When New York Giants position coaches are made available to the media, it is always offensive line coach Marc Colombo whose remarks draw the most interest. That’s partially because he is forthright and well-spoken, but also because of the importance of and investment the Giants made in the group he coaches.
For much of the season, Colombo has had to explain mistakes, defend a first-round pick who hasn’t played the way a fourth overall pick is expected to and preach patience while his group develops.
Tuesday, after solid efforts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Football Team, was different. Colombo spoke glowingly about the progress of the offensive line since we last spoke with him a couple of weeks ago.
“This group has made huge leaps. It’s a confident group right now. They can see themselves doing it right on film,” Colombo said.
“These guys are consistent with their technique, they’re consistent with their execution and that’s why you see some of the stuff start to work.”
Per Pro Football Focus, No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas has allowed just one sack over the past four games. Sunday against Washington, often matched up against No. 2 overall pick Chase Young, he surrendered just one pressure and committed one penalty in 36 pass-blocking snaps.
“We sat down, had conversations with Andrew and technique, we talked about it, taking it from the practice field to the games. That’s what he’s done lately,” Colombo said.
“He’s got a new air of confidence the past couple weeks. He’s played really well. His timing’s been better, his pass sets have been better, run blocking’s been better, we’ve just gotta keep growing. I’ve noticed a more confident Andrew the past few weeks, and we expect Andrew to keep getting better.”
Another player making huge leaps is center Nick Gates, whose transition to a position he had never played was rocky over the season’s first few games.
‘We knew right from the start Nick has the type of personality for center,” Colombo said. “He’s an Alpha type. He’s loved by the whole entire team. He’s smart, he’s tough.”
Colombo said that Gates simply needed the experience of seeing the variety of looks defenses would use to try and confuse him.
‘He’s seen all the stuff now. So you can see the play start to increase. He’s a lot better with his technique, he’s a lot better with his pad level, he’s doing a lot better job helping there in the middle,” Colombo said.
“He’s making really good decisions out there. His communication with Daniel, communication with me on the sidelines coming out of a series, it’s really good right now.”
Is he the long-term answer at center for the Giants?
“Nick’s just getting started,” Colombo said. “I truly believe he can be one of the better centers in the NFL.”
Rookie Shane Lemieux has started the past two games with Will Hernandez on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Lemieux’s pass blocking has been shaky, but the Giants love the attitude he brings to the job.
“Shane brings an energy, a juice to the offensive line. Love Shane. He’s tough, he’s smart, he gets after guys, he’s one of those nasty players that you love on the line. There’s been some good energy,” Colombo said.
“Obviously it’s not perfect. We need to clean up a few things, but really like a lot of the things that Shane’s doing. He’s going to grow from this. … He’s doing really well with his technique. Few pass pro things we’ve gotta work on, but other than that really impressed with what he’s done so far.”
With all of the Giants young players — three rookies and a first-time center who is just a third-year player — the Giants have adopted an unusual rotation at offensive tackle. With Hernandez back, they will soon do the same at guard.
Offensive linemen always say that five guys playing and practicing together for an extended period of time is the only real way to build the cohesion needed to be a good offensive line. So, why is this working for the Giants?
“It really just comes down to Matt Peart,” was Colombo’s simple answer.
“We noticed it early on in practice, his ability to play right and left. It’s just a matter of getting him the amount of reps that he needs to be prepared going into a game.
“He’s pretty balanced … right and left tackle he’s doing some really good things. He’s big, he’s strong and one of the best things about him he’s smart. Not only smart but this type of stuff doesn’t bother him. He’s unfazed by it. He just goes in there and executes and does his job. We love that about Matt.”