New York Giants should see further offensive line improvements in 2021

New York Giants, Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants‘ offensive line was inconsistent in 2020. The Giants have had struggles across their offensive line for years now. It is a problem the Giants seemingly cannot fix. However, they are slowly working towards improving the offensive line, investing plenty of assets into the unit over the past two years.

The Giants traded for Kevin Zeitler in 2019 and signed Nate Solder to a huge contract in the 2018 free agency period. These are the two moves New York has made to acquire veteran talent on the offensive line. In 2020, though, the Giants shifted towards a more youthful approach on the offensive line.

New York spent the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on left tackle Andrew Thomas. They then doubled down at the position in the third round, selecting offensive tackle Matt Peart with pick number ninety-nine. But the Giants were not done there. They also spent a fifth-round pick on offensive guard Shane Lemieux in 2020.

These rookies saw plenty of playing time in the 2020 regular season. However, their performance was not always consistently good. However, there are reasons to believe that the Giants’ offensive line will improve further in 2021.

Continuity is key

The New York Giants’ offensive line severely lacked continuity and experience in 2020. Along with the rookies that saw extensive playing time, the Giants started second-year lineman Nick Gates at center, a position he had never played before. Gates was practically a rookie as well.

Taking that into consideration, the Giants had experienced players at only two of the five offensive line positions last season. Right guard Kevin Zeitler is an excellent, veteran player. Right tackle Cam Fleming is also an experienced veteran. However, the rest of the line was comprised of rookies and inexperienced players for the majority of the season.

The Giants also had no continuity along their offensive line. In terms of calling protections and passing off stunts, continuity and chemistry is crucial. No one on the Giants’ offensive line in 2020 lined up next to a teammate that they lined up next to in 2019.

Kevin Zeitler was placed between a brand new center and a brand new right tackle. The absence of Nate Solder left rookie Andrew Thomas as the Giants’ starting left tackle, sandwiching the left guard position between two newly acquired players.

The 2021 season will see the Giants’ offensive line play with far more chemistry and continuity than they did in 2020. There is not likely to be much overturn at all along New York’s offensive line. There could be a change made at the right tackle position, but the other four positions will likely be manned by the same players from last season. Additionally, the Giants made a change at the offensive line coach position midseason in 2020. Hopefully, in 2021, New York’s front line can enjoy the coaching of a singular coach. This second-year together could allow the Giants’ offensive line to grow and develop into a more continuous and consistent unit.

New York Giants getting everything and more out of 2020 rookie class

New York Giants, Tae Crowder

The New York Giants are on a four-game winning streak. This is the longest winning streak the Giants have been on since 2016. New York is also in first place in the NFC East after beating a tough 8-3 Seahawks team on the road this Sunday. The Giants look poised to make a playoff run this season, proving their legitimacy while beating one of the best offenses in the NFL in Seattle.

One of the biggest difference-makers on the Giants this season has been their 2020 rookie class. New York has seen early returns on nearly every single rookie they drafted or signed this offseason. These rookies have been crucial to the Giants’ success in recent weeks.

Rookies on offense

On the offensive line, the Giants have been seeing their young, inexperienced players improve every single week. Andrew Thomas had the best performance of his young career so far this week against Seattle. For the second week in a row, Thomas did not allow a single pressure in pass protection. He also recorded the highest single-game Pro Football Focus grade of his career at 87.1 overall. Not only was this his highest-graded single game this year, but it was also the highest single-game grade among all first-round offensive tackle picks this season (PFF).

Right beside Andrew Thomas is Shane Lemieux, the Giants’ fifth-round pick from Oregon who has been starting at left guard for the past few weeks. The entire offensive line has played significantly better since Lemieux entered the lineup. Lemieux has had his fair share of ups and downs, but he has been very impressive when considering where he was drafted. Lemieux has also been improving week-by-week and looks like he will be with Big Blue for a long time.

In addition to the two rookies on the offensive line, Nick Gates has gotten better every week playing a brand new position. Initially, a guard, then a tackle, Nick Gates has transitioned to the center position and played at a high level in recent weeks after some great struggles early in the season. Gates is basically a rookie as he is learning and playing a brand new position this year. He has shown tremendous progress, though, and is already locked into a contract extension that should keep him as the Giants’ starting center for years to come.

Undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Austin Mack also has a game this season as the Giants’ leading receiver. The Giants’ other rookie offensive tackle, Matt Peart (selected 99th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft), has not elevated to starting status yet. However, he has seen playing time while rotating in at both left and right tackle this season. He has been super impressive whenever he is on the field and could play his way into a starting role sooner than later.

Rookies on defense

The defensive side of the ball is where the Giants have really seen their rookies contribute this year. New York has been starting rookies at multiple defensive positions this year. Darnay Holmes, New York’s fourth-round selection out of UCLA, has started at slot cornerback all season long. Holmes has, like the rest, improved every single week. He certainly has not been a liability like the slot cornerback position has been for the Giants in the past. Holmes had his first career interception against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks this week. A promising future seems to be laid out for Darnay Holmes and the Giants’ defense.

The second half of the Giants’ 2020 NFL Draft class was filled with defensive selections. New York drafted the likes of Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, and Tae Crowder in the sixth and seventh rounds. Whether earned through merit or obtained through injuries, these rookies have all seen significant playing time in the Giants’ defense.

Tae Crowder, Mr. Irrelevant from the 2020 NFL Draft, has been starting on the Giants’ defense this year when healthy. Crowder has been so impressive for a player who nearly went undrafted. Crowder recorded a clutch sack against the Seahawks this week and recorded a game-winning scoop-and-score fumble recovery against Washington earlier this season. He has exceeded all expectations as a starting inside linebacker for the Giants this year.

Crowder was one pick away from going undrafted. When speaking of undrafted rookies, it is hard not to talk about Niko Lalos, the Giants’ undrafted gem out of Dartmouth. Lalos was elevated to the Giants’ active roster last week before their matchup with the Bengals. In his first NFL game, Lalos recorded an interception and earned more playing time this week. Of course, the Ivy League animal went ahead and recovered a fumble this week against Seattle. This undrafted rookie has been forcing turnovers left and right.

Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin were two under-the-radar linebackers that the Giants found late in the 2020 NFL Draft. Coughlin has seen increased playing time with EDGE Kyler Fackrell recently placed on injured reserve. Coughlin has played 79 defensive snaps this season, already totaling 6 combined tackles, 1 sack, 8 total pressures, and 6 hurries. Cam Brown has played 48 snaps, recording 5 pressures 3 hurries, and 8 combined tackles already.

Second-round pick Xavier McKinney has yet to see expanded playing time after returning from a fractured foot, but he is sure to be part of New York’s long-term defensive plans as well.

The Giants have seen early returns on nearly every rookie they drafted or signed this offseason. It was a job fantastically done by Dave Gettleman, Joe Judge, and company, acquiring young, talented players this offseason. The future is bright in the Big Apple.

New York Giants: Offensive line shows out in clutch Week 12 win

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants are now in first place in the NFC East. The Giants’ clutch 19-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals put them on top of their division. The Giants barely scraped out with a win in this game that saw starting quarterback Daniel Jones go down with a hamstring injury.

The Giants’ offense struggled to get anything going once Jones exited the lineup. But while Daniel was playing, New York’s offense was efficient, minus a couple of miscues that held them back. The Giants’ offense looked primed to breakout in the second half before Daniel Jones suffered his injury.

The reason why the Giants’ offense was performing so well: the offensive line. What has been the Giants’ biggest weakness for years was arguably their biggest offensive strength this week.

Offensive line stats and highlights in Week 12

For the first time this season, the Giants’ offensive line did not give up a sack. This comes just over a week after Joe Judge fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo and replaced him with coach Dave DeGuglielmo. In DeGuglielmo’s first game as offensive line coach of the Giants, the offensive line had its best performance of the season.

The Giants did not allow a sack and were great in the run-game, helping running back Wayne Gallman total 94 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground. The Giants gained a total of 142 rushing yards against Cincinnati.

According to Pro Football Focus, rookie offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Shanne Lemieux were particularly impressive. PFF states that neither rookie allowed a pressure on the day. This is encouraging for the Giants to see their young linemen continue to improve with a near-flawless game in pass protection.

The Giants saw great improvement from their offensive line this week. But it still was not perfect. Right tackle Cam Fleming struggled against the Bengals, committing a number of costly penalties. This could lead the Giants to start rookie tackle Matt Peart in Fleming’s place once Peart returns from the reserve/COVID list.

This was an encouraging performance from the Giants’ offensive line. New York’s front line has struggled all season long but has seen drastic improvement in recent weeks. As New York pushes for a playoff spot in December, it will be crucial for the offensive line to continue to play at a high level.

New York Giants need to see offensive line improve after bye week

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants made a shocking move today, firing offensive line coach Marc Colombo after only ten weeks with the team. According to reports, head coach Joe Judge made the decision to fire Colombo after a verbal altercation that saw Colombo insubordinate the team’s head coach. Now, Dave DeGuglielmo will serve as the team’s offensive line coach.

The Giants’ offensive line has struggled immensely in 2020. But, over the past few weeks, there has been some improvement. According to reports, this is correlated to the fact that Joe Judge has spent more time coaching the offensive line himself.

New York’s offensive line is a point of weakness. Judge and DeGuglielmo now have a whole bye week to work together and try to fix the offensive line’s issues. As the Giants make a late-season playoff push, it is crucial that the offensive line improves after the bye week to keep the Giants in the hunt.

New York Giants Offensive Line Stats

Despite investing a hefty amount of assets into the offensive line this offseason, the Giants’ front unit has not looked improved this year. Granted, there have been slight week-to-week improvements from individual linemen, but overall it has been a struggle for this positional group.

According to Pro Football Focus, through ten games, the Giants are last in pass-block grade (47.2) and 29th in run-block grade (56.9). PFF also states that quarterback Daniel Jones has been pressured on 42.9% of dropbacks this season (second among qualifying quarterbacks). Over the last four games, Jones has been pressured on 41.1% of his dropbacks (tied-fourth most).

New York’s second-year quarterback has been under constant duress this season. When kept clean, Jones has been surgical. In Sunday’s victory over Philadelphia, Jones was 18-18 from a clean pocket for 188 yards and a PFF passing grade of 93.1.

But keeping Jones’s pocket clean has been a struggle for the Giants. Rookie first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas leads all offensive tackles in the NFL in pressures allowed. He has struggled to find his footing in the NFL and has even been outplayed by third-round rookie Matt Peart in his smaller sample size.

The New York Giants found their formula for winning against Washington and Philadelphia the past two weeks. Essentially, the offensive line has to give Daniel Jones time to make plays. When Jones has a clean pocket he can make plays and keep the ball out of harm’s way. This is why fixing the offensive line should be the top priority for the Giants to close out the final seven weeks of the 2020 NFL season, as they push to make their first playoff appearance since 2016.

New York Giants: Shane Lemieux set to make NFL debut vs. fierce Tampa Bay defense

New York Giants, Shane Lemeiux

The New York Giants had their first positive COVID-19 case of the season this week. Starting left guard Will Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Giants’ Week 8 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

According to reports, rookie guard Shane Lemieux is expected to start in place of Hernandez this week. This will be Lemieux’s first start of his career. The Giants drafted Shane Lemieux out of Oregon in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Week 8 will be Shane’s first opportunity to prove himself as a long-term starter on New York’s young offensive line.

Lemieux’s Opportunity

The New York Giants have kept veteran guard Kevin Zeitler involved in their trade talks ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. Moving on from Kevin Zeitler would leave the Giants with a major hole at right guard. This hole, potentially, could be filled by Shane Lemieux, depending on his performance on Monday night. If Lemieux is able to perform at an impressive level against Tampa Bay’s fierce defensive front, he could elevate into a starting role and sway the Giants to trade Kevin Zeitler.

Lemieux’s Competition

Shane Lemieux and the Giants’ offensive line have a tall task ahead of them in Week 8. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have quietly built one of the NFL’s best defenses. Their defensive front, in particular, has been special in 2020.

Long-time veteran Ndamukong Suh is continuing to excel in his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Suh will be a handful lining up in front of the Giants’ rookie offensive lineman.

Tampa Bay is allowing the third-fewest yards per game (291.3 yards). The Buccaneers’ defense is allowing only 66.3 rushing yards per game so far this season, the best in the NFL. Wayne Gallman will have a tough time running the ball on Tampa Bay’s defense.

Shane Lemieux and the Giants’ offensive line will not only be challenged in the running game but in the passing game, too. The Buccaneers have totaled 25 sacks through 7 weeks, the second-highest total in the NFL behind only the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.

This will be a “welcome to the NFL moment” for Shane Lemieux. In the first professional start of his career, the rookie out of Oregon will face one of the best defenses in the NFL that features a star-studded front-seven. If Lemieux can manage to hold his own against Tampa Bay, it will bode well for his future as a starter on the Giants’ offensive line.

