The Giant Insider Online

Halapio Making a Case for Starting Role on Giants’ Offensive Line

New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters on Monday at the team’s seventh OTA session not to read too much into who was playing with what team as he and the other coaches decided to mix things up to give the younger players a longer look at practice.

“We had a real big personnel meeting last Thursday where we kind of just sat down and just talked organizationally about all of the players,” said Shurmur. “I just felt like it was time to get a real good look at what we have with some of the younger players as we move forward.

“We were kind of at the halfway point at OTAs. We’re seeing a lot good things from our front line guys, but we felt like today was a good day to see what some of the younger, fresher legged guys could do and then we gave them 14 plays there and we did it in a setting where it was basically a scrimmage so we could see how they would function getting in and out of the huddle, how they would line up on plays that weren’t scripted, and it will be a good tool for us to evaluate some of the young guys.”

Questions were raised when Jon Halapio got all of the first-team reps at center in place of Brett Jones, who is listed ahead Halapio on the team’s unofficial depth chart.

“He has done a very good job. Pio is very smart, he’s got good instincts – he snaps the ball well, which is a really refreshing thing for a center. . . That was supposed to be humorous,” Shurmur said laughingly.

“But no, he does all of those things well and he’s very competitive and he knows how to play the game. I think Jonesey is doing the same thing. They’re just in there competing. I wouldn’t overevaluate who is getting the first team reps, but I think if you’re talking about Pio specifically, he has really sort of opened his eyes that he has a chance to play.”

Halapio also worked at guard with the other rotating parts of the Giants’ new interior mix on their revamped offensive line: Jones, rookie Will Hernandez, John Greco, John Jerry and free agent Patrick Omameh.

The former sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots out of Florida in the 2014 NFL Draft has seen his share of shuffling around. Over the past four years, he’s had two stints with the Pats, with stops in Denver, Arizona and two FXFL teams (Brooklyn and Boston) in between before finally landing with the Giants last season.

Halapio began the year on the Giants’ practice squad but was called up to the main roster in October. He made one start – in Week 12 at right guard in place of D.J. Fluker – and was inserted in relief several times.

Shurmur, who was a center in college at Michigan State in the 1980s, was asked what his prerequisites are for his offensive linemen.

“I think they have to be physical, I think they have to be smart and then once they have the basic kind of traits that you’re looking for in the player, then I like guys that have power and can move their feet. You just try to find the best in all of those areas,” Shurmur said.

The line seems set at the tackle position with free agent Nate Solder on the left and Ereck Flowers settling in on the right side.

Another encouraging sign is the presence of blocking tight end Rhett Ellison and fullback Shane Smith, two players who were vastly underused last season.

Ellison played under Shurmur in Minnesota and feels more at home in this offense.

“Shurmur, he is what you’re going to get, like that’s who he is,” said Ellison. “He doesn’t change around different people or in different positions, he is who he is. He’s real, he’s a great communicator and he’s a great teacher. The speed that we’re picking up this offense is really awesome and that’s a credit to him and the coaches that he hired.”

Ellison credits the coaches for the expediency in which the players have picked up the offense thus far.

“Some coaches are really good at teaching the system. He keeps it simple, he kind of has a good way of explaining it and he has coaches that all know the system very well. Like bringing in [Offensive Coordinator Mike] Shula, who’s been in this system and stuff like that. So, there’s just a lot of years, a lot of experience teaching this system,” Shurmur said.

As for Smith, the Giants had little use for him on offense in 2017, even though he proved that he was a capable blocker who could help both open holes for the running game and protect the quarterback. Shurmur has other ideas for him.

“I like the use of a fullback,” the coach said. “I think there are ways that you can use him strategically, whether it is the grouping that he is involved in or how you get him the ball. I think when you have a fullback in there you always have the element of seven-man protection, which is good for the quarterback.”

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