Among the many position battles and storylines surrounding the New York Giants is who their Week 1 starting center will be.
The Giants went into the 2018 and 2019 seasons with Jon Halapio as their starting center, but the 29-year-old is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and is a free agent. Their 2020 options include Spencer Pulley, Nick Gates, and rookie guard Shane Lemieux, who cross-trained at center in the offseason.
Head coach Joe Judge says Gates, who played tackle and guard last season, is adjusting well to taking reps at center, noting that he has “improved” and his “toughness” is admirable” (quotes per Giants.com).
“Nick’s a guy that when we got here, we knew he had a lot of flexibility position wise. He had to learn the center position. I think he’s definitely a guy who’s just locked in to doing anything he could to give himself a chance. He’s improved in the short amount of time we’ve been able to be together. He shows a good command out there in terms of understanding the offense, communicating the calls. He has a toughness about him that you like inside.”
Gates appeared in 16 games for the Giants last season, making three starts (two games at right tackle and one at right guard). He signed with Big Blue as an undrafted free agent in 2018 but didn’t make his NFL debut until last season due to a foot injury.
Pulley has started 10 games at center for the Giants since 2018. Judge says Pulley is “a great communicator on the line of scrimmage and in the huddle.”
“Spencer’s a tough dude, he’s a smart guy, he can run the show out there, he understands what we’re trying to do, he understands what the defense is trying to do, he’s a great communicator on the line of scrimmage and in the huddle. Both those guys have done a tremendous job competing.”
Judge says the competition between Gates and Pulley is “scratch even.”
Whoever claims the center job will likely be accompanied by rookie tackle Andrew Thomas, Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, and Cam Fleming on the offensive line.