Should the New York Giants roll with a young offensive line for the rest of the season?

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants‘ offensive line has struggled immensely through the first seven weeks of the 2020 NFL season. Despite this, their best lineman Kevin Zeitler has been brought up in trade discussions. Zeitler is a nine-year NFL veteran that has performed as the Giants’ best offensive lineman over the past two seasons.

Trading away Kevin Zeitler would leave the Giants with yet another huge hole in their offensive line. That hole would be filled by another rookie, Shane Lemieux, out of Oregon. This would place the Giants with two rookies starting on their offensive line, the other being left tackle Andrew Thomas. Nick Gates is also a rookie at the center position, playing this position for the first time in his career.

But should the Giants take things one step further and get as young as possible on the offensive line? New York has three rookies it could start on their offensive line: Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, and Matt Peart. Combining these three rookies with second-year Nick Gates and third-year Will Hernandez would give the Giants an insanely young offensive line.

Why the Giants’ young offensive line could be a good idea

The Giants’ offensive line is bad as it is. Could it really get that much worse? It seems like it could only get better at this point as New York’s front line has allowed Jones to be sacked 20 times through seven games. Considering this, maybe the Giants’ rookies could step in and outperform the struggling veterans.

Additionally, the Giants need answers on these rookie offensive linemen. Are they long-term solutions? The only way to find out is if these rookies get significant game-experience for the final stretch of this season. Allowing these rookies to start on the offensive line would give New York eight weeks of film to evaluate their linemen heading into the 2021 offseason.

The Giants might need to invest further into their offensive line during the 2021 NFL Draft. But if these rookies can prove themselves as legitimate starters, then New York will be able to invest their assets elsewhere.

Will Hernandez will be out in Week 8 as he tested positive this week for COVID-19. This should give rookie Shane Lemieux a chance to start this week. If Lemieux performs well, it could entice the Giants to complete a Kevin Zeitler trade. If New York does that, they should take the extra step and insert Matt Peart into the starting lineup in place of Cam Fleming. This would give the Giants’ rookies eight weeks to prove themselves before the 2021 offseason.

New York Giants: Pros and cons of a potential Kevin Zeitler trade

The 2020 NFL trade deadline is right around the corner. The New York Giants have already gotten active, trading away edge rusher Markus Golden to the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round draft pick. The Giants have had a few other players’ names come up in trade discussions, too. Veteran wide receiver Golden Tate is a trade candidate whose value is increasing. Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler is another name that teams have called about.

Kevin Zeitler was traded to the Giants in 2019. Since then, he has started in all but one game for the Giants. Zeitler has been one of the team’s best players since his arrival in New Jersey. But with the Giants sitting at the bottom of the NFC East with a lowly 1-6 record, there is a chance they start to sell off their best players to the highest bidders. How would the Giants benefit from a potential Kevin Zeitler trade?

Pros

The Giants are a young, rebuilding football team. They invested heavily into their offensive line this offseason, particularly through the 2020 NFL Draft. New York drafted two offensive tackles and one interior offensive lineman in this year’s draft. That interior offensive lineman is Shane Lemieux out of Oregon, and he would be the new starting right guard if Kevin Zeitler were to be traded.

If Zeitler were to be traded, the Giants would be able to give Lemieux a starting role for the final 8 weeks of the season. This would allow them to have plenty of NFL film on Lemieux going into the offseason before deciding whether or not to sign or draft another offensive lineman.

Best case scenario, Lemieux impresses and instills confidence in the Giants that he can be a long-term starter at offensive guard. Worst case scenario, Lemieux struggles and proves not to be the long-term answer, indicating to the Giants that they need to find a new offensive guard in the offseason.

Regardless, Kevin Zeitler is not a long-term answer at offensive guard. He is 31-years-old and has not been the same player this year that he was the seasons prior. Moving on from Zeitler would also free up $10 million in salary cap for the Giants (Spotrac).

Trading away Kevin Zeitler would likely acquire the Giants a day-two pick in the NFL Draft. He is their best offensive player and most valuable trade asset. The Giants would be able to gain draft capital and give Shane Lemieux valuable game experience. These are great benefits to trading away Kevin Zeitler, but there are drawbacks also.

Cons

If the Giants do trade Kevin Zeitler away, their offensive line will be going from bad to worse. The Giants’ offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL despite having Kevin Zeitler in the starting five. Taking him away would put Daniel Jones in harm’s way.

