New York Giants: Offensive line motivated to improve against Rams in Week Three

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants have been arguably the weakest unit on the team through its disappointing 0-3 start. After investing a fair amount of assets into the offensive line this offseason and acquiring one of the best positional coaches in the sport to guide them, the Giants’ offensive line appears to have somehow gotten worse in 2020.

Quarterback Daniel Jones has been under pressure on 41.5% of his dropbacks in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus. This is the third-highest rate in the NFL. PFF Also states that the Giants’ offensive line has recorded a 46.3 pass-block grade through three weeks, ranking dead last in the league.

The members of the Giants’ front line are not oblivious to their poor performances. According to starting center Nick Gates, the Giants’ offensive line is “pissed off.”

Nick Gates Quotes

The New York Giants’ offensive line has gone up against some of the best defensive lines in the NFL to start the season. The Steelers and Bears were fully healthy and had All-Pro pass-rushers line up against the Giants’ weak offensive line. The 49ers’ defense was injured, but well-coached with a few impact players that gave the Giants plenty of trouble.

Entering Week Four, the Giants are set to face off against another great defense featuring one of the game’s greatest players: Aaron Donald. When asked about this matchup, Nick Gates called the matchup “exciting,” and saying Donald “will be the best player” Gates has “ever gone up against.”

Nick Gates admits that these first three weeks have been “frustrating” and the team is “pissed off.” But he also recognizes that the team has to “focus on the Rams” and move on “to the next game.” This falls in line with Joe Judge’s quotes.

Marc Colombo Quotes

Offensive line coach Marc Colombo also spoke with the media as his unit continues to struggle. Colombo is aware that his line is frustrated, saying, “I love that they’re pissed off. That’s the type of group we want.”

As frustrated as Colombo and his unit are, they are also aware that they have been dealt a pretty bad hand in 2020. With the craziness of the COVID offseason, Colombo reminds the media that the Giants’ offensive line is “thousands and thousands of reps behind.” Continuity has also been a problem for the Giants. But Colombo is not here to make excuses. Instead, he is here to find solutions:

“We’ve gotta do better in the run, period. That’s where we’re falling short right now. It’s going to alleviate a lot of stuff in the passing game. That’s something we have to do.” – Marc Colombo on his offensive line’s play through three weeks of the 2020 NFL season

Clearly, the Giants’ offensive line and coaches are frustrated. They need to play and coach better and they are all aware of that fact. If New York wants to turn around its season, the offensive line will need to improve quickly and drastically.

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.

Height Could Give Nick Gates Inside Track at Giants’ Center Job

New York Giants, Nick Gates

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.”

 

 

 

New York Giants: Joe Judge talks center competition

New York Giants, Nick Gates

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.

New York Giants: Recapping Today’s Practice 8/25

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants had another late practice session tonight, wrapping up well after seven p.m. Practice was halted for a while too, as lightning was striking in the surrounding area. Because of this, media coverage was limited, but they were able to drop some tidbits on today’s practice session.

Injury update

Darius Slayton returned to practice today. Jabrill Peppers and Shane Lemieux also participated after leaving practice early on Thursday.

Ryan Connelly, Nate Ebner, Spencer Pulley, and Eli Penny did not participate in practice today. They all worked on the side with the training staff (via Art Stapleton).

Highlights

There was finally a fight at Giants practice today. Lorenzo Carter and Evan Engram got into a scrum. Engram’s helmet was thrown off his head. Head coach Joe Judge determined that Carter was in the wrong, so he sent him for a lap.

Later on, Sterling Shepard scored a nice touchdown reception with James Bradberry in coverage. Shepard celebrated to get back at the defense, jumping into the arms of Nick Gates. Later on, Shepard dropped a potential touchdown pass in a two-minute drill, and the defense got after him for that.

Giants’ practice is intensifying as we inch closer to the regular season. With no preseason due COVID-19, Joe Judge is making sure to work his players hard to prepare for the season. Judge even said today that the team is considering having Daniel Jones take off his no-hitting red jersey to get him acclimated to the hits of football (via Matt Lombardo).

The Giants wrapped up another intense practice today, as Joe Judge continues to set the tone for his new team. With less than three weeks left until the Giants’ first regular-season game, do not expect to see the Giants take their foot off the pedal anytime soon.

New York Giants’ Marc Colombo says what we needed to hear with Nick Gates

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants have position battles set to occur at two different positions during training camp. Center and right tackle haven’t been solidified just yet, but offensive line coach Marc Colombo believes former undrafted free agent Nick Gates leads the pack at center. The Giants currently have a Shane Lemieux, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL draft, Spencer Pulley, and Jon Halapio.

