In certain ways, being an offensive lineman is like being a superhero. If your name or number isn’t called often, you’re probably doing your job right.
That’s exactly how New York Giants Ben McAdoo described the performance of right tackle Chad Wheeler, who earned his first extended NFL action during the Giants’ 12-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought Chad had a quiet day from where I was standing,” McAdoo said. “So, that’s a good day for your first start.”
Forced into the starting lineup thanks to Justin Pugh’s back injury, Wheeler made the most of his opportunity. The undrafted free agent out of USC was welcomed into the NFL by going up against fearsome Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston. His efforts, however, kept Houston in check for most of the game, and he opened holes for Giants’ rushers, allowing them to tally 112 yards on the ground.
“It was intense. He’s a savvy veteran and has a variety of moves,” Wheeler said of Houston. “He’s pretty quick. I just had to stay in front of him.”
Wheeler had a little bit of help in dealing with Houston in the form of veteran teammate DJ Fluker, who used to face off against Houston yearly when he was a member of the San Diego Chargers.
Wheeler was sure to seek Fluker for his help, as well as his quarterback, Eli Manning.
“It’s a testament to Eli getting the ball out quickly and D.J. Fluker helping me. It wasn’t just my effort. It was a team effort,” Wheeler said of his game. “We have a great group of guys. They have faith in me and I have faith in myself.”
The rookie helped contribute to the Giants’ lone touchdown of the game, setting up a key block that helped running back Orleans Darkwa punch the ball in from a yard out. Speaking like a veteran, however, Wheeler refused to take solo credit.
“It was (tight end) Rhett Ellison and I,” Wheeler said, recalling the play. “Rhett took his hip out and had a great down block. ”
Despite going undrafted in April’s selection proceedings, the Giants’ post-draft signing of Wheeler was seen as one of the biggest steals of the weekend.
Undrafted due to reported character concerns, Wheeler ended his time with the Trojans with first-team all PAC-12 honors. He also helped USC earn victory in the 2017 Rose Bowl, partaking in a wild 52-49 shootout against Penn State.