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Rookie Will Hernandez eager to put the pads on

New York Giants offensive lineman Will Hernandez (71) during organized team activity at the Quest Diagnostics training center on Tuesday May 28, 2018 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Evan Pinkus via AP)
New York Giants offensive lineman Will Hernandez (71) during organized team activity at the Quest Diagnostics training center on Tuesday May 28, 2018 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Evan Pinkus via AP)

Will Hernandez is his own toughest critic. Despite praise from coaches and teammates, the rookie guard gave himself mixed reviews following his first NFL offseason program.

"I expected a lot out of myself, but coming in here, it wasn't as easy as I thought," Hernandez said. "There's a lot more to it. With great coaching and the incredible teammates that I have on the offensive line, especially the veterans, they've helped me through it. I'm still learning but I definitely owe a lot to those guys and the coaches."

The Giants selected the 6-2, 327-pounder out of the University of Texas El-Paso in the second round with the 34th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Hernandez started all 49 games during his college career at left guard in the Miners' pro-style, gap-scheme offense. He's expected to immediately compete for a starting spot on the Giants' reshaped offensive line, which also includes the free agent additions of Nate Solder (New England) and Patrick Omameh (Jacksonville).

In addition to his football ability, the Giants liked the mean streak they saw in Hernandez's game.

"Cranky is good," head coach Pat Shurmur said of Hernandez after the team's selection. "It is kind of a good thing in our sport…it's certainly something that we value."

Hernandez wants to hone in that aggression though, and it's something that he's worked on this offseason.

"One thing that I came in here knowing, or tried to work on right away, was being able to be technically sound and aggressive at the same time," Hernandez said. "So that's something that I talked with coach and then I was able to work on the playbook and kind of learn when it's better to be aggressive and when it's better to lay off a little bit. It's going to help my game out because now I'm not a one-man show. I can do various things."

Hernandez and the offensive line as a whole has already made an impression on Eli Manning. That's a good thing, considering he's the one they'll be blocking for.

"It seems like a great group," Manning said. "They get along well. They eat lunch a lot together and are big character guys. It is important to them. It seems that they can have fun and enjoy being around each other. Just the work that goes into it. They take great pride in their craft and in communicating."

Hernandez credits much of his progress this offseason to working with his position coaches Hal Hunter and Ben Wilkerson and the veterans in the offensive line room. He says anticipation has been a major point of emphasis during OTAs and minicamp.

"Thinking and going through your progressions and almost guessing what the defense is going to do," Hernandez said. "If you can expect something and you can shut something down before they do it, now you look like this great lineman. In reality, it's all about preparing. The only thing you're going to anticipate anything out there is if you have it down like this."

Hernadez will report back to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on July 22 along with the rest of the rookies and a select group of veterans. That's when the hog molly finally gets to put the pads on for the first time. 

"I've been able to work on my technique and footwork without the pads," Hernandez said. "These are small but huge details that matter. That's the cool thing about being able to just have helmets. You can work on those things and you don't have to worry about someone coming at you at full speed. Now that we've been able to address that and go through that and learn from it, I'm more than ready to get the pads on and go all out."

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