Additionally, taking Kevin Zeitler out of the starting lineup and thrusting Shane Lemieux in there could be bad for the rookie out of Oregon. Lemieux was a mid-round draft pick that is being developed behind Kevin Zeitler at the moment.

If he is ready to take on a starting role, then the Giants would probably be excited to get him out there in some capacity. But Lemieux has not lined up at offensive guard once this season, just a few snaps at fullback. If he is not ready to play, the Giants might risk stunting his growth by forcing him into the starting lineup to face tough competition.

The Giants have about a week to get a deal done if they plan on trading away Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler is a valuable and talented player, but if Gettleman and the Giants want to play the long game, they might benefit from moving on from the veteran offensive guard.

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: What Will The Starting Offensive Line Look Like In 2020?

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL over the past few years. The team has struggled to find consistent offensive tackle play since investing a top-ten pick in Ereck Flowers in 2015. From Flowers to Solder, the Giants have been disappointed by their recent expensive offensive line investments.

New York is hoping that that trend of disappointing offensive line investments ends after this season. This offseason, the Giants invested heavily in their offensive line, drafting three linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants also signed an offensive tackle in free agency and significantly upgraded their offensive line coach.

Giants fans are hopeful about their offensive line for the first time in a while. Andrew Thomas was drafted fourth overall, signaling a cultural shift by the Giants towards a more traditional team-building philosophy. The Giants are prioritizing the offensive line and finally, for the first time in years, have depth in the positional group.

Projecting the 2020 Offensive Line

 

  • LT – Andrew Thomas
  • LG – Will Hernandez
  • C – Nick Gates
  • RG – Kevin Zeitler
  • RT – Nate Solder
  • Depth – Spencer Pulley, Shane Lemieux, Cameron Fleming, and Matt Peart
  • OL Coach – Marc Colombo

The Starting Five

The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas to be the team’s left tackle of the future. Some have suggested that Thomas should start his career at right tackle, but in my opinion, Thomas should start at left tackle right away.

Nate Solder allowed 11 sacks in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus, the third most out of any offensive tackle in the NFL. To make matters even worse, Solder allowed 57 pressures in 2019. This was the most of any offensive lineman in the NFL. Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle). It is highly possible that Andrew Thomas is the best left tackle on the Giants’ roster despite never playing a snap in the NFL.

Will Hernandez is entering his third NFL season after taking a small step back in 2019. Big Will looked promising as a rookie but struggled to develop as a sophomore. This could have been for a couple of reasons: Hernandez was playing between two bad players, and the Giants’ coaching staff was one of the league’s worst. Luckily for Hernandez, both of these problems seem to have been fixed. This could be his breakout season.

The center position is by far the biggest question mark on the Giants’ roster in 2020. There will be a positional battle at center during training camp and preseason. In my opinion, Nick Gates is the top candidate for the position. Gates finished the 2019 season with a 77.0 overall grade and only 1 sack allowed in 290 snaps (Pro Football Focus). However, Spencer Pulley could win the job based on seniority and past experience. Gates has never played center before but has been impressive in limited snaps at offensive guard and offensive tackle.

Despite never making the Pro Bowl in his career, Kevin Zeitler has been one of the best pass-blocking offensive guards in the NFL. Also according to Pro Football Focus, Zeitler finished with the sixth-best grade among guards and posted a strong 75.0 pass-blocking grade — the sixth-straight year he’s achieved that mark. Zeitler is a lock for the Giants’ right guard position and should get a contract extension after his contract expires next offseason.

Solid Depth

Nate Solder is likely to move over to right tackle, but if that does not go well, the Giants have solid depth pieces behind him. New York signed Cam Fleming this offseason to be a swing tackle or backup offensive tackle. They also drafted Matt Peart out of UConn in the third round. Peart is not likely to be ready for NFL action in his first season, but he has a lot of potential down the road as a starting offensive tackle.

An Improved Coaching Staff

The hiring of Marc Colombo was huge for the Giants. Colombo has helped maintain the Dallas Cowboy’s offensive line’s status as one of the best in the NFL. Cowboys players have stated that Colombo’s relatability in his youth helped the offensive line grow and gravitate towards its coach.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being around a lot of people in this game. But Marc is in the front of the class. That’s the ultimate compliment I can give him. You get inspired by Marc every day you’re around him.” – Jason Garrett on Mar Colombo via ESPN

 

New York Giants: Who Should Start At Center In 2020?

