The New York Giants are projected to have three combined rookie and free agent addition starters on their offensive line in 2022 — center Jon Feliciano, right guard Mark Glowinski and first-round rookie tackle Evan Neal. Yet, a former Giants lineman is thanking the team for not bringing one of their 2021 starters back.
Ex-Giants offensive lineman Justin Pugh is thankful to have Will Hernandez join him on the Arizona Cardinals offensive front in 2022. Hernandez started all 17 games at right guard for the Giants in 2021.
Pugh publicly thanked the Giants through Twitter.
Pugh was drafted by the Giants in the first round of the 2013 draft. He had 63 starts for five seasons at tackle and guard before signing with the Cardinals in 2018.
In a wacky way, Pugh was replaced by Hernandez in the same year.
The Cardinals now have both former Giant draft picks.
Hernandez was a second-round pick drafted by the Giants in 2018 and his career had up-and-down moments in his first two seasons. The 26-year-old Hernandez allowed just two sacks in 2019, but also struggled mightily in run protection (45.7 grade per PFF).
The UTEP product missed two games in 2020 due to COVID-19 and was never placed back into the starting lineup. In 2021, Hernandez started all 17 games at right guard and was graded 60th out of 82 guards. He allowed seven sacks and committed eight penalties as well.
His performance often saw him struggle in pass protection.
Entering free agency, Hernandez signed with the Cardinals to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million in the offseason.
While Hernandez has played most of his NFL snaps at left guard, the Cardinals could be banking on offensive line coach Sean Kugler to help re-shape Hernandez’s career. Kugler coached Hernandez during his college days at UTEP.
Kugler is also a run game coordinator and could also help Hernandez’s struggles in that area.
Hernandez spoke to the media after officially signing with the Cardinals and couldn’t have been happier joining forces with Kugler.
“I am very excited to be able to play under Coach Kugler again,” said Hernandez. “I feel like he’s one of the main reasons I made it to the NFL in the first place. We have a very strong connection and relationship.”
Despite signing just a one-year deal, Hernandez is ready to prove his worth in Arizona.
“I’m not going to sit here and demand anything,” Hernandez added. “My mentality is to come out here, show why I deserve (a long-term deal) and then get it done.”
New Look Offensive Line
It’ll be hard for the Giants offensive line in 2022 to be worse than last year. The Giants’ offensive line finished 30th overall in Pro Football Focus’s 2021 end-of-season rankings.
New general manager Joe Schoen replaced every starter on the unit except for left tackle Andrew Thomas. According to PFF’s preseason offensive line rankings, the Giants opened as the league’s 18th best offensive line ahead of training camp.
New York didn’t extend underperformers Billy Price, Hernandez and tackle Nate Solder. With Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll’s ties to Buffalo, the Giants brought in Jamil Douglas, Feliciano and Glowinski.
Thomas and Neal are the team’s starting offensive tackles for the present and future.