Giants’ Nick Gates listed at No. 20 in PFF preseason center rankings

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Last year the New York Giants made a bold move by inserting Nick Gates at center, even though he had never played the position before. Not in college at Nebraska and not since he became a Giant in 2018 as an undrafted free agent.

Gates had been used at guard and tackle and the couching staff, looking to firm up the middle of the line, figured Gates would be versatile enough to handle the position.

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Gates was behind the eight ball from the very beginning as COVID-19 robbed the Giants (and the other teams) the luxury of OTAs and minicamps. He had to learn the position on the fly.

It wasn’t easy at first. Gates was not the only new piece on the line. Veteran tackle Nate Solder had opted out, leaving the Giants no choice but to start rookie Andrew Thomas at left tackle. With free agent addition Cam Fleming at the right tackle position, that meant the Giants opened the season with new players at three of the five offensive line spots with very little time for the changes to settle into place.

The line struggled early on, specifically Gates and Thomas, and they were deficient in both run blocking and pass protection. Thankfully, things calmed down as the season wore on and Gates appears to be much more comfortable heading into this season.

Gates was the only Giant to play all 1,013 offensive snaps in 2020 and the Giants hope he will become a staple on the line for years to come.

In a recent ranking of the top 32 centers in the NFL, Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey ranked Gates 20th overall. Not bad for a guy who is new to the position.

20. NICK GATES, NEW YORK GIANTS

There was plenty of reason to be optimistic about Gates heading into the 2020 season following an impressive showing in several spot starts at right tackle and right guard in 2019. He did earn a starting job the following offseason, but it came at center. It’s a position that Gates hadn’t played in either college or the NFL. His PFF grade dropped from 77.0 to 59.7 as a result, but he was still far from the worst starter on New York’s offensive line. The Giants will hope for a step forward in Year 2 at the position.

With a full offseason program, including minicamp and training camp and much more classroom work, Gates should only improve. He will also benefit from the team’s change in the coaching ranks. Rob Sale has been brought in as the new O-line coach and the team has hired former coach Pat Flaherty as a consultant, which can only help matters.

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