: “The production that you’re seeing in the preseason, we’re hoping that can be a catalyst for things to come in the future. But it’s been really cool to see.”
The lead-up to the draft, and the first six-plus rounds, were nerve-racking for Riley.
He was unsure if he would get picked, if switching schools so many times would be held against him.
He started his career at North Carolina, then went to Garden City (Kan.) Community College, before returning to the Division I ranks at Nebraska.
He left the Big Ten school after two years, and followed his position coach, Tony Tuioti, to Oregon.
Looking back now, though, Riley said he wouldn’t change anything.
“I just know I had to keep going,” Riley said. “Everyone’s story is different. I had to go a few places to get here. It all worked out for the better.”
Credit: Source link