Why didn't the Giants, despite having the opportunity to do so and an apparent need for the position, pass on drafting a center.
"Value and need always has to be there," said general manager Dave Gentleman, who makes that call on behalf of the organization after a consensus is reached.
"We feel like we have three to four guys, two of whom have played the position with varsity competition."
Those guys include Spencer Pulley and Tanner Volson (the varsity guys), and Nick Gates and rookie Shane Lemieux, both of whom have dabbled at the position in practice. The Giants have also mentioned Jon Halapio, last year's starter, who is recovering from an Achilles injury as a possibility.
That would seem like a lot of uncertainty for a critical position, but the Giants no doubt have a plan to address it. While head coach Joe Judge wouldn't come right out and say what the plan was other than to say there would be competition and some cross-training involved, given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be a surprise if the Giants haven't already penciled in Pulley with the first-string offensive line.
It makes too much sense. Pulley is under contract, and while he didn’t play much last year (and when he did, it wasn’t pretty), two years ago, he showed he could get the job done.
He has the most experience of all the centers, and don’t think for a moment that won’t be a factor in pairing him with Daniel Jones, a second-year quarterback who last year had trouble feeling the pass rush and who needs his protection calls to be spot on.
When you have a young quarterback under center who struggled to feel the rush, now is not the time to be putting someone who is learning the position in front of that quarterback. You'll want a center who can adjust the line calls (a problem the Giants had last year which resulted in some extra hits being absorbed by Jones) you get that young quarterback more comfortable in the pocket.
That's not to say that Pulley is the long-term answer. He's not. Draft pick Shane Lemieux could be the answer dow the road, but the problem he's going to have is without live reps to practice the movement of the ball at the same time he has to move, or snapping to the actual quarterback he'd be snapping to, that transition is likely going to have to wait until things go back to normal.
In the interim, I asked Judge how they were going to approach that since an offensive lineman—really any player—needs physical reps, especially a player learning a new position.
He mentioned the mental part--understanding how everything fits together and the concepts--which obviously can be taught virtually.
Then there is the strength and agility part, of which Judge said, "We’ve incorporated along with conditioning some agility drills as well that will fit into position specifics. So, we can go ahead and say for center reps, for guard reps, for tackle reps with the agilities, this is what you’re going to work today on a daily basis.”
But even Judge admitted that the simulating the physical reps during this on-going time of social distancing is going to be tricky.
“Look, it’s a lot easier for the OTAs when we had Phase 2 in OTAs with them guaranteed, and we’d get on the field and work them on a daily basis," he said. "Right now, we’re kind of the suspect of these guys working on their own on the field.”
That's why the Giants are likely to go with Pulley to start things off. It might not be the ideal long-term answer, but it's something to start with.