New York Giants offensive line coach Marc Colombo has been looking for his beleaguered group to stop improving in baby steps and to take a big leap forward. Colombo believes that happened in Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“We’re inconsistent across the board. If you turn on the tape against Pittsburgh and you turn on the tape against Philadelphia we’ve made huge strides as a group,” Colombo said. “That’s not everyone. We talked about crawling each step of the way here. I think we took a big leap forward in the Philadelphia game.”
Colombo’s Wednesday Zoom call with New York media focused on two players — center Nick Gates and rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas.
Gates settling in at center
Colombo was effusive in his praise of Gates, who is playing center this season for the first time.
Gates’ 62.7 Pro Football Focus grade was his highest of the season, and Colombo agreed that it was his best game. Per PFF, Gates did not allow a single pressure in 39 pass-blocking snaps.
“He’s playing at a high level right now,” Colombo said. “I think the confidence in the calls, the confidence there at center after getting a lot of snaps, he’s getting experience, he’s got the right personality for the position, he brings confidence and energy to the group and it’s starting to really show.”
It sounds like Colombo is beginning to believe the 24-year-old Gates could be the answer the Giants have been seeking at the center position.
“The energy he brings to games, the fight, the nasty play, the smarts, he’s done a really good job with the calls,” said Colombo, adding that Gates “wears us out” with questions.
“I really like the direction he’s going in and we’re going to keep pushing him … kinda like the future of this guy at the position.”
Consistency lacking for Andrew Thomas
The struggles of rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas continued last week. He gave up 6 more pressures and has now surrendered 37, more than any tackle in the league.
Colombo said that Thomas’s pass protection woes stem from a “timing issue” and that what he is learning and practicing simply isn’t consistently transferring from the practice field into games.
“What Andrew does in practice right now is not really translating to the games. He’s smart, he wants to get everything right. It’s our job to really simplify the game for him,” Colombo said.
“You can see it in spurts. We need to start seeing it consistently, and he knows that.”
Colombo said “I don’t think we’re there yet” when asked if benching Thomas, even for an occasional series during games, would help him.
“He needs to fight through some of this stuff. We can show you 5,000 different looks as coaches, give you every pass rush move, we’re studying these guys constantly. At the end of the day you’re going to see different looks, you’re going to see different moves, stuff like that,” colombo said. “Part of growing as an offensive lineman is being able to see this and being able to handle it kind of on the fly.
“This experience is really valuable for him. He’s going to play here for a long time and he’s going to be a really good tackle.”
Shane Lemieux’s time is coming
Fans have been anxious to see rookie guard Shane Lemieux begin to get snaps, similar to the occasional snaps being given to tackle Matt Peart. Colombo indicated the fifth-round pick will be getting his opportunity over the remaining nine games.
“Early on he was a little bit out of control. He’s tough, he wants to get out there, fight everyone, little out of control with his footwork, trying to be too aggressive. We love that about Shane,” Colombo said, adding that he is beginning to see more patience.
“As we get going down the stretch like we did with Matt kind of mix him into these games getting him some game experience is going to be important. I can see Shane getting some snaps here and seeing what’s got.”