The rundown neared its completion and it was evident Pat Shurmur was pleased with the players his general manager, Dave Gettleman, either had signed or had acquired in a trade to invigorate the Giants’ roster.
Shurmur eagerly listed the benefits of adding Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea as the starting safeties and why Golden Tate should fit perfectly at wide receiver. There was a pause, seemingly signifying Shurmur was winding down and finishing up with his assessment. The head coach suddenly brightened, as if he had hit the refresh key on his own browser memory.
“Oh, we haven’t even talked about [Kevin] Zeitler!’’ Shurmur said, clearly eager to do so.
It may be the offensive lineman in him (Shurmur was a center at Michigan State) or the importance he heaps on the position, or the ongoing desire to firm up the protection and security in front of Eli Manning. In any case, Shurmur sounded genuinely excited to acquire Zeitler from the Browns.
“He’s been a steady, solid performer at right guard and moving forward, you add a veteran presence at that position,’’ Shurmur told The Post on Wednesday from the Ohio State Pro Day in Columbus, Ohio. “I think of the uncertainly this time last year with the offensive line and I think about how that line grew, the players that are still here, how they grew as the season progressed and they developed. I thought [offensive line coaches Hal Hunter and Ben Wilkerson] did a good job of developing them.’’
Zeitler, 29, was a 2012 first-round pick of the Bengals out of Wisconsin, the closest thing college football has to an offensive line factory. Zeitler has not missed a game in four years. Pro Football Focus graded him in 2018 as the league’s No. 6 guard overall, No. 1 in pass-blocking. The Browns decided they could go with Austin Corbett, a 2018 second-round pick, at right guard.
Shurmur now sees an answer for at least four of the five starting spots on the line. From left to right, the Giants have Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, either Jon Halapio (coming back from ankle surgery) or Spencer Pulley at center and Zeitler at right guard. Removing weak links, or gaining experience as a rookie (as was the case with Hernandez) reverberates up and down the line. The Giants are looking for a new right tackle as an upgrade from Chad Wheeler.
“As Will Hernandez played better, that helped Nate, because playing together is so important,’’ Shurmur said. “Spencer Pulley went in and played great football for us, after ’Pio, who was probably playing our best when he got hurt. The 2018 version of our offensive line, Jamon Brown came in and gave us some solidity at the right guard spot that helped Chad Wheeler play better. It’s all connected.
“When you add a solid, veteran player that’s established himself and he’s consistent and tough and has all the attributes you’re looking for in an offensive lineman to add to that crew, we got better.’’
Informed that Zeitler on his introductory Giants conference call sounded all-business and all-football, Shurmur smiled broadly.
“It’s a refreshing concept, isn’t it?’’ he said. “Because that’s what you want. You want guys who want to take care of their families. He’s got a wife, young family, take care of your family and do your job. It’s very refreshing.’’
Shurmur would not say whether he is refreshed to no longer be working with Odell Beckham Jr. It is evident he is eager to get going with Tate, who was not on the Giants’ radar until Beckham was shipped to Cleveland. In 10 years with the Seahawks, Lions and part of last season with the Eagles, the 30-year-old Tate has 611 career receptions and 38 touchdowns, displaying toughness, reliability and yards-after-catch prowess. He is not close to Beckham, however, in terms of game-breaking ability.
“He’s a veteran presence. He’s very accomplished, caught roughly 90 balls a year, so he’s got production,’’ Shurmur said. “He’s got a Super Bowl ring. I’ve known about him, always admired him as a player and now he’s ours so I got a chance to sit down with him at length as well, talk about expectations and what our team is all about. I’m really glad we were able to add him.’’
The Giants continue to accumulate frequent-flier miles as they search for their next franchise quarterback. A day after a large Giants contingent watched Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State’s Pro Day, Shurmur on Thursday was in Morgantown, W.Va., scouting Will Grier, while offensive coordinator Mike Shula was in Columbia, Mo., seeing Drew Lock.