None of the options available provide much optimism at the position, and while Gates hasn’t played a live rep at center before, his success at both right tackle and right guard in 2019 promotes his transition. Having a coach like Colombo to help his move is exactly what the Giants need.

Developing a sturdy foundation on the interior of the line is essential, with Gates, Kevin Zeitler, and Will Hernandez locking down the guard and center positions. Drafting Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick will hold inject a fantastic talent at tackle for the future, but Nate Solder opting out will have its impact.

Assuming Thomas starts at left tackle, the New York Giants will likely stick with swing tackle Cam Fleming on the right side, for the time being. Nonetheless, upgrading the interior is a necessity, and Gates has the ability to do just that.

New York Giants’ OL coach Marc Colombo states:

“Never played the position before and he’s the alpha male you want at the position, he owns it,’’ Colombo said. “That’s what you love about Nick. He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s versatile. Just love the kid so far.’’

At 6-foot-5 and 307-pounds, Gates is a bit big for the center position. However, Colombo mentioned his desire to have a bigger center, comparing him to former Dallas Pro Bowler Travis Frederick, who was 6-foot-4 and 317-pounds.

“We like big centers,’’ Colombo said. “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 sets, working the depth of the sets, working the calls, the line stunts. That type of stuff. He’s just got to see it all. He’s new to the position so he’s seeing stuff for the first time.’’

New York Giants: Will Hernandez talks O-Line, Nick Gates, Marc Colombo

The New York Giants focused on improving their offensive line this offseason with only a few familiar faces still in place, one of them being guard Will Hernandez. Hernandez has started 16 games at left guard in each of his two seasons in the NFL and is the projected starter for the Giants at said position in 2020.

Hernandez envisions the Giants offensive line playing a “big role” in their success this season (quotes per Giants.com’s Dan Salomone).

“The offensive line has a big, big role in our success. We’ll proudly carry the workload and get things done.”

“There’s a new attitude for everything.”

The Giants selected Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth pick and UConn tackle Matt Peart with the 99th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They also selected Oregon guard Shane Lemieux at 150. In free agency they signed former Dallas Cowboys tackle Cam Fleming.

Two weeks ago veteran tackle Nate Solder, a presumed starter at either left or right tackle, opted out of the 2020 NFL season, vacating a starting position. They also have an uncertain center situation with 2019 starter Jon Halapio on the open market.

A prime candidate to fill Solder’s shoes is Nick Gates, who signed a two-year extension with the Giants last week.

Hernandez thinks Gates can play “any spot” up front.

“I think Nick Gates could play any spot on the offensive line.”

The Giants signed Gates as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but he missed the season due to a foot injury. Last season he appeared in 16 games for the Giants, starting three games and making appearances at right tackle and right guard.

Among the many new coaches for the Giants is Marc Colombo. Colombo, a former NFL tackle, was the Cowboys offensive line coach from 2018-19, a position he now holds with the Giants.

Hernandez sees Colombo as someone he can relate to.

“It’s awesome having somebody that’s actually been there, done that. He definitely has a lot of inside information…He’s one of us, one of the guys.”

New York Giants: Joe Judge details how Nick Gates will be used during training camp

New York Giants, Nick Gates

Just two weeks ago, the New York Giants’ offensive line looked vastly different. With Nate Solder entering the third year of a four-year deal, he was expected to compete with fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas at left tackle. Solder had a tumultuous 2019 campaign, allowing 11 sacks and five penalties. He allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL at the tackle position, but personal issues played a significant part in his deficiencies.

General manager Dave Gettleman had never spent a first-round pick on an offensive lineman prior to 2020 when Thomas was selected. Maybe, Joe Judge played a part in that development.

Nonetheless, Solder has since opted out of the 2020 season, and Thomas will now compete with incumbent Cam Fleming. It also shakes up the right tackle position quite a bit. Fleming has experience on both sides, and Nick Gates, who started to games at right tackle last year, will also complete.

The tackle and center positions are littered with questions. The Giants featured Jon Halapio at center in 2019. He suffered a torn Achilles just one year after breaking his leg. Two significant injuries should justify his supplementation. The Giants still have Spenser Pulley available and have been working with Gates to transition to the interior potentially.

New York Giants head coach Joe judge stated on a conference call Wednesday:

“We have seen Gates snap the ball.”

He said Nick Gates, who just signed a contract extension, could factor into any of the five starting OL spots. He said the coaches need to do a good job of mapping out how they split his practice reps.

Judge stated that Gates would have a fair shot at both the center and tackle positions during training camp. The lack of a preseason makes his progression difficult, but the Giants will have to do their best in preparing him for live-action.

