EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Patrick Omameh joined his fourth NFL team when he signed with the Giants as a free agent on March 16. As he did at each of his previous stops – Tampa Bay, Chicago and Jacksonville – the versatile guard quickly assimilated with his fellow linemen to form an organized group.
More than any other unit on a football team, unity and communication are vital on an offensive line. Omameh suggested today it's possible to come together quickly because of the personality traits of linemen.
"In my experience, most offensive linemen are pretty much the same guy as far as just how we behave, how we interact," Omameh said. "It's real smooth when it comes to fostering those relationships because of that inherit knowledge of one another even before we get a chance to really know each other. I think it's been a great experience getting to know these guys and go through this training camp process with them."
The Giants' new-look offensive line is developing into a tough, dependable unit. Which is fortunate, because coach Pat Shurmur, who is in his 20th consecutive season as an NFL offensive coach, understands the importance of both the O-line to the team's fortunes and for the linemen to mesh off the field so they can play as a singular detachment on it. Toward that end, he has all the players in each position group in close proximity in the locker room. Unlike in the past, all of the linemen are now situated at one end.
"It's that big oval shape in the locker room, I think you should sit with your position groups," Shurmur said. "We're going to go as far as that line will block for us. I think it's important that they're together in everything that they do. Even if they're sitting next to one another, they may talk about something that happened in practice or in a meeting that they wouldn't shout across the locker room about, so I think it's smart to sit with your position groups."
The new-look line has Nate Solder and Ereck Flowers at tackle, Omameh and Will Hernandez at guard, and Jon Halapio at center. Solder, Omameh and Hernandez, the rookie second-round draft choice, are newcomers to the Giants, and Flowers and Halapio are playing different positions than they did in 2017.
Because he has played for more teams than any of the other linemen, Omameh is the resident expert at discerning what must be done to foster a sense of camaraderie among the linemen.
"Changing teams - if it's somebody in my particular situation who's done it more than once, I want to say it's something that does become easier," he said. "You know what to expect, outside of learning new plays - getting accustomed to new situations, new teammates, new locker rooms. In that regard, this has probably been the easiest move."
Omameh has done all he can to help the players who aren't accustomed to such change, including Flowers – who is entering his fourth NFL season, all with the Giants - and Hernandez, who spent the previous four years at Texas-El Paso.
"Pat's an amazing guy, amazing person, great teammate," Hernandez said. "The very first day that I met him, he showed me a lot of love and right away we clicked. Just funny story about him: the first time I ever saw him in person, I went up and was going to introduce myself and he asked me what my name was and just as I was about to answer, he says, 'You know what, your name's Max. You look like a Max.' And I'm like, 'Alright.' Ever since then, I'm Max.
"Eventually it caught on, and now I'm Max (to the other linemen). It just shows his personality, how cool he is and right away we clicked and it just translated from there to the rest of the guys. He's really brought us all together."
Flowers still carefully parses his words, but he clearly admires Omameh, who plays next to him on the right side.
"Pat is great," Flowers said. "Our lockers are next to each other and we are with each other all day, so it's good."
Players on the other side of the ball have also noticed how unified the line is.
"I see the cohesiveness amongst them – and that's on the field and off," defensive end Olivier Vernon said. "Those guys are always together. That's what you expect from the offensive line group. Those guys are all like brothers. They go everywhere with each other. That translates well on the field when it comes down to it. I think their attitude is one of the things that I've noticed, especially going against them in practice and since OTAs. They got depth in that group, too, as well. They have a lot of guys that are working. They're working, they're building that chemistry. That's one thing you like to see in the offensive line group."
Of course, all this talk about how well the offensive linemen get along will be just empty words if the unit doesn't play well. It's difficult for any team to win without an above-average line. The Giants became painfully aware of that in 2017, which is why Dave Gettleman made improving the front one of his first projects when he became general manager.
"They should be in a position where they block well, run and pass, that's what we are looking for," Shurmur said. "We're not the only offensive line with changes, we probably have more than some places. We went through this a year ago in Minnesota, it can be done. We have got players that are playing hard, and they're playing together. We'll just expect that they are going to do a good job blocking."
Omameh is confident that's exactly what his group will deliver.
"I feel there's no competitor who would rather put that responsibility on anybody else's shoulders," he said. "It's a level of responsibility I'm always willing to take. I believe I speak for everyone else in our room, saying that it ain't no problem.
"We got a great group of guys. They really did a hell of a job putting together this collection of men and players. At the beginning, we were a bunch of guys thrown together and then by the end, we become one unit and that's what we're becoming. We just keep on putting in our work, keep on chopping the wood and we're going to get the results we want."