New York Giants, Spencer Pulley, Jon Halapio, Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux

Arguably the weakest position on the New York Giants‘ roster in 2020 is the center position. The Giants made it a priority to upgrade the offensive line this offseason. However, the team did not address the center position.

The Giants spent three draft picks on the offensive line in 2020: Andrew Thomas at left tackle, Matt Peart at right tackle, and Shane Lemieux at guard or potentially center. New York also signed offensive tackle Cameron Fleming in free agency.

While rookie Shane Lemieux could count as a center acquisition, he is a guard, and the Giants did not make any other acquisitions at the center position this offseason. The Giants will be rolling into training camp on July 28th with a mostly unchanged group of centers. Spencer Pulley is still on the roster, but Jon Halapio is not. The Giants have not yet re-signed Halapio after his last two tumultuous seasons on the team, though that could change if he is healthy.

Competing for the center position this summer are three players. Shane Lemieux, the rookie out of Oregon, could join the competition despite being a guard in college. Spencer Pulley is penciled in as the starting center right now because he is the only player on the roster to have started games at center in the NFL. Then there is also Nick Gates, the underrated offensive lineman who started three games at two different positions for the Giants in 2019.

Who Will Be The Starting Center?

Spencer Pulley?

Nick Gates, Spencer Pulley, and Shane Lemieux will be the three main players competing for the starting center position in 2020. Of those three players, Spencer Pulley is the only one with any experience as a center in the NFL. Nick Gates has played offensive guard and offensive tackle in the NFL, but never center. Shane Lemieux has yet to play a single snap in the NFL and was a guard in college.

Pulley might have the most experience, but he has the least potential. Spencer Pulley has been in the NFL since 2016. Throughout his career, Pulley has been a decent replacement-level starter or backup. He has been the Giants’ backup center for the past two years and even got the opportunity to start 9 games as the team’s center in 2018, filling in for the injured Jon Halapio.

In 2018, Pulley was decent, allowing 12 pressures, and two sacks in 573 snaps according to Pro Football Focus. However, in his one start with the Giants in 2019, Pulley played a poor game and was a liability as a run-blocker. This start was in Week 10 against the Jets where Saquon Barkley ran the ball 13 times for a total of 1 rushing yard.

Spencer Pulley provides professional experience and durability to the Giants’ center position. But, in my opinion, he is the option with the highest floor and the lowest ceiling. The Giants should consider Pulley a backup center and hope that one of these young guys wins the starting job.

Shane Lemieux?

The youngest player in the group is Shane Lemieux. The Giants drafted Lemieux out of Oregon in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. During his collegiate career, Lemieux was a solid player on Oregon’s great offensive line.

Despite never playing center in his career, Shane Lemieux will be considered for the position with the Giants. Upon being drafted by the Giants, Lemieux instantly started training to be a center. In the video below, you can see him practicing his snaps:

Shane Lemieux is one strong hog molly. He stands in at 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 310 pounds. He was also efficient in college, posting an 83.9 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus, surrendering only 11 pressures. Shane is a young, darkhorse candidate to win the center position if he has an impressive training camp and preseason.

Nick Gates?

In my opinion, Nick Gates should be the Giants’ starting center in 2020. Gates has spent his time in Las Vegas this offseason training to be a center with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

“You know, just for what it’s worth, we’ve talked about Nick [playing center]. He did do some of that last year in practice, so it’s not completely new. Nick is smart. The thing you love about Nick is just how tough he is, because it’s a fist fight in there. There’s no doubt about that. History tells you that the toughness of your team is really, really indicated by the toughness of your offensive line. So, we’re always looking for that kind of piece. Nick would be in consideration at center, absolutely.” – Dave Gettleman on Nick Gates

Nick Gates did practice at center in 2019. He also started games at both right tackle and right guard in place of an injured Kevin Zeitler and an injured Mike Remmers. In Gates’s start at right guard in December he did not allow a single pressure and played an excellent game. Gates finished the 2019 season with a 77.0 overall grade and only 1 sack allowed in 290 snaps (Pro Football Focus).

If Nick Gates can replicate his success playing tackle and guard in 2019 at the center position, he should own the job in 2020. Gates was a pleasant surprise on the Giants’ poor offensive line last season. He has played a small sample size of snaps, but those snaps have all been efficient and reliable. Nick Gates could be the guy to turn the Giants’ biggest weakness into a strength.