While his on-field production may be a question mark, there’s no denying that the loss of Will Hernandez will strip the New York Giants of arguably their nastiest and toughest offensive starter come Monday night. The Left guard will not play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8 after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week.
However, from the sound of it, the G-Men have just the man to fill their tough-guy role upfront in Hernandez’s absence.
“Early on he was a little bit out of control,’’ offensive line coach Marc Colombo told the media earlier this week of rookie guard Shane Lemieux. “He’s tough, he wants to get out there, fight everyone, a little bit out of control with his footwork, trying to be too aggressive, and we love that about Shane.”
“What I’ve seen in the past few weeks is a guy that, he’s starting to be more patient with everything, and it’s really starting to translate in practice, in one-on-ones and stuff like that. And as we get going down the stretch, like we did with [rookie tackle] Matt [Peart], kind of mix him in these games, get him some game experience, and it’s gonna be important. I like where he’s heading with this thing and Shane will do a good job.’’
Is Lemieux Locked-In as Starter at Guard?
You can likely scratch the latter end of Colombo’s take where he insinuates that the Giants will sporadically work Lemieux into the lineup moving forward. That’s because come Monday night, chances are Lemieux will be fully inserted into the team’s starting lineup, even if head coach Joe Judge is reluctant to cement the move just yet.
“Rookie fifth-round draft choice Shane Lemieux seems likely to start in his place, but Judge wasn’t willing to announce that. Practice squad player Chad Slade could be another possibility,” Giants.com’s Michael Eisen reported on Saturday.
Still, Judge took to time to heap praise on Lemieux while speaking to the media following Hernandez’s positive COVID-19 results. “Shane has been doing a good job really improving for us throughout the season,’’ Judge said. “He’s done a really good job in practice. He’ll be in the mix with different guys that may factor into that position. We’ll see where it goes by the end of the week and where everything leads going into Monday. We have confidence in Shane, I would expect him to play regardless of what the scenario is.’’
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Can Lemieux Supplant Hernandez for Good?
Since being selected in the second round out of UTEP in 2018, Hernandez has logged 2,523 consecutive snaps, not missing an offensive snap in three seasons. He’s earned a soft spot in many Giants fans hearts for his toughness and willingness to go to bat for his teammates. With that said, his play’s been quite spotty of late, as he’s failed to post a Pro Football Focus overall grade greater than 58.4 since his rookie campaign.
When the Giants used the 150th-selection in this past April’s NFL Draft to snag Lemieux, there was belief that he would be a darkhorse candidate to pry the starting center gig away from Nick Gates. That clearly never materialized, as Gates was essentially handed the job in camp. While starting the season extremely rocky at a new position, Gates has begun to settle in, and will likely be the answer at the position for years to come.
In return, that means Lemieux’s best spot to earn playing time reverts back to the position where he has the most experience. Lemieux started 52 consecutive games and 3,611 consecutive offensive snaps at Oregon.
While he won’t likely supplant Hernandez in the starting lineup based on just one game, Monday night will go a long way in gauging his prospects moving forward. With just one more season remaining on Hernandez’s contract and fellow guard Kevin Zeitler being constantly tossed around in trade talks, chances are we’ll see plenty of Lemieux in the near future.
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