Consistency: It’s the crux of offensive line play, and at least one thing the Giants have managed throughout the season.
Granted, sometimes they’ve been consistently porous, but the members of the starting five have played all but one snap together this year.
That will end Sunday.
Center Jon Halapio is out with a hamstring injury, opening a path for Spencer Pulley, and Mike Remmers is doubtful with back pain, which means Nick Gates likely will get his first NFL start at right tackle when the Giants face the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
On one hand, it’ll call for some fast-tracked cohesion. On the other, it could provide a needed jolt, considering that the line has allowed 28 sacks this season — eighth-most in the league — and an NFL-high 72 quarterback hits, and generally has been a point of weakness the past few seasons.
“You’re always coaching two offensive lines — the one you’re getting ready to play Sunday and the one you may have to play next Sunday,” offensive line coach Hal Hunter said before practice Friday. “The game of football, especially in the NFL, is a game of injury and your next man has to always be up, but it’s my job to make sure when the next guy comes up, I got him prepared and I didn’t wait until this past Wednesday to start getting the guy ready.”
Pulley, at least, is a well-known factor, having started nine games last season. He’s earned the trust of coach Pat Shurmur, who said he feels “like we have two starting centers on our roster.”
Gates missed last season with a foot injury after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He has played 15 snaps this season and Shurmur said he’ll also serve as the backup center on Sunday, if need be.
Hunter had nothing but praise for the 23-year-old out of Nebraska.
“He’s a tough guy,” he said. “He plays with athleticism and balance — [a] conceptual player. He does everything you ask him to do. I like everything about him. I think he’s got the mental makeup and he’s got some physical tools, and what he needs the most, as does every young player, he needs to play more.”
Gates said he’s picked Remmers’ brain ahead of his probable start Sunday and is focusing on keeping his composure. Pulley said he is confident his right tackle can hack it and isn’t overly concerned about being part of a new cast of characters.
“I would say I’m in a better place than I was last year when I got here. I’ve had a lot of time with these guys,” Pulley said. “I’ve worked with all these guys on many, many reps, so I think we’re all cohesive and all on the same page.”
They’re going to need to be on Sunday. Though both the 2-7 Giants and 1-7 Jets are having miserable seasons, this weekend will be something of a decider: Which is the worst New York football team?
“The thing that disappoints me the most right now is that normally each play, we’re like one block away. We got four guys doing something right . . . and one guy doing something wrong, and that one guy makes the play,” Hunter said. “To say that I’m pleased with the run-blocking right now? I’d be lying. I’m not pleased with the run-blocking until we’re rushing the ball for a buck-twenty a game.”
Notes & quotes: Cornerback Sam Beal will make his NFL debut Sunday after being activated off injured reserve earlier in the week. “He’s a big, long guy that can run,” defensive backs coach Everett Withers said. “That’s what you need on the outside part of the field.” Shurmur said Beal is ready to play on defense and will have an immediate role on special teams . . . Sterling Shepard (concussion) and Evan Engram (foot) officially were ruled out for Sunday.