<
>

A possible internal solution for the Giants' offensive line

"Inactive" is an official designation on NFL game days. It pertains to the seven players on each team's 53-man roster who don't get uniforms and aren't eligible to play on that particular Sunday. It was a designation that New York Giants offensive lineman Bobby Hart earned seven times during his 2015 rookie season, but "inactive" isn't an accurate way to describe what he did on those days.

"It was basically an extra practice day," Hart said, recalling the on-field work he did during the team's warmup period with assistant offensive line coach Lunda Wells. "Just 30 minutes of real intense extra work, going full-bore, more than you do in a game."

Just because you don't see a guy play doesn't mean he's not developing as a player. Hart was the Giants' seventh-round pick in 2015 -- a big, 21-year-old tackle out of Florida State whose skills projected but whose body and technique needed work. Hart has lost 25 pounds since this time last year and now checks in at 315. That, along with the year he's spent working behind the scenes on his craft, has him hopeful that he can convince the Giants' coaching staff to make him a starter as early as this year.

"Just wanted to be a little quicker, a littler faster, and overall it never hurts to be in better condition," Hart said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I just feel quicker now, just being able to get from Point A to Point B. Things just feel smoother."

There is opportunity here for Hart. John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse finished the season as the Giants' starters at right guard and right tackle, respectively. But both were signed as backups and pressed into starting duty due to injuries. While they project as starters on the current depth chart, the Giants are open to other ideas, and the coaching staff is interested to see how Hart looks this spring and summer.

The Giants view Hart as a guy who could play guard or tackle, whichever is needed. He views himself the same way, saying, "Either one, doesn't matter. I just want to be on the field." The Giants also still view Hart as a late-round project, and they won't rush him. He's well aware that he still has more to prove before he can convince them he's ready.

"Consistency," Hart said. "It's easy to flash things and do things right one time. But to do it over and over to the point where you can be trusted, that's the important thing."

Hart clearly appears to be a young NFL player with his priorities in order. A month from today, after the Giants' mandatory June minicamp is over, he's hosting a football camp for kids in his hometown of Lauderhill, Florida. It's something he says he always wanted to do once he made it to the NFL, "to introduce football to someone who needs it in their life."

But in the meantime, he'll spend the next month working on his own craft, trying to show the Giants' coaches the ways in which he's better than he was a year ago and figuring out what he'll need to do to hit the ground running when training camp begins July 28.

"This time last year, I was just trying to feel my way around, make a good impression and everything like that," Hart said. "Now, I'm able to focus more on myself, what I need to do, getting stronger and quicker and just getting better."

If he continues to do those things, there's a chance Hart could see the field in a significant role for the Giants come the fall. Again, they won't rush him, and there's a chance he'll need more time. And if that's the case, they believe they can go with Jerry/Newhouse or other options until he is ready. But Giants fans who are upset the team didn't take an offensive lineman in this year's draft can remind themselves they took two in last year's. And the second one thinks there's a chance he could help sometime soon.