Will Hernandez: The Good, the Great and the Ugly
One of the bright spots from the Giants offense last season was the 2018 second-round pick Will Hernandez. The left guard became a fan favorite last season. He also became a critical lineman for running back Saquan Barkley run behind.
Many big runs for Barkley have come from getting behind No. 71. As this new regime takes over, they have to be excited about the opportunity to work with Hernandez. He is still young, and although he is really good in many areas, there are things he can improve on as he looks to take that step forward toward becoming an upper-echelon NFL guard.
The Good: Operating in Space
In this first clip, the Giants are setting up a screen pass to the left for Barkley. Hernandez sets up the defensive lineman by making him believe that it is a pass.
Hernandez then throws the lineman down and explodes into the defensive backfield leading the way for Barkley, and is able to get a block on a defensive back 15 yards down the field.
The result is a lot of defensive backs trying to get out the way and Barkley racking up almost 10 yards on the screen.
In this next clip, the Giants are in the shotgun and run a power play to the right. The center is uncovered, so he pulls, and Hernandez is charged with closing down the vacated gap.
Hernandez secures the gap and climbs to the next level. He blocks a linebacker and runs with him 10 yards downfield, keeping the linebacker from properly pursuing to the ball.
This allows Barkley to get through a hole and get to full speed before the linebacker can detach from Hernandez. By that time, it is too late, and Barkley is running for a touchdown.
The Great: Pulling
In this first clip, Hernandez utilizes the skip pull to sift around the action. He explodes into one of the defensive linemen who has done a good job of squeezing the hole, creating a crease for the running back to squeeze into.
He then leads through the hole as the offense fights for a modest gain. You can see how he is able to use his leg strength and power to fight through the pile and create a crease.
This next clip is another power play. Hernandez is pulling right, and he has to kick out the defensive end who is squeezing on the tackle who is down blocking. Hernandez pulls fast and with bad intentions.
He explodes into the Dolphins' end, never allowing him to brace for the impact or deliver his own blow. Hernandez stops the end's squeeze and knocks him back a couple of steps.
That allows the tight end to lead up through the hole and the back to follow and turn a no gain into a modest gain.
In this third clip, the Giants are running a kick play to the right side. Hernandez decides to skip pull, which seems like it was a mistake. The Eagles also send a defensive back screaming off the edge.
It looks like Hernandez is not in a position to make a block on a player blitzing so fast from the angle he's facing, but at the last second, he is able to flip his hips and delivers a block on the blitzer that knocks him over. That allows Barkley to slide underneath the block and run to daylight.
This final clip shows how definitive Hernadez is in his blocking and how adept he is at pulling and latching on to his block. He skips-pulls again to the right and encounters a linebacker who looks to strong-arm Hernandez and spills the play to the outside.
Hernandez does a great job of covering up the linebacker and forcing him in. That allowed Barkley to stay tight off Hernadez's block, squeeze through the opening, and explode into the secondary for a significant gain.
The Ugly: Pass Protection
In this first clip, quarterback Daniel Jones is in the shotgun, and Hernandez has a defensive tackle lined up in a 4i technique (inside eye of the offensive tackle).
On the snap of the ball, it is clear that Hernandez is locked on this tackle, but he waits to engage. Instead, he ends up catching the defender and gets driven back into Daniel Jones's lap.
Hernandez's mistake on this play was allowing the defender to get forward momentum for his bull rush. If he had punched him earlier, he could have stopped that initial rush.
In this next clip, Jones is once again in the shotgun. This time the offensive line has slide protection to the right. This means that Hernandez is responsible for the A-gap (between the guard and center).
Hernandez is initially ready to block the nose guard, who looks as if he is going to attack the A-gap, but he goes to the B-gap. Hernandez does the proper thing and doesn't chase him, he passes him off to the left tackle.
What he fails to do is to continue to protect his A-gap, and when another defender attacks it, they are able to make Jones nervous and chase him from the pocket.
In this final clip, the Giants are again in the shotgun, and they are slide protecting again. This time when Hernandez slides, he has no threats in his A gap. A lineman with a little more awareness would have looked to their outside to assess if anyone else needed help.
The name of the game is to find work. Because Hernandez never looks back to his left, he misses a defender looping around into the B-gap on a stunt.
Luckily Jones delivered a strike in rhythm and was able to get the pass off before the rusher could be a negative factor in the play. As an offensive lineman, you don't want to make a habit of allowing free rushers at your quarterback.
Regardless of the minor problems he has in the passing game, there's no doubting Hernandez's is one of the best young guards in the NFL and is a player who should flourish under the tutelage of new offensive line coach Marc Colombo.
The future is bright for Hernandez, and there's no doubt that he will be a Giant for a long time.