Perhaps it is fitting that in a report for The NFL Draft Report long-time NFL scout Dave-Te Thomas referred to New York Giants second-round pick Will Hernandez as “the gridiron’s version of Braun Strowman — a beast among men.”
Quarterback Eli Manning, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, said recently that the 6-foot-2, 327-pound Hernandez has already been in five fights with teammates during practice.
“Naw … you know how it is, the truth always gets stretched a little bit,” Hernandez said on Tuesday. “Probably not five, definitely not five. I don’t even count ‘em, man, they just happen and I move on. I forget about it.”
Hernandez said there is a reason for those disagreements. And it isn’t an inability to control his temper.
“The only thing I’ll tell you about that is I love every one of those guys. All those guys I’m their teammates, they’re my brothers and you know brothers fight once in a while. We get each other better,” Hernandez said. “When we go back into that locker room we’re shaking hands and everything’s cool.”
Can Hernandez, the team’s likely starting left guard, help make the Giants better in 2018? Let’s delve a little deeper as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2017 season in review
Hernandez played for a UTEP team that had a season even worse than the one experienced by the Giants. The Miners went 0-12 and head coach Sean Kugler resigned in midseason.
Yet, Hernandez still came out of the season as a player many expected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Hernandez did not allow a sack for the second straight season, and was named second-team All-American.
On Tuesday, Hernandez reflected on that awful season and told me it was “a valuable lesson.”
“The first thing I noticed throughout the season was the guys that really loved the game. It was a horrible season, don’t get me wrong, [but] I was really happy cause it wasn’t just me fighting out there, it was a lot of guys on my team that just kept fighting and fighting. I was glad to see first that I had a really good team because the majority of the guys were all out there competing and they never gave up, either,” Hernandez said.
“I was happy to be on a team like that even though we didn’t win a game. I was real thankful to my teammates. Another thing that I noticed is how much I really love the game. I always knew I loved it, but I was able to prove it after a season like that. It was a horrible thing, I wish I never have to go through that again ever in my life, and I’m going to do everything I can to not ever go through anything close to that, but it did teach me a valuable lesson.”
Since the Giants made him the 34th overall pick in the draft the expectation has been that Herandez would be in the team’s Week 1 starting lineup.
Here is what GM Dave Gettleman said after selecting Hernandez:
“One of the great gifts you can get in the draft is when value meets need, and we had a solid first round grade on Willie,” Gettleman said. “So we’re thrilled to get him. He’s exactly what we’re looking for. He’s a power blocker, he’s tough, he finishes strong. … You know I love the hog mollies and this guy really has a lot of talent. He is a very athletic kid for his size. He can run, he can pull and he plays very smart. I’m thrilled we got him.”
During Tuesday’s mini-camp practice, Hernandez took all of the first-team reps at left guard with Patrick Omameh at right guard.
“I’m always learning. I’m learning every practice. I appreciate the length of every practice,” he said. “I need as many reps as I can in my opinion to get everything down the way I want to do it.”
It is difficult to judge offensive line play with players wearing t-shirts in non-contact practices. Hernandez, though, said that work can be valuable.
“There’s always something you can work on whatever attire we’re wearing out here,” he said. When we don’t have pads it’s a great opportunity to be able to focus on your technique, your footwork, hand placement, stuff like that, which is something I really need to work on. I’m more than happy to be able to work on a lot of this stuff.”
But we digress. Back to those old-school practice fights with teammates.
With revamped lines on both sides of the ball, the Giants are trying to get back to the idea of building from inside out and winning at the line of scrimmage.
Hernandez’ power and aggressive attitude are part of the change.
“I think the reason why I’ve been in a couple fights is because the other guys have the same thing [aggressive attitude]. That’s something we need on this team to be able to win. I’m glad that I can step into a team and fit right in because it’s not like I’m the only one fighting out there, those guys are fighting back. I love it, I love that our defense has that, too, we need that,” Hernandez said.
“We’ll always get after it to get each other better. That’s the only purpose of those fights is to get each other better.”
If Hernandez does indeed help the Giants get better, no one is going to care about a few practice scuffles.