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Improvements by Will Hernandez, Chad Wheeler a positive step for Giants’ offensive line

Youngest members of revamped line take steps forward vs. Saints

Kansas City Chiefs v New York Giants
Chad Wheeler
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

At 1-3, the New York Giants haven’t been good enough so far in the 2018 NFL season. If you look, though, there are some things to feel good about.

One of those has been the steady improvement of the offensive line, with coach Pat Shurmur telling WFAN on Tuesday that he felt Sunday against the New Orleans Saints “the offensive line as a unit played their best game.”

On Wednesday, Shurmur singled out rookie left guard Will Hernandez, the team’s second-round pick, and second-year right tackle Chad Wheeler, starting his second game after taking over at right tackle for Ereck Flowers, for praise.

After allowing two pressures in each of the first two games, Hernandez has not been responsible for a quarterback pressure in the past two games. His pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade of 88.2 was his best of the season.

“Part of it is just playing more and more. Some people say you need 5,000 snaps before you get into it, he [Hernandez] didn’t have the benefit of that,” Shurmur said. ‘He’s getting better. I think it was his best game, still has his mistakes but I think all in all, it was his best game, which is good, so we hope it just continues to go like it is.”

Hernandez does feel like he has gotten better.

“I feel like I’ve definitely been improving. I want to keep getting better because I’m not satisfied with that performance [vs. New Orleans],” he said. “I want to keep building on what I did good and keep getting better at the stuff I didn’t do so good.”

NFL: New York Giants-OTA Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Hernandez said he has definitely learned the value of playing with leverage at the NFL level.

“I’ve always felt like I played too tall,” he said. “Sometimes I’ve been able to get away with it in college. Here I quickly learned that good leverage and good technique is the best way to go.”

After giving up three sacks to J.J. Watt in his first start, Wheeler gave up four pressures vs. the Saints but kept Cameron Jordan out of the sack column.

“I think he [Wheeler] played better this game than he did last game,” Shurmur said. “The thing I appreciate about him is, he walks around pretty quiet sort of Monday through Saturday, but on game day, you can see the emotions and you can see him playing hard and competing, and he works hard in practice.

“For a guy that plays with emotion and then he works hard and he competes, then he’ll continue to get better because he has a good skillset. Just like Will, we’re hopeful that he has a better game than he did last week. He’s going to get another tough matchup, so we’ll see how he does.”

Looking on the Saints game on Wednesday, Wheeler didn’t want to hear about what he did well.

“Just didn’t open up enough holes, didn’t pass block well enough, coulda done a lot of things better,” he said. “You’ve gotta be hard on yourself, especially being an undrafted free agent. You’re always going to have that chip on your shoulder. Never going to feel like you’re good enough. Honestly when you start feeling like you’re good enough that’s when you get humbled in this league.”

An improving group?

Both players indicated that they feel like the much-maligned line, including new center John Greco, has been getting better.

“As a group I feel like we’re coming together,” Wheeler said. “Just doing the little things, just do simple better. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel or try to be Supermen out there. You’ve just gotta do your job and hope the guy next to you is doing his.”

Hernandez agreed:

“I feel like we’ve been improving as a group and we’re going to keep improving, but we’ve got to step it up,” he said. “We don’t want to keep improving little by little every game. We want to improve as fast as we can.”