While we may not be certain which side Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder will line up on next season, the New York Giants’ starting five across their offensive line appears to be entrenched. That is, aside from a looming question mark at center.
Veteran Spencer Pulley is expected to enter training camp as the leader in the clubhouse. However, with the versatile Nick Gates and rookie Shane Lemieux breathing down his neck, Pulley’s chokehold on the starting gig is far from secure. In fact, if Pulley drops down the depth chart during the preseason, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan doesn’t envision a scenario where he’ll make it past roster cuts.
“I’m sure fans are hoping Nate Solder will be the answer,” Duggan stated when asked to predict a surprise roster cut for Big Blue during a live Q&A segment, “but I’ll go with Spencer Pulley. I think he’ll enter camp as the No. 1 center, but if he doesn’t hold on to the starting job then I think he gets cut, since the Giants would create $2.75M in cap savings and not eat any dead money. Every penny is going to count as teams prepare for the uncertainty of the 2021 cap.”
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Pulley’s Competition is Enticing, But There’s a Catch
There’s a great belief in New York that the Giants organization would not only welcome, but likely prefer, that one of either Nick Gates or Shane Lemiuex come out of camp as the team’s starting center.
Pro Football Focus agrees with this sentiment, pegging Gates as the victor in the three-headed battle. A quick glimpse back at his 2019 campaign and it’s easy to see why the former Nebraska offensive tackle has so many people in his corner, including general manager Dave Gettleman.
Gates posted a solid overall PFF grade of 77.0 in 2019. Yet, his grade jumped up into the 80s while lining up at guard. While Gates has never played center in his career, the hope is his excellence operating on the interior will carry over to the center position.
Speaking of never playing the center position, insert Shane Lemieux. The former 2nd-team All-Pac-12 selection comes over to New York after starting 52-consecutive games with Oregon…all at guard.
Giants Super Bowl Champ Shaun O’Hara envisions a somewhat difficult transition for the 5th-round pick, noting he’d be “shocked” if “at any time as a rookie [Lemieux] took snaps as the starting center.”
Pulley’s Experience Gives Him a Fighting Chance
Pulley is clearly not the most enticing, nor sexiest of candidates to replace Jon Halapio at center for New York.
With that said, his experience gives him a significant leg up on the competition. While he started just one game for Big Blue a season ago, he has 26-career starts under his belt, including a full 16-game slate just three years ago as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Still, at just 27-years of age, Pulley has a legitimate chance to cement himself as the center of the future for the Giants. However, if he fails to prove worthy during training camp, his tenure in New York may be as good as over.
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