Hernandez, Giants’ O-Line Putting Poor Week 1 Showing Behind Them

New York Giants, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder

Anyone who watched the New York Giants fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Monday night, had to come away with the fact that the Giants’ offensive line is still a work in progress.

That’s putting it kindly. Head coach Joe Judge tore into the group this week after the Giants could only gain 29 yards on the ground (22 of which came on scrambles by quarterback Daniel Jones) and allowed eight hits and three sacks on Jones.

Guard Will Hernandez, who is coming off a trying season after an impressive rookie year in 2018, says the line is moving forward and planning on getting better every week.

“Anybody who put that on tape deserves to be called out,” Hernandez told reporters on Friday. “We definitely learned from it. We had an attitude of we’re going to practice hard and we’re going to show it the next opportunity we get, which is this Sunday.”

The starting line had only two starters from last year, Hernandez at left guard and right guard Kevin Zeitler. Andrew Thomas, the team’s top draft pick this year, started at left tackle and free agent addition Cam Fleming started on the right side. Many felt part of the problem was communication, which is largely the responsibility of the center. The Giants are operating this season with Nick Gates at center. Gates, swing tackle and plug-in guard, had never snapped the football in a live NFL game before Monday night.

Hernandez downplayed the communication angle. He believes they will get it straightened out over time.

“We’ve got five guys on the offensive line that all are capable, all are willing to make the calls and have the calls down,” he said. “Everybody has it down. It’s just a matter of coming out, going out and doing your job. Everybody doing it, not only doing your job but doing it at a high level. That’s something that we all need to step up for sure, including myself, starting with me. Go out there and just be in sync.”

The former second round pick out of UTEP isn’t angling for perfection , just consistency.

“Any time you come out, there’s always going to be good and bad and good. I think that it can always get more consistent. I’m talking about for me and everybody on the team specifically. Everybody can get better at something. The perfect game doesn’t exist, so the answer to that is yes, it can definitely be more consistent.”

As for Gates, the team still has confidence in him even though they have an experienced center in Spencer Pulley standing in the sidelines.

“Nick’s awesome, man” said Hernandez. “Talk about somebody that can do it all from tackle to guard to center. He’s definitely a guy that was put in there for a reason. He’s not there to see if he can do it, but because he can do it, he’s there. He definitely knows how to direct a huddle. Helps us out, helps the tackles out. He definitely takes charge. He handles the huddle and the play calling very well.”




Joe Judge: Nick Gates Will Start at Center For Giants

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants’ offensive line have been preparing for their 2020 season opener against Pittsburgh Steelers this Monday night at MetLife Stadium with four of the five starting spots spoken for. All that we’ve been waiting for is the team to name a starting center.

The wait is over.

“We’re going to start Nick Gates at center. He’s done a good job for us through camp,” head coach Joe Judge told reporters on Saturday. “Spencer’s (Pulley) done a tremendous job competing. We’re very happy with both of those guys on the roster. We’re very fortunate to have both guys working at the center position. Nick brings a lot of flexibility to other positions, but that’s the direction we’re going to go for right now.”

It seemed all summer long that the Giants preferred Gates, a 6-foot-5, 307-pound, third-year pro out of Nebraska who has never played the position, over Pulley, who finished th 2019 season as the Giants’ starting center.

Gates has been described by offensive line coach Marc Columbo as an “alpha male” and it was apparent the team wanted him to beat Pulley out for the job despite having no high-level experience at the position. Gates will have his hands full on Monday when the Giants face the Steelers’ front seven, which led the NFL in sacks (54) in 2019.

Another new piece on the offensive line is this year’s first round pick, Andrew Thomas, who earned his role as the starting left tackle after veteran Nate Solder opted out of the season. Judge was asked about his confidence level in Thomas against the Steelers’ pass rush.

“Again, we’re confident in all of our players,” Judge said. “We’re going to put them in a position, we coach them hard, we’re very demanding. Those guys go through a tough regimen on a weekly basis with Marc (Colombo) and Ben (Wilkerson) and being a part of that offensive line. We have a lot of confidence in all of our players. That being said, this is a great challenge for our entire team. The offensive line has a great challenge ahead of them with Pittsburgh’s front. They’re very talented, they’re capable of having very disruptive plays, which gives opportunities to the backend for turnovers as well. All of our guys have to really come in and have 60 minutes of good football. We have to play disciplined and we have to always go ahead and be committed to the process of playing, and making adjustments throughout the game.”

