Nothing has been able to wrest Will Hernandez from the starting lineup or the field. Not for a single snap. Until now. This is quite the unusual season and playing through a pandemic did not leave Hernandez unscathed.
He will miss his first action for the Giants since arriving as a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft — 39 consecutive starts, all 2,523 offensive snaps at left guard. He was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive for the virus and as a result will not play Monday night against the Buccaneers.
“Missing anyone causes you to adjust a little bit and prepare for it,’’ quarterback Daniel Jones said. “I’m confident we’ll have guys step up and play well. They’ll be prepared going into the game.’’
The Giants have only one player listed as a backup guard, rookie Shane Lemieux. One problem here: Lemieux was one of the seven offensive linemen told Thursday to stay home and quarantine. The Giants are hoping all the tests come back negative and the offensive linemen, other than Hernandez, can return to practice Friday.
This would be quite a sudden promotion for Lemieux, the long-haired rookie from Oregon. He has appeared in three games this season and taken exactly two snaps on offense — one apiece against the Rams and Cowboys. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Lemieux was a workhorse player in college, starting 52 consecutive games for the Ducks and rarely coming off the field. He played 3,611 snaps in his Oregon career and is viewed by some as the 2021 successor for Kevin Zeitler at right guard, even though Lemieux’s experience in college was exclusively at left guard.
The Giants were attracted to Lemieux and took him in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft because they see him as an aggressive interior lineman unafraid to mix it up on the field.
“Early on he was a little bit out of control,’’ offensive line coach Marc Colombo said. “He’s tough, he wants to get out there, fight everyone, a little bit out of control with his footwork, trying to be too aggressive, and we love that about Shane.
“What I’ve seen in the past few weeks is a guy that, he’s starting to be more patient with everything, and it’s really starting to translate in practice, in one-on-ones and stuff like that. And as we get going down the stretch, like we did with [rookie tackle] Matt [Peart], kind of mix him in these games, get him some game experience, and it’s gonna be important. I like where he’s heading with this thing and Shane will do a good job.’’
Head coach Joe Judge said the plan all along was to get Lemieux increased experience in game situations, much like the way Peart has been rotated in as times. A start eight games into his NFL career was not part of the plan, though.
“Shane has been doing a good job really improving for us throughout the season,’’ Judge said. “He’s done a really good job in practice. He’ll be in the mix with different guys that may factor into that position. We’ll see where it goes by the end of the week and where everything leads going into Monday. We have confidence in Shane, I would expect him to play regardless of what the scenario is.’’