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2018 Position Preview: Offensive Line

When Dave Gettleman was hired to become the Giants next General Manager last December, he made no secret of the fact that he was going to try to fix a specific part of the Giants roster.

“We’ve got to fix the o-line,” Gettleman said at his introductory press conference. “Let’s be honest. Let’s not kid each other. I told you at the top, big men allow you to compete and that’s what we’ve got to fix.”

It surprised no one when there were a lot of changes at that position this past offseason. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg departed in free agency when they signed lucrative free agent contracts with the Cardinals and 49ers. The Giants signed veterans Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh and drafted Will Hernandez. There’s a real chance not one player that started for the Giants on the offensive line last year will be starting at the same position in 2019.

The group will also have a new position coach in Hal Hunter. Hunter has coached offensive lines in the NFL since 2006 including stops in San Diego, Indianapolis and most recently in Cleveland in 2016. Previously, he coached offensive lines in college since 1983. It will be his job to get the group to play as a cohesive unit. The success of this offensive line unit will go a long way towards determining how well the Giants play this season.

I usually include a practice report on each player at each position but I can’t for the offensive line since there was no contact permitted in spring practices, which prevents any reasonable analysis of offensive linemen. Ill split the group into centers, guards, and tackles.

Centers

Brett Jones: Last year’s starting center after Weston Richburg got hurt, Jones is in a fierce competition with Jon Halapio for the starting center position. Jones arrived from the CFL after being named their best offensive lineman in 2014 and worked his way onto the active roster. A bit undersized at just 6’2, Jones uses his natural leverage, intelligence and technique to get the job done. He split reps with Jon Halapio as the first team center in the spring. He is also capable of playing guard if necessary.

Jon Halapio: Halapio arrived in the NFL from the Florida Gators as a 6th round pick of the Patriots in 2014 and bounced around the league until 2016 when he signed to the Giants squad. He was promoted to the Giants active roster in October of last season and made his first career start at guard in week 12. He has since transitioned to the center position. He credits Brett Jones, someone he calls his best friend on the team, as the person whose help made the move possible. He got more first team reps than anyone with the first team at center at mandatory minicamp. Halapio can also be used at guard.

Evan Brown: Brown was a four year starter at Southern Methodist University before being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Giants after the 2018 draft. He started 27 games at center and 20 at right guard at SMU. He will have a chance to compete for a spot with the organization this summer.

Guards

Patrick Omameh: Despite starting for three and a half seasons at Michigan, Omameh went undrafted in 2013. From 2014 to 2017 he started 45 games at both guard positions for the Buccaneers, Bears and Jaguars. The Giants signed him as a free agent last offseason. He played both guard positions for the Giants during the spring, but was primarily the starting right guard with the first team.

Will Hernandez: Hernandez was the 34th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Texas-El Paso. He was a four year starter at UTEP (where he played 49 straight games) and ran a pro-style gap scheme there. He was known for his nasty road grading physical style of play. He performed extremely well at the Senior Bowl before putting up 225 pounds 37 times on the bench press. In the spring he took more reps with the first team as the offseason program continued, and eventually found himself as the starting left guard with the first team more times than not.

John Jerry: Jerry has been with the Giants since 2014 when he signed as a free agent. In the past four seasons, he has been active for all 64 games, starting 56 of them. Most of his starts have come at right guard, but he played left guard as well. So far in the offseason, he has been on the field as a guard with the second team at practice.

John Greco: A 10 year veteran, Greco signed with the Giants as a free agent on November 14th and played six games with Big Blue. He re-signed with the Giants in the offseason and has taken time with both the first and second teams at guard. He is a reliable veteran presence in the room.

Nick Gates: A three year starter at tackle at Nebraska, Gates was an undrafted free agent signed by the Giants shortly after the 2018 NFL Draft. He started one year at right tackle and two years on the left side in college, but he is being used as a guard with the Giants. He’ll have an opportunity to compete for a spot with the team during camp.

Chris Scott: Originally drafted by the Steelers in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, Scott has started 12 games in his career for the Steelers, Bills and Panthers. He was most recently with the Panthers when Dave Gettleman was the General Manager there. He was given a try-out at the Giants rookie minicamp and did enough to earn a contract.

Malcolm Bunche: Bunche went undrafted in 2015 and spent stints with the Eagles, Jaguars and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL. He signed with the Giants on May 14th.

Tackles

Nate Solder: The Giants signed Nate Solder on March 15th, and was immediately slotted in as their starting left tackle. He protected Tom Brady’s blindside from 2011-2017 and helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls and get to two others. He is a dependable pass blocker and a good run blocker that will help the Giants stabilize the offensive line.

Ereck Flowers: Flowers was selected ninth overall by the Giants in the 2015 NFL Draft and due to an injury to Will Beatty, he was immediately thrust into the starting lineup as the Giants starting left tackle where he played for three seasons. With the arrival of Nate Solder, he is being given the opportunity to win the starting right tackle job this offseason. He has not played right tackle since his freshman year at Miami in 2012. The Giants declined his fifth year option this offseason making him a free agent in 2019.

Chad Wheeler: Wheeler started 44 games at left tackle over four seasons at USC before going undrafted in 2017. The Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent. He started 5 games at left and right tackle last season, and will be competing for the starting right tackle spot this summer with Ereck Flowers.

Nick Becton: Becton went undrafted after Virginia Tech in 2013. He bounced around with six different franchises and their practice squads (including the Giants) until returning to New York in 2017. He was promoted to the active roster for the final regular season game. This spring, he has been the second team left tackle.

Jarron Jones: A defensive tackle in college, Jones was undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2017. He converted to offensive tackle before being let go in the preseason last year. He re-signed with the Giants on June 11th, 2018.

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