Giants Survive Shortage of Offensive Linemen During Thursday's Practice

It wasn't easy, but the Giants made it through Thursday's practice despite only having four available offensive linemen.
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Just when the Giants coaches thought they had seen it all, along came the circumstances of Thursday's practice.

Those circumstances saw all but four offensive linemen be available for the team's practice due to the positive COVID test produced by left guard Will Hernandez, which resulted in seven other players--most of them offensive linemen--having to self-quarantine pending the outcome of a new round of tests and contact tracing.

Other than for Hernandez, who is on the REserve/Covid-19 list, all of the players and the two assistant coaches--center Nick Gates, starting left tackle Andrew Thomas, right tackle Cam Fleming, guards Shane Lemieux and Chad Slade, backup center Spencer Pulley, and receiver Binjimen Victor, and outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson--were back at work Friday, but not before their absences created a bit of an adventure.

But head coach Joe Judge, who by now is used to dealing with curveballs in his first season as head coach, looked at the bright side.

"I think it was a great opportunity for our team to see how everyone has to step up and be ready at all times," Judge said. "There were some adjustments to what we had to do a little bit schematically and also with practice organization.

"Having a limited menu for our offensive linemen that tied into our team prep periods for defense as well when we're working against each other we had to adjust a few things."

Outside of Matt Peart and Kevin Zeitler, the rest of the Giants' make-shift offensive line which, according to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, included tight end Eric Tomlinson taking some snaps at right tackle, have minimal to no experience at offensive line.  

"I thought those guys handled it well," said Garrett. "I thought those young guys benefited from the reps and handled themselves well. 

"Hats off to Eric for being able to jump in there. He’s a good football player, he’s a smart guy, he’s a tough guy, handled the work well, and allowed us to function. I thought we got something out of yesterday’s work."

The Giants' coaches had to get even more creative when constructing a scout-team offensive line during first-team defensive reps, even recruiting some of their backup defensive linemen to serve as stand-ins on the offensive line scout team.  

"We used both the guys that work on our regular offensive line as well as use some defensive linemen over there as well," Garrett said. "That ties into everything we’re preparing for. At some point in time, you may have to have a defensive lineman or a tight end playing on the offensive line, and we have to have a plan for it. 

"We worked yesterday a combination of staying as close to our game plan as possible, as well as mixing in a couple of curveballs in case we have to make some kind of adjustments."

That was good news for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who praised his coaching colleagues for their creativity.

"With the collection of all the smart guys we have on the staff, we figured out a way to get it so that the players weren’t missing out," he said. "It’s just the nature of our job."