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Giants need Will Hernandez to take step forward in 2020

Third-year guard coming off disappointing 2019 season

NFL: DEC 29 Eagles at Giants
Will Hernandes blocking Timmy Jernigan of the Eagles last season.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dave Gettleman walked in the New York Giants’ door late in 2017 acknowledging that fixing the offensive line had to be a major priority. The first lineman he drafted as part of his ongoing effort to do that was Will Hernandez, a 2018 second-round pick.

Like Gettleman’s work in revamping that line, Hernandez’ play over his first two seasons with the Giants has been a mixed bag. Some successes, some failures.

Let’s take a closer look.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 327
Age: 25 when season begins
Position: Guard
Experience: 2
Contract: Year 3 of four-year, $7.45 million rookie contract

How he got here

The Giants selected Hernandez 34th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft and immediately installed him as their left guard.

Hernandez made the 2018 NFL PFWA All-Rookie Team, allowing 3.0 sacks and committing just two penalties. He was pro Football Focus’s 14th-ranked guard.

In 2019, though, his play wasn’t nearly as good. His pass protection was OK and he surrendered only 2.5 sacks. He committed four penalties, though, and Pro Football Focus his run-blocking grade dropped significantly. He was PFF’ 28th-ranked guard.

2020 outlook

Development is not linear.

That is something Mark Schofield says all the time. While Schofield generally discusses that in relation to young quarterbacks, it applies to all young players. Each season is not always going to be better than the last. Sometimes they take steps back. Just like good players can have bad games, they can also have sub-par seasons.

This is how I look at Hernandez. His play took a step back in many regards a season ago. How much of that was his fault, the fault of having struggling players lining up on either side of him, or the fault of poor coaching is a debate I think we can’t legitimately answer. All three of those probably had something to do with it.

The question now is, can Hernandez make the leap in Year 3 that the Giants hoped he would make in Year 2? Can he become a top-tier player and long-term offensive line fixture for the Giants, or will he be just another highly-drafted player who didn’t live up to expectations and will need to be replaced at the end of his rookie contract?

I believe the answer will be the former, but the 2020 season should go a long way toward telling us which way his career is headed.

If you follow Hernandez on Instagram, you know that pandemic or not he has been working at his craft.

View this post on Instagram

Little fun in the sun ☀️ #MijoThings

A post shared by Will Hernandez (@willhernandez71) on

Neither of those videos offer any guarantee that Hernandez will be better in 2020.

This is what Brian Baldinger told NJ Advance Media about Hernandez late last season:

“He’s good in the power game,” NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger told NJ Advance Media. “But, Will needs to learn the nuances of the game and how to finesse.”

It is now up to new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and new offensive line coach Marc Colombo to ensure that Hernandez becomes more proficient in those areas.

Hernandez has the physical tools. He has also always shown the right attitude and accountability.

Now we just wait to find out if the new coaching staff can bring out the best of his ability.