The Giants continue to bolster their offensive line with the addition of Will Hernandez:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –Pat Shurmur was a center at Michigan State and has coached the offensive line in college and the NFL during the first portion of his 30-year career. One of the many lessons he's learned is the greatest skill players in the game can't excel without an effective offensive line.
"If you can't block them," Shurmur said, "then nothing works."
In Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and their first-round draft choice Saquon Barkley, the Giants have numerous offensive weapons. Tonight, the Giants added a large building block to their offensive line that will make all of them more effective when they selected guard Will Hernandez with their second-round choice in the NFL draft, No. 34 overall.
He joins veteran free agents Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh as offseason additions on the offensive front.
"We've made obviously an effort here to improve ourselves up front," Shurmur said, "so all those guys that do the fancy stuff can do their thing."
Hernandez, 6-2 and 327 pounds, started all 49 games at left guard the previous four seasons for the University of Texas-El Paso.
"One of the great gifts you can get in the draft is when value meets need, and we had a solid first round grade on Willie," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "So we're thrilled to get him. He's exactly what we're looking for. He's a power blocker, he's tough, he finishes strong. … You know I love the hog mollies and this guy really has a lot of talent. He is a very athletic kid for his size. He can run, he can pull and he plays very smart. I'm thrilled we got him."
"Will is going to give us strength in the middle, he's good in the run game, as well as the pass game," Shurmur said. "I think it's very important to anchor the inside of the pocket and the passing game, which he can certainly do. He can do all the things that you need to see from a guard and he's been very productive."
Hernandez excelled when the Miners played in the New Mexico University Bowl in his redshirt freshman season, and in 2017, when they finished 0-12.
"If you look at him in game (12), you know the kid has pride, he has a tremendous amount of pride, because he played as hard in that game as he played in game one," Gettleman said. "Just think about it. Just imagine you guys playing any sport and you've got an X-game season and you haven't won a game and you're playing the last game. Fifty percent of the population is going to say, 'Forget about it, I'm done.' The toughness and the character of this kid in the (12th) game was very, very impressive."
Impressive yes, but it was still a brutal experience for Hernandez.
"It was one of the worst seasons I've ever experienced in my life," Hernandez said. "It taught me a lot, it made me so much stronger. The only thing I want to do is just make sure that never happens to me again because I just want to win. I just want to win games."
The lost season enabled Hernandez to fine-tune his mean streak, always a helpful trait in an offensive lineman.
"He's a little cranky," Gettleman said.
"It is kind of a good thing in our sport," Shurmur said. "A lot of parts in our culture, that is not admired. Certainly in our sport it is something that we value. Cranky is good."
At his introductory news conference on Dec. 29, Gettleman bluntly stated that the Giants offensive line had to improve. He has added starters in Solder and Omameh, and, quite possibly, Hernandez.
Omameh played left guard in the three-day minicamp that ended yesterday. But in his first five NFL seasons, he started more regular-season games at right guard (24) than on the left side (20).
"Will is going to play both sides to see where he fits in," Shurmur said.
When the Giants last had the No. 34 selection in the draft, they drafted a guard and it worked out well for them. Chris Snee was their second-round choice in 2004, and he became a four-time Pro Bowler who helped the team win two Super Bowls.
"Will is bigger, obviously," Gettleman said. "Will is a natural 320-pound guy. What made Chris unique is he had great quickness and he was strong as an ox and he was a very good athlete. Comparing Will to him, he is just a bigger guy but, again, strong as an ox and a really good athlete. I vividly remember that day."
And Hernandez will certainly remember this one.
"I'm beyond excited," he said. "The fact that I get to work with guys like that, it's like, wow. The Giants all around are just a great, great team. The fan base is amazing. The coaching staff, when I met them on my private visit, was amazing. They were all real cool guys. I'm just excited to be a part of that team."
Just as excited as the Giants are to have him.