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Offensive line coach Marc Colombo encouraged by improvement

Colombo is balancing high expectations with the understanding that his young line will take time to develop

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With the New York Giants at 0-2, offensive line coach Marc Colombo knows that improvements need to be made all-around. His expectations are high for his young group of linemen but he is encouraged to see growth from his players from Week 1 to Week 2.

“I’ve seen it done the right way and I am going to push these guys to get it done the way it’s supposed to be done,” Colombo said. “Some of the footwork and technique is inconsistent throughout the game. We need to take what we’ve done in practice to the game more.”

After two weeks of play, the Giants are ranked last in the league in rushing yards with just 104, trailing even the New York Jets by 52 yards. Against the Bears, the Giants ran the ball 18 times for 75 yards, 21 of which were scrambling by Daniel Jones. Even in the six quarters of football that Barkley did play, Jones led the team in rushing with 63 yards on seven carries for 6.1 yards per carry.

Though the Giants running back room will not look the way anyone envisioned it moving forward the rest of the season, Colombo knows that his offensive line needs to step up in terms of run blocking and creating the space for big plays.

“It hasn’t been up to the standard that we are trying to set here, but there has been improvement from Week 1 to Week 2,” Colombo said. “It’s relatively young offensive line with new guys playing with each other. It’s going to take some time but we have to do better. I have to coach better. It was encouraging to see how these guys finished down the stretch at Chicago. It was a good sign of the cohesiveness.”

Colombo spotlighted a few players on the line that he says have been making progress week to week. The most notable one is former No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas at left tackle.

While playing against the Bears on Sunday, Thomas was beaten several times in pass protection and did not have the best performance in terms of run blocking. Though it has only been two games, he has not shown the defining strength he was known for at Georgia in his first NFL contests.

Colombo pointed out that Thomas has faced elite pass rushers in his first couple of starts that have challenged him from the beginning.

“He’s gone against two great pass rushers and he’s held his own for the most part,” Colombo said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement and Andrew knows this. It’s really good for him to get these type of pass rushers right off the bat because his whole career is going to be these type of pass rushers. He’s capable of shutting down anyone he wants to. We just have to keep pushing the fundamentals with him, but I like where he’s headed.”

The other player to keep an eye on is new center Nick Gates. After arriving in New York as an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska in 2018, Gates spent his rookie year on injured reserve. But in 2019, the 6-foot-5, 307-pound player earned a roster spot and played in all 16 games, with three starts. He won the center job this offseason and has been learning the ropes the past two weeks in a live-game atmosphere.

“The big thing we’re looking for is improvement from Week 1 to Week 2,” Colombo stressed again. “He is new to the position so there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that. I’m proud of the steps he’s taken, but now we’ve got to take it a step further. We have to come together as a unit and I think we took a step in the right direction. We got to just keep pushing forward.”

Another player on the offensive line, guard Will Hernandez has not had the strongest start to the 2020 season. Hernandez has allowed nine pressures and recorded a 49.8 PFF grade through two games. His pass blocking efficiency score of 94.6 is 48th among 53 qualifying guards.

Colomobo praised Hernandez’s coachability though, calling him a football junkie who loves the game.

“He’s everything you want in a player,” Colombo said. “He works tremendously hard. One of these player that is always here at the facility. He’s going to be a big part of what we do moving forward.”

Colombo added the following on right tackle Cam Fleming, who he knew from his time coaching with the Dallas Cowboys.

“Cam has been even better with me now that he’s been in the past,” Colombo said. “He’s gone against two tremendous pass rushers and it’s not perfect, but he has held his own. He gave us a chance there to win the game at the end. He’s a veteran, so the guys can learn from him.”