At the start of the NFL’s offseason, with questions across their offensive line, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman constantly went out of his way to heap praise on the then-widely unknown Nick Gates.
Since then, the 2018 undrafted free-agent out of Nebraska has enjoyed a meteoric rise into prominence, highlighted by a position switch and a contract extension.
Now, despite just three career starts under his belt and playing a position that just a few months ago was foreign to him, the Giants have officially named Gates their starting center ahead of Week 1.
Joe Judge: "We're going to start Nick Gates at center." #NYGiants
— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) September 12, 2020
Nick Gates Adds Desired Size to the Unit
Judge’s proclamation that the team is rolling with Gates shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He constantly outpaced fellow Giants center Spencer Pulley for first-team reps throughout camp and manned the gig in Big Blue’s unofficial depth chart release from a few days ago.
Aside from Gates’ obvious upside, his 6-foot-5-inch, 307-pound frame may have been the main driving force for his ascension from reserve tackle to starting center.
“We like big centers,” offensive line coach Marc Colombo told the media back in late-August. “I worked with (five-time Pro Bowler) Travis Frederick (who is 6-4, 320) in Dallas and he’s a big center. Big, athletic, strong. We’re looking for centers that can anchor the middle. One of the biggest things is getting depth right off the bat at center, just so he can kind of be the ultimate helper in there. It’s working his set. It’s working the depth of his sets, it’s working the calls, the line stunts, that type of stuff. He just has to see it all.”
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Giants Will Have 3 New O-Line Starters vs. Steelers
Gates will now join a vastly inexperienced o-line unit faced with the task of protecting perceived franchise quarterback Daniel Jones.
When New York takes the field on Monday they’ll roll out three new starters along their offensive line, as Gates will be joined by the likes of first-round rookie Andrew Thomas and free-agent addition Cam Fleming. For Thomas, it will mark his first-ever in-game NFL experience, while Gates will be making his first NFL career start at his new position of center.
Fleming (75 games), who came over from NFC East divisional foes, the Dallas Cowboys, this offseason, is actually the second-most experienced player on New York’s o-line, only behind guard Kevin Zeitler (119 games).
However, he’s made the majority of his living throughout his NFL career operating as a swing tackle and viable injury replacement as opposed to full-time starter. The six-year veteran has started just 24 of his 75 career game appearances.
The Giants’ offensive line will have no small task on their hands come Monday night. The Steelers defense collected a league-high 54 sacks as a team in 2019.
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