New York Giants: The Biggest Competition Heading Into Training Camp

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The New York Giants were praised by addressing the offensive line this past off-season. Adding three through the draft and one in free agency, Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge put an emphasis on finally trying to finish the rebuild of the O-line. Most of the media attention will be focused on Andrew Thomas, who will anchor down his end of the line. The neglected area of need is exactly in the middle: center. The Giants have been struggling to find quality lineman at all positions but received a good return on some of their investments. They traded for one of the best guards in Kevin Zeitler last season and drafted Will Hernandez with the 34th pick in 2018. However, Nate Solder clearly has not lived up to expectations after Gettleman made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league at the time. The glimmer of hope is that Thomas will become the future left tackle in NY. The center position is vacant and the question needs to be answered this summer. Who will be the Giants starting center? Let’s take a look at who will be competing for the position next month.

New York Giants Biggest Competition Lies in the Trenches

Nick Gates

Gates was picked up by the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2018 out of Nebraska. Gates only started three games last season, with two starts at tackle and one at guard. Gates became a versatile lineman once he got to the NFL, being mostly a backup at the tackle and guard positions. He’s now practicing at center, snapping the ball to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Gates is training in Las Vegas with teammate Will Hernandez and a few Raiders offensive lineman.

“It makes it a lot easier going to work out every day when you have those guys there to push you,” Gates said in an interview with the New York Post. “There’s a back-and-forth — I feed off their brain, then they ask me questions — that helps.”

Perhaps the most important endorsement Gates received was none other than the man himself, Dave Gettleman. Gettleman raved about Gates in interviews, saying that he has “faith” in Gates and is excited about what he can bring to this group of lineman.

“We have faith in Nick Gates, the kid we signed two years ago, a free agent we signed out of Nebraska,” Gettleman said to Giants.com. “He missed his rookie year on I.R., but last year he made a lot of progress. We are excited about him.”

Despite a small sample size, there should be excitement to see if Gates can be the starting center. If he can outlast the others on the list, it would make for quite another interesting UDFA story.

Spencer Pulley

Pulley was claimed off of waivers by the Giants just before the start of the 2018 season. After Jon Halapio went down against Dallas, Pulley stepped up and started nine games that year. The Giants must have liked what they saw in Pulley in 2018, rewarding him with a three year, $9.6 million extension. Last season, the Giants viewed Pulley as the “sixth man” of the offensive line, seeing as he could step in at center at any given moment. There is no clear favorite to win the starting center job, but former Giants offensive lineman Shaun O’Hara believes that it is Pulley’s job to lose.

“I think Spencer Pulley is a good center,” O’Hara told the New York Post.

O’Hara went on to say that Pulley has an advantage over other players because of his experience. That may be the only edge Pulley has heading into camp, unless he can convince the team that he is capable of holding down the middle of the line.

Shane Lemieux

Lemieux was the Giants’ fifth-round pick in this past year’s draft. He started 52 consecutive games at left guard in his career at Oregon. Despite only playing guard in college, Lemieux will get a chance to compete at center and also receive reps at right guard. The Giants view the 6’4″, 310 pound Lemieux as a versatile piece to the offensive line.

“I understood that this game is all about versatility,” Lemieux said in an interview with Giants.com. “I think that me getting good at all three interior positions is going to benefit me in the future. I don’t really have a position. I just want to be ready whenever I get in, to be ready to play whatever coach asks me to.”

Encouraging words from the young rookie, as the one-word coach Judge has been preaching since becoming head coach has been versatility. Lemieux’s name will definitely be heard later this summer and has a real good chance to become the starting center for the Giants.

Jon Halapio

Halapio or “Pio” as his teammates call him, suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the last game of the season in 2019. It has been a bittersweet two years for Halapio. After finally finding a role with the Giants, he misses almost his entire first season with the team due to a lower leg fracture then gets injured again in the final minutes of his second season. Halapio surrendered two sacks on 661 passing plays last season according to Pro Football Focus.

While Halapio is currently still a free agent, it appears evident that the Giants will re-sign the soon-to-be 29-year-old center once he is 100 percent healthy. Pio, who is now 23 weeks post-Achilles surgery, has been posting recovery videos over social media, showing the progress he has made since the devastating injury in Week 17.

“We’ll see what happens with (Halapio) with his Achilles,” Gettleman said to NJ.com. “We’ll see what kind of recovery he makes. We’ve got two centers in the building (Pulley and Halapio) that have played varsity snaps and have played winning football.”

If Halapio wants to re-gain his starting role, he has to prove that he is fully healthy and can still perform at a high level. He has won the job the last two preseasons and he’ll have to win it once again. When/if the Giants decide to re-sign Halapio, he needs to be ready.

Final thoughts

The center job is anyone’s for the taking. Nobody can answer this question now, we’ll have to wait and see when camp starts on July 28th. Gates, Pulley, Lemieux, and Halapio will make quite the competition later this summer.

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