Offensive lineman Nick Gates is currently snapping the football with the New York Giants’ first team at practice, splitting time with Spencer Pulley in a competition head coach Joe Judge rated as “scratch even” last week.
The fact is, the 6’5″, 312-pound Gates, who has played both guard and tackle for the Giants in his short career, is apparently the right size for the job.
Gates is slightly taller than Pulley (6’4″, 306) and last year’s starter, Jon Halapio (6’4″, 315), who incidentally was at the Giants’ camp on Monday for a tryout. Halapio started 15 games but had surgery to repair a torn Achilles after season. He was not offered a contract this summer.
“We like big centers,” offensive line coach Marc Colombo said. “I worked with Travis Frederick in Dallas and he’s a big center (6-4, 320). Big, athletic, strong. We’re looking for centers that can anchor the middle. One of the biggest things is getting depth right off the bat at center, just so he can kind of be the ultimate helper in there. It’s working his set. It’s working the depth of his sets, it’s working the calls, the line stunts, that type of stuff. He just has to see it all.”
Gates started last Saturday’s Blue-White scrimmage with Pulley, who was banged up, watching from the sidelines. Judge liked what he saw.
“I thought Nick Gates did a good job in the middle, commanding the calls and getting everyone on the same page,” Judge said. “I thought he played with a lot of toughness the other night.”
The cohesion won’t happen overnight, though. Gates has the luxury of knowing the two players around him (guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler), having been their teammates the past few seasons.
“It takes time,” Gates said on Monday. “We didn’t get OTA’s together, which doesn’t hurt us but that time helps gets the kinks and little things out of the way then so when you come to training camp you know the offense, you know the technique and you know how each person plays. It helps during that. I think we’re doing a good job playing off each other. Me, Will and Zeitler have been together with each other for the last two years, I think. We kind of understand each other on the inside.”
Gates, who singed with the Giants after going undrafted out of Nebraska in 2018, showed enough versatility in his first two seasons for the Giants to extend him with a two-year, $6,825,000 contract extension this spring. He is playing center for the first time in the NFL and he enjoys being the main cog on the line.
“It’s the first time I have been in charge of the line, it’s nice,” Gates said. “It’s a lot more responsibility mentally. It’s something I am getting used to.”
“Nick’s done a really good job with that,” Colombo said. “We need to keep pushing him, keep showing him everything so it’s not the first time he sees it when we’re out there playing a real game.”