EAST RUTHEFORD, N.J. – The Giants’ offensive line is not intact, but it is together.
Today was OTA (organized team activity) No. 3 and the Giants again worked without tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers. Solder, who played every snap last season on the left side, recently had arthroscopic ankle surgery. Remmers, signed last week, is still rehabbing after undergoing back surgery this offseason. Neither will likely take a practice rep before training camp.
In their absence, the tackles working with Eli Manning and the first-team offense are Brian Mihalik on the left side and Chad Wheeler – who started 14 games last season – on the right side.
But Solder and Remmers are still busy. They attend every meeting and O-line gathering, fostering the communication and camaraderie that is so essential to that group’s success.
“The biggest thing, especially in OTAs, where it’s not live bullets, is communication,” said Jon Halapio, who has returned to his position in the center of the line after missing the final 14 games in 2018, when he fractured his ankle and lower leg in Week 2 in Dallas. “Although Remmers is not out there, he’s right behind the huddle on every single play. When we do our reps and come back to the sideline, we’re always talking to him, including him in the group, and asking him how he would do something different on a certain play. But all around, the communication has been good.”
Halapio is particularly cognizant of keeping injured linemates involved in group and team activities, because they did that for him last year.
“That was the first serious, serious injury I’ve had and that was the longest I’ve been out of football due to an injury,” Halapio said. “It was hard. I have to give it to the O-line. They made sure I was included in every O-line dinner, included in all the group texts. I was in all the meetings. The only thing I missed was practicing and playing. But other than that, the O-line did a great job including me the entire year.”
Remmers joins right guard Kevin Zeitler, acquired in a trade with Cleveland, as linemen new to the team this year.
“They fit right in,” Halapio said. “Offensive linemen usually have similar characteristics. That’s why we play offensive line. We already have that basis. And once we come together, we spend the most time together. It’s essential we spend time together off the field, because it helps us gel on the field.”
Zeitler played five seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals and two for the Browns. He did not miss a game in any of the previous four seasons.
“I love being here, I love working with the guys,” Zeitler said. “…You like to think there is no limit to what we can do. Especially with the talent around us like Eli and Saquon (Barkley) in the backfield. We have a long way to go and a lot to do. We’ll see what happens once the actual season rolls around.”
After playing in one game for the San Diego Chargers in 2013, Remmers spent three seasons in Carolina when Giants general manager Dave Gettleman held the same position with the Panthers. He then moved to Minnesota for two years, the first when Pat Shurmur was the offensive coordinator.
“(Remmers) is a pro, a real pro, and he played winning football for us in Minnesota,” Shurmur said. “I know a lot about Mike and then he started every game last year and played well. We were in talks with him, took a couple of physicals, just went through the process and signed him.” Shurmur said Remmers will “be ready to go once the season starts, for sure.”
Remmers said he is making progress despite not taking practice reps.
“I feel very comfortable with the offense already,” he said. “There's some wrinkles here and there that I need to learn, but I feel like if I hopped in right now, I’d be pretty comfortable out there.”
The fifth starter is left guard Will Hernandez, who also participated in each of the Giants’ 1,027 offensive plays last season. Since his arrival 17 months ago, Gettleman has rebuilt the line, as he promised. The only holdover is Halapio, who started six games at right guard in 2017.
“It’s great,” said Solder, who joined the Giants last year after seven seasons in New England. “I totally believe in the way that Dave Gettleman has put this team together. I totally endorse it 100 percent. I’m such a fan of his and the guys he’s brought in here, it’s really cool.”
“Feel good about that group,” Manning said of the line. “They have worked hard and we have added a few pieces that have worked. They will do their part and their job very well. It should help everyone else, also.”
They must wait until training camp until all of the pieces are on the field together, but they prefer to put a positive slant on that development.
“I think it’s actually a great thing overall for the O-line and for the team,” Zeitler said. “The more reps other guys can get, you never know what’s going to happen in this league. A sled could fall on the back of your leg like me last year. You want the guys to have as many reps and be as game ready as possible.”
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Halapio said, “so it’s good everybody gets these reps so we can plug everybody in at a certain time if need be to play at a certain position.”
Solder has a position. And he prefers to be playing it in the OTA’s.
“I don’t think it’s an ideal situation,” he said of his absence. “You want to spend as much time together as you possibly can. But when you don’t have ideal circumstances, you make the most of it and you don’t make excuses.
“There’s something to be said for putting in time with the guys in real live situations like OTA’s that I’m definitely missing out on. I want to keep up mentally as best I can, so I can be ready as best as I can be ready when the time comes to be prepared.”