New York Giants fans have been clamoring for an opportunity to see rookie guard Shane Lemieux, the team’s fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, get his chance to play. It looks that wish is about to come true after the positive COVID-29 test by Giants’ guard Will Hernandez.
Even if he remains asymptomatic, Hernandez is not expected to clear the COVID-19 testing protocols in time for Monday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is believes to have tested positive on Wednesday. An asymptomatic player, if that is what Hernandez is, needs five days and two negative tests to be cleared to return. Even if it possible to clear him in time, how ready Hernandez would be to play after several days of quarantining and not practicing is debatable.
Lemieux has played only two snaps this season, both of those as an extra blocker or fullback and not at his natural guard position.
Lemieux is one of the players considered to have had close contact with Hernandez, but he passed a pair of COVID-19 tests and was allowed to return to practice Friday.
Offensive line coach Marc Colombo said earlier this week — prior to news of Hernandez’s positive test — that Lemieux was in line to begin receiving game action.
“As we get going down the stretch like we did with Matt [Peart], kind of mix him into these games. Getting him some game experience is going to be important,” Colombo said. “I can see Shane getting some snaps here and seeing what’s got.”
Rather than getting mixed in it looks like Lemieux is going to get thrown to the wolves against an outstanding Tampa Bay front seven.
“Shane has been doing a good job really improving for us throughout the season. He’s done a really good job in practice. We were planning on really working him in throughout the games anyway, to be honest with you, in terms of just like we kind of worked Matt Peart into games as well,” said head coach Joe Judge. ”We have confidence in Shane. He’ll be in the mix with different guys that may factor into that position. We’ll see where it goes by the end of the week and where everything leads going into Monday. We have confidence in Shane, I would expect him to play regardless of what the scenario is.”
Giants’ center Nick Gates sounded excited on Friday about the prospect of playing next to Lemieux.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Shane. He’s a smart player, he’s a tough player. He’s proven to me and the whole o-line and coach Colombo he can play football,” Gates said. “He’s going to be a good player. I’m excited to see what he can do when he gets in there. I’m excited to play next to him.”
Another option for replacing Hernandez would be to promote veteran Chad Slade from the practice squad and put him into the lineup. If they wanted to shuffle two spots, perhaps right tackle Cam Fleming could slide to the guard spot and Peart could play right tackle.
The most likely scenario, though, would seem to be Lemieux sliding into Hernandez’ spot. That would put a rookie playing his first real NFL snaps next to struggling rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas.
Hernandez, in his third season with the Giants, has never missed a start.