Interior offensive lineman Will Hernandez was supposed to be a second-round steal for the New York Giants.
And in fact, he was, at least in his rookie season. After getting off to a slow start, Hernandez was, without question, the Giants' best offensive lineman by midseason of his rookie year.
He put his brute strength to use in neutralizing some formidable opponents, his mauling style of play just what the Giants offensive line needed. And his double-team blocks regularly opening holes big enough for baby bulls to fit through with ease.
In Year 2, instead of Hernandez's stock rising, it began to slide, particularly in pass protection where per PFF, he gave up 31 pressures, being beaten more often on one-on-ones than he had in his rookie campaign.
He also struggled with stunts and blitzes, though to be fair, part of that was likely due to a rookie quarterback not setting his protection calls properly. That said, he still looked particularly adept on the move on long pulls and screens, and when he hit someone, one could feel it in the next town.
But then came Year 3, and whether it was a matter of becoming too bulky or if there was something else brewing, Hernandez suddenly seemed to have lost a step or two in adjusting on the move. Interestingly enough, when he was forced to miss two games after testing positive for COVID-19, he never did regain his starting job despite being a better pass blocker than rookie Shane Lemieux.
Perhaps the most alarming thing about Hernandez's game last year is that despite playing in about half of the snaps he's played in his first two seasons, his total pressures were still up there. He allowed 25 pressures on 525 snaps. By contrast, as a rookie, he played 1,029 snaps and allowed 29 pressures.
What He Brings
Hernandez is a player who has the necessary tools to be successful but who, for whatever reason, hasn't quite been able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
He has always been more effective on an island game. He’s a superb solo pass blocker, but his handling of stunts has room for growth. His run blocking has its moments, but it's also fair to wonder if, at one point, Hernandez became too bulky to where that affected his mobility on pulls. It wouldn't be surprising if his confidence took something of a hit between the inconsistency in the coaching and dealing with COVID-19 last year.
Hernandez, a career left guard, is trying to make the switch to the right guard position. While it is still early in that process, the hope is that what appears to be a slimmed-down fourth-year player will be able to display that quickness and get back to being the rising star he was in his rookie season.
Hernandez is in the final year of his rookie deal and will count for $3,057,680 against this year’s cap.
The Giants haven’t given up on Hernandez, nor should they. Instead, they have challenged him to make a move from left guard, where he has spent the majority of his career, to the right side, a process that won’t happen overnight but one which the 25-year-old has been training for this off-season.
While it is still early in that process, the hope is that what appears to be a slimmed-down fourth-year player will be able to display that quickness and get back to being the rising star he was in his rookie season.
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