The New York Giants handed offensive lineman Nick Gates a shiny new two-year, $10.325 million contract a few days ago. Question is, what are they going to ask the versatile third-year player to do in order to earn his money?
Perhaps the answer is a little bit of everything.
“One of the strengths of Nick is position flexibility. He’s definitely a guy that could factor at any of the five positions on the offensive line,” coach Joe Judge said during a Wednesday videoconference. “Our priority right now is giving him a chance to compete for a starting position really at any one of those five spots. As coaches we have to do a good job of mapping out how he’ll get his snaps and reps on the field between primarily center and tackle and give him a fair shot at both.”
Judge sounded like he wouldn’t make a decision on where Gates fits initially until he gets to evaluate padded practices.
“We’re going to work him day-by-day based on what the priority for him is and it’ll start shaking out once the pads go on,” Judge said.
Gates started games at right guard and right tackle last season after spending his rookie season on IR. He was a left tackle at Nebraska, but has never played center in game action.
What makes Judge think he can do it?
“He’s a guy that’s got good athletic ability, good length, he’s definitely a smart player,” Judge said. “We want to make sure we give him the opportunity to get inside and operate in that signal-caller mode of playing center.”
Judge acknowledged that offensive line coach Marc Colombo needs to spend added time with both Gates and rookie fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux, a guard at Oregon who has never played center but is being cross-trained there.
“For him and Shane both, neither one have really played a good amount at center, so training is part of it right now. We’re putting ‘em through everything we would with any one of our centers and [Marc] Colombo has to dedicate a little bit of extra time to those guys to make sure he’s getting them some basics and building all that they know about the position,” Judge said.
So, we know Gates is part of the Giants’ offensive line plan. It’s going to be a while, though, before we are certain where that will be.