NY Giants tight end Evan Engram should return to action in Sunday’s game at the Redskins.
Art Stapleton, Staff Writer, @art_stapleton
LANDOVER, Md. — Will Hernandez has embraced two constants on every snap he has taken as a rookie offensive lineman for the New York Giants this season.
Eli Manning has been at quarterback behind him, and Nate Solder has been to his left.
That’s been the case for 763 times and counting – every snap the Giants have taken offensively in 12 games – and now that Hernandez feels as if he has caught up, the relationship with Solder has gone from student-teacher to more of a tandem that has solidified the left side up front.
“In some ways, Nate has been carrying me since I got here,” Hernandez said with a smile in an interview with NorthJersey.com and USA TODAY Network New Jersey earlier this week. “He’s shown me the ropes since Day 1, and I think we’ve gotten to the point now where I get it, he gets it and we’re working together instead of Nate having to think about me, too.”
Solder promised Friday that he doesn’t see it that way, and that Hernandez has helped him reach a certain level of stability with the Giants in recent weeks with the way he has matured into the position at left guard.
“I certainly would not say that I’ve been carrying Will, that’s not how I see it, but I do believe that we have yet to come close to realizing our potential together,” Solder said. “We’re really just getting started.”
The Giants were seemingly stuck in a perpetual backpedal in their first meeting against the Redskins. They were unable to get anything going in the ground game with Saquon Barkley and Washington’s defensive front came after Manning without consequence.
The Redskins sacked Manning seven times with 16 pressures in 54 drop backs, all season highs, during an eventual 20-13 victory over the Giants.
Since the acquisition of right guard Jamon Brown, the Giants’ line has come through with its most consistent play of the season. They have said good-bye to Ereck Flowers and Patrick Omameh, inserted Chad Wheeler and then Brown into the starting lineup and put another waiver wire claim, Spencer Pulley, in at center.
The mainstays, of course, have been Solder and Hernandez. Each player has had his share of ups and downs, with Solder trying to play up to his four-year, $62 million contract and Hernandez going through the growing pains that come with making the transition from UTEP to the NFL.
With the Giants having won three of their last four, Solder and Hernandez have found a good rhythm.
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“When they’re working together, whether they’re double-teaming or they’re scooping, or they’re passing off twists, they’re doing a better job of making that all happen when they’re working together,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “Again, it’s just experience. I said this I think earlier in the week but what’s going to happen and it happens with most rookies that are thrust into a starting role like Will has been. Somewhere in the offseason, he’s going to have an ah-ha moment that says, ‘Wow, when this thing started I didn’t know much about what was going on, but now the next time through I’ll have so much more of an idea.’ And that’s sort of what you get, I think Nate’s been able to help guide him through that.”
Barkley needs 46 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the season, yet another milestone for the sensational rookie who has garnered plenty of praise for all he has accomplished to this point.
The Giants’ first-round pick rarely discusses his success without mentioning those blocking for him up front.
“Our offensive line is playing at a very high level these last couple weeks,” Barkley said. “For the last three games, we’ve been able to run over 100 yards. That’s directly towards them and a credit towards them. They’re playing very confident, the chemistry is high there, and that’s what we kind of didn’t have going into the last time we played the Redskins. Hopefully they can have an impact on this game and set the tone from the line of scrimmage.”
Hernandez insists the focus is on the present, not the past or the future.
“I’m sure at some point in January or February, I’ll look back at this season and see how much I learned as a rookie and how I became a better player,” Hernandez said. “But right now, all I’m focused on is getting better this Sunday than I was last week, and what matters is finding a way to beat [the Redskins]. For me, for Nate, for all of us up front, that’s the priority. That’s the next challenge, and we need to prepare for everything that comes our way.”
NY Giants running back Saquon Barkley shows off his dance moves during practice on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018.
Danielle Parhizkaran, NorthJersey
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