Fans are waiting to see if this new line is any better than the previous versions which sent Eli Manning into retirement and turned Daniel Jones into a turnover machine.

Giants’ First Four Games a Tough Test For Revamped Offensive Line

New York Giants, Will Hernandez

The New York Giants will open the 2020 regular season against some of the NFL’s toughest pass rushes.  They open next Monday night at home against Pittsburgh, who led the league in sacks in 2019 with 54.

In Week Two, the Giants travel to Chicago to play the Bears and Khalil Mack. The following week, San Francisco and Nick Bosa come to town. The 49ers were fifth in the NFL in sacks last year (48) and the Giants’ Week Four opponent, the Los Angeles Rams, were fourth in sacks (50) in 2019.

This opening four game stretch will put the Giants’ rebuilt offensive line to the test. Last year, the Giants were not very successful at protecting rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, allowing the fourth-most quarterback hits (35) and seventh-most pressures (192). As a result, Jones lost eleven fumbles and was forced into throwing the football into tighter windows that he should have.

But that was with Nate Solder at left tackle and a beat up Mike Remmers on the right side. Solder was turnstile when it came to trying to stop speed rushers and Remmers was coming off back surgery. He wasn’t re-signed and Solder opted out due to coronavirus concerns.

They have been replaced by Andrew Thomas, the Giants’ top draft pick out of Georgia at left tackle and former Patriots and Cowboys swing man Cam Fleming on the right side. The guards are the same (Kevin Zeitler, Will Hernandez) and the centenaries is projected to be Nick Gates, who has played guard and tackle in his career but has yet to snap the football in a real game.

These four games will set the tone for the season. If the Giants can hold their own (no pun intended) they just might be over the hump when it comes to poor offensive line play. If not, it’s going to be another rough start and another trying season.

Judge Likens Giants’ Offensive Line To a “Lunch Pail” Crew

New York Giants, Joe Judge

In the 1980s, New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells dubbed the offensive linemen “The Suburbanites”, since the majority f them would pull up into the stadium parking lot in family-oriented vehicles with baby seats in the back.

They were anything but that on the field, as they dominated the trenches en route to two Super Bowl championships. Current Giants head coach Joe Judge has a lot of Parcells in him. He does, however, come from the Parcells coaching tree by virtue of working under Bill Belichick, Parcells’ longtime defensive guru.

The Giants’ offensive line is being rebuilt and with a new position coach (Marc Columbo joins holdover assistant Ben Wilkerson this year), the Suburbanites could be in for a revival. Columbo, a former Boston College star offensive tackle, was actually a player under Parcells in Dallas and credits the Hall of Fame coach with saving and reviving his career.

“Marc coaches those guys hard. Him and Ben get after it pretty good,” said Judge. “They understand it’s coming from the right place. I’ve seen those guys improve because they come to work every day with their lunch pail.”

The Giants’ line did not look very sharp in last Saturday’s scrimmage versus the defense, but it’s still work in progress. Judge did not criticize the fact that the defense was in the backfield more often that he would have liked. Then again, it could just be that the Giants’ defensive front is coming together. After all, they do have some good young players in their front seven.

Judge decided to dwell on the positives when speaking to reporters on Sunday.

“You saw a lot of things from them,” Judge said. “You see the young guys and the athleticism. I thought Nick Gates did a good job in the middle, commanding the calls and getting everyone on the same page. I thought he played with a lot of toughness the other night. I thought the tackles did a decent job. There were some other times, obviously, our defense was able to mix up some different looks and create pressure. There is a lot of parity in the night between our offense and defense based on the situation they were in. I thought Hernandez and Zeitler did a good job really playing physical. That showed up with (rookie) Shane Lemieux. I was pleased with how (rookie) Matt Peart and Eric Smith played on the edges. There are a lot of young guys who showed up as well. Tyler Haycraft had a large load the other night, did a decent job in there handling it, especially with the mental and the changes our defense gave with different looks. That’s always a key thing for the center position, to be the smart guy who steers everyone on the same page. I was pleased with the way the offensive line worked.”

“They’re improving every day,” he added.

The line could end up starting three rookies by year’s end: first and third round picks Andrew Thomas and Peart at tackle and Lemieux, a fifth rounder, at center. Right now, it appears only the guard positions are set with Will Hernandez at left guard and Kevin Zeitler on the right side. Either Gates and Spencer Pulley will start the year at center.