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Pat Shurmur takeaways: Offensive line backups appear to be emerging

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Nick Gates, Chad Slade, Evan Brown singled out by Pat Shurmur

New York Jets v New York Giants
Nick Gates vs. the Jets.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

One of the primary questions for the New York Giants throughout the offseason, and the first few weeks of training camp and the preseason, has been who would emerge as the backups to the team’s rebuilt offensive line.

Coach Pat Shurmur may have offered a huge hint during his conference call with reporters on Saturday, just slightly more than 12 hours after the Giants finished off the Chicago Bears, 32-13, in preseason action.

“I’ve got confidence in everybody that we put out there (on the offensive line),” Shurmur said. “I think we’ve got some players that compete in the second offensive line that have got a real good chance to make our team.”

Which players was he referring to?

“I thought a guy that’s played well and he obviously was hurt a year ago is [Nick] Gates. That’s one guy that’s done a nice job. We have Evan Brown that’s played in there and done a good job. Those are a couple. And then [Chad] Slade has done a nice job.”

Shurmur said he considers second-team center Spencer Pulley to be a starter after his work a year ago.

Gates played collegiately at Nebraska and was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent a season ago. The Giants moved him from tackle to guard, and he spent the season on IR with a foot injury.

Gates began this season at guard, but has played left tackle the past two weeks with injuries to Chad Wheeler, Brian Mihalik and George Asafo-Adjei necessitating that switch.

Brown, an undrafted free agent from SMU, made the Giants’ 53-man roster a year ago, but was inactive for all 16 games. He came out of college as a center, but has spent most of his time this summer at guard. Perhaps significantly, Brown did get some late-game work at center Friday night.

Slade signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He was on IR as a rookie, then spent most of three seasons on Houston’s practice squad, playing in five games (three starts) at right guard in 2017.

Slade joined the Giants in January on a reserve/futures contract.

Like Gates, Slade was considered a guard at the beginning of training camp. He has been playing right tackle the past couple of weeks due to injuries, and on Friday he also received some late-game reps at left tackle.

Other takeaways

Ball-security issues

The Giants had four fumbles, losing two, and an interception on Friday.

“I thought we were loose with the football,” Shurmur said. “We dropped a punt. We had a chance at an interception which we didn’t get ... Daniel Jones had two fumbles. Rod Smith had one. We had three drops. Eli had a little exchange problem. So, that was not up to our standards.”

On whether Daniel Jones is ready to play

Shurmur was direct on Friday night in once again saying that Eli Manning is the team’s starting quarterback, and that he and co-owner John Mara are on the same page about that. Still, he was asked Saturday if he thought the rookie was ready to play now. He deflected.

“I think when his time comes he’s going to be ready,” Shurmur reiterated. “I still think we’ve got training camp left to push through. We’ve got preseason games left to push through. I would say right now we’re three weeks from any of us being ready ... we’ve got work to do.”

On the play of Dexter Lawrence

The 17th overall pick played 14 snaps without getting on the stat sheet, and has now gone 20 snaps without a tackle, sack or quarterback pressure.

“I think he improved this week,” Shurmur said. “He’s a rookie. I think he improved from the first week to the second ... that group in general played better the second week ... he improved and we’ll look for continued improvement the next two games.”

On whether it would have helped if the Bears’ starters had played

“It’s one of those things, it didn’t happen so what are you going to do about it?,” Shurmur said.