Word out of the New York Giants organization is that they were quite happy with what Jon Halapio gave them in 2018. Now, the 27-year-old center only played 116 snaps before breaking his ankle in Week 2. That injury ended Halapio’s season, but he is poised to return to man the pivot for New York next year after being resigned to a one-year contract in March.
Halapio was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round in 2014, but didn’t make their final roster. He had short stints in Denver, Arizona and again with New England before the Giants added Halapio to the practice squad in September of 2016. Now he is their starting center.
Here is a scouting report of what we saw from Halapio during his two games in the Giants starting lineup last season. Halapio’s two games began at home to open the season against the Jaguars followed by a visit to Dallas, the game in which he inevitably was lost for the season.
The first thing you notice with Halapio is his thick build. He has long arms for a center and big, powerful hands. Going back to his time in college, Halapio plays the game with aggression and a nasty edge that you want out of your starting center and was known to play through pain while at the University of Florida, where he was a team captain.
Performance wise, what stands out with Halapio in that small sample size is his ability in pass protection. This was somewhat surprising, but Halapio didn’t just hold up as a pass blocker, he did quite well when it was said and done. It wasn’t always pretty for Halapio when protecting Eli Manning and you can tell that quick movers could be problematic for him, but the results were certainly there in 2018. The best way to describe Halapio in protection is a “Battler” and he does have a powerful heavy punch. He also shows good upper body power when displaying proper hand placement and the ability to lock out his opponent. Halapio also generally protects with a nice wide power base. While the results were there, leaving Halapio in one-on-one situations against a top interior pass-rusher with top athleticism probably won’t go well and the Giants did scheme their protections around not leaving him on an island with regularity.
The run game wasn’t as kind to Halapio, however. Changing direction is more and more important in the NFL for interior offensive linemen and that is an area in which Halapio can struggle when he gets in space searching for targets to hit. Also, while he is a big, powerful man with a thick lower body, he doesn’t have a lot of snap in his hips on contact. He also doesn’t have much in the way of range, which comes into play on the second level and on screens and other blocks when he gets out of his comfort zone. Halapio’s balance is questionable for a starting center and he ends up on the ground more than you would like. His initial quickness off the snap also leaves something to be desired. Whether it is in the run or pass game, the later the snap goes, the more Halapio is exposed athletically and he regularly shows stiffness in his movements and too often overextends.
All three of these come from the 2018 season opener vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, Halapio’s first regular-season game at center.
Play 1 — Second-and-17 with 9:13 in first quarter:
Matt says: Real good example of staying square in protection, his punch, grip strength and lockout ability.
Play 2 — First-and-10 with 4:17 in first quarter:
Matt says: Great tenacity and finish while showing power at both levels.
Play 3 — Third-and-5 with :27 left in third quarter:
Matt says: Gets out in space and in the end, does his job, but doesn’t look very natural or easy-moving in doing so.
It was a small sample size, so it is difficult to see on tape how well Halapio commands the line from a mental perspective. Judging his communication skills and mental game has to get an incomplete grade, but he obviously doesn’t have a lot of experience starting at the NFL level. In these two games, Halapio did miss a few pickups that he should have seen and recognized.
Overall though, based off his 2018 film, Halapio looks like a center that New York can win with and he usually finds a way to get the job done. It also should be noted that with the addition of Kevin Zeitler and the continued progression of Will Hernandez, Halapio looks to be surrounded by an excellent pair of guards in 2018. Zeitler also should be a very positive influence on both Halapio and Hernandez, especially in pass protection.
Again, it was just a two-game sample size, but considering the many other issues that New York needed to address this offseason, you can see why the Giants decided to give Halapio another shot as the starter in the middle, especially with the excellent pair of guards they now have flanking him. To Halapio’s credit, he was more comfortable and more impressive in his second start on the road than opening weekend. This isn’t a high upside player though and “Serviceable” is probably the best New York should expect overall here. In the perfect world, Halapio is a high–end backup.