When Jon Halapio beat out Brett Jones for the starting center job on the Giants' offensive line last training camp, expectations were high for the 27-year-old.
He didn't have much of a chance to live up to them, going down with a fractured ankle during in Week 2 against the Cowboys and missing the remainder of the season. Halapio watched from the sidelines as the team stumbled to a 5-11 record and the play of the offensive line initially drew criticism, before continuity led to more rushing success for Saquon Barkley later in the season.
"He was really playing well for us before he got hurt a year ago," coach Pat Shurmur said earlier this offseason. "So we had high hopes for him last season. It appears he has come back 100 percent and is back in there just like he was when he left us."
Heading into 2019, Halapio will have two new faces on his right in guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Mike Remmers. Returning on his left will be tackle Nate Solder and second-year guard Will Hernandez. With improvement expected among the unit, Hernandez will be at the center of it -- literally.
"[Hernandez] is light years ahead from when he first started out. Two things that stick out to me are his awareness and his maturity," Halapio said, per the New York Post. "Having two solid guards like that, big bodied guys in there. The awareness and maturity that they have, and the wisdom, especially with Kevin, it helps a lot for me."
During OTAs, he took the majority of the first-team reps with the offense. But Spencer Pulley, who started nine games for Big Blue last season, will contend for the starting job through camp.
He's accustomed to the competition this time around. Halapio is also healthy and ready to put last year in the past.
"It was hard," Halapio told reporters last week. "I had my days where I would have a 'why me' type of feeling. [But] I never really lost confidence because I knew what I was capable of and what I bring to the table."