At some point, most likely, in late July or early August, the Giants will gather and take the field. When they do, someone has to line up in the center and hit the ball with Daniel Jones.
The identity of that player is one of the unknown elements for a summer full of fewer uncertainties than usual for the Giants, regarding their offensive line. It’s easy to speculate on the starting tackles (Nate Solder and rookie Andrew Thomas) and even easier to anticipate the starting guards (Will Hernández and Kevin Zeitler). The man in the middle of everything is a concern.
Contestants plan to shake it off like this: Spencer Pulley leading the way for the initial job, followed by Nick Gates and possibly Jon Halapio, if he is considered recovered from a torn Achilles tendon and re-signs. A dark horse is Shane Lemieux, a rookie who started 52 consecutive games in Oregon, all on left guard.
It does not appear to be a particularly stimulating group of candidates, and it could be true that the long-term answer is not on the list. However, someone has to go on the offensive, and what needs to be factored into the equation is that Jones is entering his second year as an NFL quarterback and the first in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s new system, what which means that the more experience, the better.
That favors Pulley, the 27-year-old with 26 NFL starts, including nine with the Giants in 2018. At 6-foot-4, 308-pound, Pulley isn’t a puncher, but he can make blocks on the second tier. It is a Vanderbilt product and has the NFL details and intelligence to handle the task, though it lacks the ideal size and power.
“I think Spencer Pulley is a good center,” Shaun O’Hara, the starting center for the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII team, told The Post.
The gates at 6-6 and 318 pounds are bigger than Pulley and the previous training regimen saw him as a possible option at right tackle. Gates started 25 games in Nebraska as a left tackle. He started two games last season with the right tackle and one with the right guard, and snapped photos at practice in the center.
“We have faith in Nick Gates,” said general manager Dave Gettleman.
The Giants had their eyes on Matt Hennessy of Temple in the NFL draft, but they knew that once they selected Alabama safety Xavier McKinney with the No. 36 overall pick, Hennessy wouldn’t be on the board when it came time to choose. again. at number 99. In fact, Hennessy went to the Falcons at number 78.
As soon as Gettleman took Lemieux in the fifth round, there was talk that he would be coached in the middle, a position he has never played.
“I feel like with the center there is a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more about the defense and to be more solid with what is happening around you,” Lemieux said. “Obviously, you have to break the ball. Those are the two most important factors that are different. “
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Knowing the offense and really breaking the ball are Lemieux’s two biggest impediments to preparing to make a run in the center as a rookie.
“The hardest thing a lot of guys have, if they’ve never played in the center, is shotgun shooting,” said O’Hara, currently an analyst at NFL Network. “Most boys can discover the snap below the center. Shotgun shots, sometimes people go mental dwarfs with it and just can’t handle it. I think he’s the type of person who will stay out and break 1,000 balls if need be, to make sure he can handle that. “
O’Hara was a left tackle on Rutgers and passed to the center. He personally remembers ruining two-minute drills in practice with the Browns as his snapshots rolled on the ground or flew over his quarterback’s head. He also remembers working at the exchange center and “snapping a pair of fingers from a pair of substitute quarterbacks” during drills.
Based on all the work necessary to accomplish everything, O’Hara said he would be “surprised” if Lemieux at any time as a rookie took photos as the starting center.
“For the simple fact that Spencer Pulley is there,” O’Hara said. “He’s not going to come in and be better than Spencer Pulley right away. Just from a mental point of view, making the calls. And you also have a young quarterback. Daniel Jones hasn’t seen all the defenses yet. Would I like a quarterback? sophomore and a rookie center playing? Heck no. ”