Joe Judge Reveals the Plan for Nick Gates
Offensive lineman Nick Gates is one of the most intriguing undrafted free agent stories to hit the Giants since an unknown receiver by the name of Victor Cruz walked in the door in 2010.
While wide receiver is a little more of a high profiled position, Gates, an undrafted free agent out Nebraska who signed with the Giants in 2018, brings his own level of intrigue in the form of David Diehl-like versatility that gives the Giants coaching staffs some options they probably didn’t think they’d have.
Gates, who last weekend signed a two-year contract extension, can play guard or tackle, both positions he’s played in regular-season NFL action.
He has also been cross-training at center, a process he began last year during practices in which he worked with Spencer Pulley, whose locker was near his in the Quest Diagnosis Training Center, on the craft.
“You know what? He's a guy who's got good athletic abilities, good length,” said head coach Joe Judge during a video conference call with reporters. “He's definitely a smart player that we want to make sure that we give them the opportunity to get inside and operate as that signal-caller.”
The challenge for Gates is that he’s never snapped the ball in a regular-season game, though Judge said Gates, as he did last year in practice for the previous coaching staff, has snapped the ball during the Giants’ on-field walkthroughs, conducted in shirts and shorts, thus far.
The Giants could use some new talent at the center position, where their only established player is Pulley. However, according to a source, the Giants continue to monitor where Jon Halapio, last year’s starter who suffered a torn Achilles in the regular-season finale, is in his rehab.
Judge said that Gates would see a fair amount of work this summer at offensive tackle. The decision by Nate Solder to opt-out of the 2020 season has muddied the starting offensive tackle position just a bit, though it was always expected that first-round pick Andrew Thomas would be one of the starters.
With Solder gone for the year, the belief is Thomas will do most of his work this summer at left tackle, the potion in which he excelled for most of his career at Georgia, while Gates, third-rounder Matt Peart, and veteran Cam Fleming compete at right tackle.
Given the truncated off-season that eliminated the OTAs where players are tried in new roles, the Giants, who have a second-year quarterback in Daniel Jones, might want to stick with a center who has live game experience, at least until Jones shows a comfort level with making the protection calls in this offense.
But Judge has already said he won't let a player's experience level dictate how many practice or game reps someone gets.
Gates, who began his NFL career on injured reserve as a rookie, is one of those players who has been inspiring a lot trust among this coaching staff.
“One of the strengths of Nick is really decent flexibility,” Judge said. “He's definitely a guy that can factor in any of the five positions on the offensive line, but our priority right now is giving him a chance to compete for a starting position.
“So as coaches, we have to do a good job of mapping out how we're going to allocate his snaps and reps on the field between primarily center and tackle and give him a fair shot at both.”