The former undrafted free agent from Nebraska has been working with Derek Carr under center in Vegas. Getting the extra reps under his belt going into training camp could prove to be significant for his development. The Giants desperately need to fill the center position with quality, and Gates showed great potential at guard and tackle in 2019. Despite limited snaps, he was one of the highest-rated players on the line, via PFF.

Halapio struggled to maintain blocks in anchor down, allowing two sacks and five penalties last year. He earned a 56.3 overall grade. While he was just a smidge better in pass blocking than run blocking, the Giants can no longer rely on him to hold down the middle of the line.

New offense of coordinator Jason Garrett and lineman coach Marc Colombo expect a strong group in the trenches.

Best case scenario, the Giants are able to build them a line similar to the Cowboys. Protecting your quarterback and opening up running lanes for a player like Saquon Barkley is all you need to have a potent offense.

New York Giants: Nick Gates To Receiver “Fair Shot” At Center and Right Tackle, Says Judge

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants signed offensive lineman Nick Gates to a contract extension this past weekend. Gates and the Giants agreed to terms on a two-year extension worth up to $10.325 million. The Giants have essentially locked down Nick Gates at roughly $5 million per year for the next two years.

Nick Gate is now making starter-level money after some impressive performances in 2019. Gates started in three games last season and played 290 snaps. Across those 290 snaps, Gates earned a 77.0 overall grade, and only 1 sack allowed according to Pro Football Focus. PFF also states that Gates allowed just 9 pressures in 191 pass-blocking snaps last season.

After impressing in limited playing time last year, Gates earned that contract extension and is now being paid like a starter. But does he have a starting position on this offensive line? According to head coach Joe Judge, Gates is going to have to compete, but he has a “fair shot” at two starting positions.

Joe Judge on Nick Gates

Joe Judge spoke with the media today, discussing training camp and coinciding topics. The first question that Joe Judge was asked was in regards to Nick Gates and his new contract. Here is what Judge had to say about the Giants’ plan with Nick Gates:

“One of the strengths of Nick has been his flexibility. He’s a guy that can factor into any of the five positions on the offensive line. The priority now is to give him a chance to compete for a starting position at any one of those five spots. As coaches, we have to do a good job of mapping out how we are going to allocate his snaps and his reps on the field between primarily center and tackle and give him a fair shot at both. We are going to work him day by day based on the priority for him. It will start shaking out once the pads come on.” – Joe Judge on Nick Gates via Giants.com Press Conference (8/5/2020)

Nick Gates has never played the center position before. But center is arguably the weakest position on the Giants’ roster, so Nick Gates will battle for that position. Joe Judge discussed Gates’s potential at center today, acknowledging the young lineman’s inexperience at the position. Judge explained that offensive line coach Marc Colombo has been dedicating “a little bit of extra time” to train both Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux for the center position.

Joe Judge praised Nick Gates, referring to him as a “guy that has good athletic ability” and “a smart player.” The Giants’ head coach seems confident in Nick Gates to make the switch over to center and he confirmed that he has seen Gates practice his snaps. Over the course of training camp, Nick Gates will continue to practice and try out for both the center and right tackle positions. If he can play the way he did last season, Nick Gates should find himself in a starting position come September.

New York Giants extend OL Nick Gates for two-years, here are the details

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants seem to be making behind-the-scenes moves more frequently under head coach Joe Judge. After utilizing the rarely used free agent tender on Markus Golden, more off-season moves are still happening. The Giants have agreed to a two-year extension with offensive lineman Nick Gates, who started in three games in 2019.

Gates will have a base value of $6.825 million and could max out at $10.325 million, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL network.

The Giants are heading toward an interesting development on the offensive line after left tackle Solder opted out of the 2020 season. That puts more pressure on fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas to step in and fill his role immediately. However, some might argue that Cameron Fleming, who has plenty of experience at both left and right tackle, is the better option to fill-in on Daniel Jones’s blindside.

Head coach Joe Judge made it apparent that everybody will have to earn their position on the team, and that includes Thomas, who was a top-five pick from this year’s NFL draft. There are also position battles at both center and right tackle, where Gates will be competing.

The former Nebraska lineman frames his blocks well in pass protection and has strong hands and flexibility. Even against stronger pass rushers, he was able to anchor down and utilizes quick feet to recover and mirror. Playing tackle is all about angles, and Gates managed to play at a decent level when substituting for Mike Remmers last year. He doesn’t have ample experience at the position, which makes him more fit for center or guard. The Giants currently have Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, so it leaves gates with only two options.

The extension is fantastic for both parties. The Giants believe he can be a starter in the NFL at a max of $5 million per season on his new deal.