Will Hernandez played college football for UTEP, a Conference USA school that stumbled to an 0-12 record in 2017. Going from that bumbling mid-level college program to the NFL was a massive jump for the New York Giants’ 2018 second-round pick.
Hernandez surrendered five sacks in his first seven games, but none since. His improvement has been a big part of why the Giants’ offensive line has been better the second half of the season.
On Friday, offensive line coach Hal Hunter explained why he believes Hernandez has gotten better.
“Will had come from a little bit smaller program (UTEP) so he probably hadn’t played against that same competition, so he had to jump a couple levels and get thrown in there right away. I think one thing that’s helped him is he’s been able to adjust to the speed of the game,” Hunter said. “The guys he’s playing against are better than any guys he’s played against, he’s playing against the best guys in the country, the best three techniques, so he’s locked up. I think he’s learned to adjust to the speed of the game.”
Hunter said Hernandez has made fewer mistakes as the season has progressed.
“Pro offenses are so much more complicated, we ask you to learn so much more and you get less rep time, and so I think that’s been an accomplishment,” Hunter said. “I’ve seen him grow over the year, over the season, being able to understand – his missed assignments have gone way (down).
“The first and second half of the season is like night and day in terms of knowing what to do. You just see him reacting quicker and quicker and quicker, where early in the season sometimes a guy would make a move, maybe a stunt and he was a step behind that. Now he’s to the point where he’s anticipating the stunt.”
Young defensive linemen developing
Third-round pick B.J. Hill and fifth-round pick R.J. McIntosh are both expected to be important cogs in the Giants’ defensive front in 2019. Hill, with five sacks, has had an excellent rookie year. McIntosh has played limited snaps (only two last week) after missing the entire spring, summer and more than half the season with an undisclosed illness.
Defensive line coach Gary Emanuel spoke Friday about both players.
On Hill ...
“He continues to get better each week. He’s getting better and what you want to see is a young player just keep developing in certain areas of the game. He’s getting better against the run, he’s better with his technique,” Emanuel said. “The big thing with all young guys, you have to work on consistency, and them handling a heavy workload was good to see.”
On McIntosh ...
“He started late, so he’s just – it’s really his preseason almost. Kind of getting his feet under himself,” Emanuel said. “He missed training camp, he missed the preseason games, so that’s eight weeks of football he really missed, so he’s just now starting to wind into shape and getting back and getting healthy and things of that nature, so we’re anticipating him to continue to get better.”
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Pat Shurmur, you’ll recall, closed his most viral press conference of the season in Week 5 at Carolina with these famous words in an angry defense of his Giants and his handling of Odell Beckham Jr.’s controversial ESPN interview: