There may be no returning player on the New York Giants roster fans are more curious about than offensive lineman Nick Gates, with the likely exception of quarterback Daniel Jones.
What will the Giants do with the third-year offensive lineman, who teased with solid performances in a pair of 2019 starts?
Let’s take a closer look.
Contract: Year 3 of three-year, $1.715 million contract | RFA: 2021
How he got here
The Giants signed Gates as an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska before the 2018 season. A left tackle in college, Gates was thought to be a player who would have to play inside at the NFL level.
Gates spent 2018 on injured reserve, but intrigued the Giants enough that they brought him back for another try in 2019. Playing both tackles and both spots in preseason, Gates showed the Giants enough to make the 53-man roster as a primary reserve.
He ended up playing 290 snaps while starting three games, one at right guard and two at right tackle.
General manager Dave Gettleman praised Gates a number of times during the offseason. Before the draft, Gettleman said “we think Nick Gates has a bright future as an offensive lineman.”
Where, though, will that future be?
The right tackle path could be blocked by Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, and Nate Solder.
The guard path is currently blocked by Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler.
Unless there are injuries, it is hard to see Gates being a regular starter at either of those spots.
That, of course, leaves center.
It is a position Gates has never played in a live game. He did work there some last season in practice, but whether he is up to the task of anchoring the line in regular-season action is another question.
Then again, the Giants’ center position remains a question mark.
Spencer Pulley is the only experienced center on the roster. The Giants talk often about the possibility of last year’s start, Jon Halapio, returning. He isn’t signed, though, and his status remains in doubt after last season’s Week 17 Achilles tendon tear.
Gates and rookie Shane Lemieux, primarily guards who would be conversion projects at center, will get opportunities to learn the spot.
Giving Gates that opportunity is something I have often said I favor. Our Nick Falato recently expressed concern about Gates’ ability to anchor at the point of attack, something that would be problematic against gargantuan nose tackles if it is indeed an issue.
The other issue, of course, is whether or not there will be enough preseason snaps for a player like Gates to become comfortable at a new and critical position like center.
The only thing we know for sure is that the Giants like the young man, because they keep telling us that.