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Will Hernandez dishes on Nick Gates and Andrew Thomas

The Giants’ guard also talked about his own development and the offensive line’s responsibility

Will Hernandez
Matthew Swensen/

The New York Giants have invested heavily in the offensive line over the past few years, but they have yet to really see dividends from those investments. After drafting three offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL draft and hiring new offensive line coach Marc Colombo, the Giants are finally hoping to have turned a corner in their offensive line rebuild.

And despite just starting his third year as an NFL player, left guard Will Hernandez is the Giants’ longest-tenured starter. When he spoke to the media Monday afternoon, Hernandez made it clear that he takes that responsibility seriously. He also made it clear that the offensive line as a whole understands its responsibility to the rest of the offense.

“The offensive line has a big big role in our success [as an offense], you know, we proudly carry the workload,” Hernandez said. “We will proudly get to work and get things done. And we know it starts with us, and we’re definitely going to do everything it takes to get after it and make it happen.”

On Nick Gates and Andrew Thomas

In all likelihood, the Giants will have a pair of new starters on their offensive line this season. With Nate Solder’s decision to opt out of the 2020 season, the Giants will be relying on Andrew Thomas and Nick Gates to fill two of the positions on their line.

We don’t know where Gates will be playing, but the recent extension he received likely confirms the Giants intentions to see him starting somewhere on their line. Hernandez spent time training with Gates over the spring and summer and didn’t hesitate to voice his confidence in Gates regardless of the position.

“Yeah, me and Nick Gates spent a heavy amount of time training together in the offseason,” Hernandez said. “We’re both from Las Vegas, Nevada, really good friends. You know, so yeah, we got after it the off-season and I’ve always thought he was a great player. I’ve always thought that he has what it takes to play. As far as where he goes, whether he lines up next to me [at center], or any of the other spots, honestly, I just think Nick Gates can play any spot on the line. He’s good enough to play anywhere on that offensive line.”

Whether Gates lines up at center or right tackle, it’s almost certain that Hernandez will have a new player next to him at left tackle. The Giants didn’t draft Andrew Thomas at fourth overall for him to sit, and it would be a surprise for him to line up anywhere but left tackle.

“First,” Hernandez said, “he’s a great guy, and you can see you can really sing, he has a voice. He’s a really smart guy. You know, he gets things right away, he picks up on a lot of the stuff that coach talks to him about. He’s able to absorb it and pick it up right away, which I think is very good. He just has that demeanor. You can see it through his note taking, through his practices. He wants to get better, he wants to do good, you know, and so that’s just some of the things I’ve seen from observing him lately. And you know, I think he’s gonna be [good]. I think he’s gonna be just fine and he’s doing great right now.”

And how does he know Thomas has a good voice? Well, he made him sing, of course.

“I made him get up there for the rookie song, but I don’t remember the song name right now. All I knew was that it was good, I was snapping my fingers the entire time. It was a good song.”

Hernandez wants to do his part to help Thomas reach his potential. He remarked that having Solder next to him as a rookie helped him when he entered the league, and he wants to pass that on to Thomas.

Hernandez said, “It really does seem like just yesterday that I was a rookie and behind Nate and now, I might have the chance to do the same. All I’m going to say about that [the starting left tackle position] is, I’m not sure who’s gonna line up in that position, I’ll leave that up to the coaches.”

“But as far as having that [mentor next to him], you know, I learned from the best,” Hernandez added. “Nate Solder really taught me a lot on the field and off the field, but you know, he also taught me unconsciously how to treat a rookie. I thought I got treated by him with utmost respect with the utmost attention to detail and wanting to help me to get better. And it’s just all those things I picked up from looking back at it now and it’s the same thing, that I would instill in anybody that was brand-new coming in and playing next to me. I would take a lot of the same things he did with me and add my own personality to it, but definitely I learned a lot about a lot of valuable points from Nate.”

On new offensive line coach Marc Colombo

When the Giants hired former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to be their new offensive coordinator, he brought offensive line coach Marc Colombo with him from Dallas. Colombo is a former offensive lineman himself, having played 10 years in the NFL, and Hernandez having a coach who has been there and done that is a rare privilege for the Giants’ linemen.

“You know,” Hernandez said, “it’s awesome having somebody that’s actually been there done that. Ten-plus years playing, so he definitely has a lot of inside information, as a player himself, that he can pass on us. And as far as being there with us, he’s one of us, one of the guys, you know? Of course you separate that, the title, you know when he’s coaching, he’s coaching, you got that respect line.

“But it’s cool having somebody that is very similar to everybody in that room and kind of gets it, just ‘gets it’ and that’s something that any offensive linemen appreciates. A guy that understands you, it’s a very unique position. You don’t meet too many offensive linemen, there’s not too many offensive linemen [coaching], it’s a unique position. And then to have somebody that actually played there, definitely helps us out a lot and, we really really-really like having him here.”

Hernandez’s excitement over working with Colombo is obvious in his voice. And everyone involved certainly hopes that Colombo can help Hernandez can take the next step in his development. Hernandez didn’t take the step forward in his second year that many were expecting, but he’s more focused on making progress in 2020 than what happened in 2019.

He said, “I mean as far as last year, what’s in the past and the past. I’ve grown a lot since then. I really have been focusing on this new offense, new techniques, just a new attitude for everything.

I think that we’ve gotten a lot better since the off-season, and I think that, at least me personally, I’ve been able to kind of look back at a lot of things that did wrong or I didn’t do as best as I could, and I’ve been able to correct them. And now I’m just focused on the future of what I’m doing now.”

He added that he has been trying to use the team’s losses over the last two years as motivation and to learn from past mistakes and re-evaluate his process to gear everything towards improving and winning.

“I think a more appropriate word rather than ‘affected’ me, I think it’s motivated me. You know, it’s just made me every single little thing that I do now is geared towards winning, towards ‘how is this going to help me win, yes or no? No? okay, I’m not doing it.’

“So I just feel like every single thing that I do now, whether it’s on the field or off, I do it or not with the purpose of winning.

“It was just a lot of things that I realized from experience,” he added, “from things that I did. And so I was just kind of learning and learning and learning about all the mistakes that we all make, and learning from those mistakes. I mean the motive’s always been the same way, but I think more than anything what I did was, I was learning from my own mistakes. That same factor of wanting to win was always there, but now it’s like ‘Okay, I can’t make those mistakes again because I still want to win.’”