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Is Your Refrigerator Running? That's Just Will Hernandez

Cardinals like what they see out of free agent right guard

Guard Will Hernandez sets up for what became a touchdown run in last week's game against the Bengals.
Guard Will Hernandez sets up for what became a touchdown run in last week's game against the Bengals.

Will Hernandez knocked J.J. Watt to the ground, perhaps a tad after need be, since the play had passed both players by, and Watt took umbrage.

The veteran defensive end, a mammoth man at 6-foot-5 and 288 pounds, jumped up and took a run at Hernandez. It was like Watt hit a wall.

"We didn't go anywhere, right?" Hernandez said with a smile.

"(Will) is built like a refrigerator," right tackle Kelvin Beachum said.

Hernandez and Watt did the training-camp-tussle thing for a moment before it naturally faded away. But it underscored both the mentality and the power of the 6-2, 335-pound guard, who was signed as a free agent this offseason to fill the lone question mark on the offensive line.

Don't get it twisted, Hernandez didn't take any kind of victory lap around the battle with Watt. To the contrary, he had little to say about it, although he did quip that in their conversation during, "I love you might have been thrown in there, something like that."

"At the end of the day, we're all brothers out here," Hernandez said.

That's what Hernandez has already become – a brother on the offensive line. He got to know right tackle Kelvin Beachum a little bit in 2019; he met center Rodney Hudson at the Super Bowl in 2020. And he's know left guard Justin Pugh for years, after Hernandez was drafted by the Giants to replace Pugh once Pugh signed with the Cardinal as a free agent in 2018.

While the two didn't meet in person, Pugh recommended food spots and a barber. The connection was there when Hernandez signed.

"I love having Will here," Pugh said. "Will replaced me in New York and he was the scrapper there. It must be if you played left guard in New York you have to fight because I was. Now I don't have to fight. Will has taken over that role, man. He's the enforcer out there. Let my old ass take a couple plays off.

"It's been awesome. Great dude, great personality, great in the locker room. I couldn't say enough good things about Will."

It also doesn't hurt that Hernandez has a deep connection with offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who was the head coach at UTEP when Hernandez was coming out of high school and recruited Hernandez to play for the Miners.

Kugler "taught me the game of football," Hernandez said, and Kugler lauded the physical way Hernandez plays – finishing by running through a defender, especially while pulling on a play.

"He's got a lot of nasty to him," Kugler said.

Left tackle D.J. Humphries said he calls Hernandez "Fridge," without a hint of deference to William Perry.

"Man, (Will) is a brahma bull," Beachum said. "I've got bulls back in Texas. I've got one called Valentine, and he's put together. Will is a very, very put-together human being."

Which brings us back to where Hernandez fits, already adopted into the offensive line room, a natural addition to the group. (If veteran Justin Murray hadn't hurt his ankle he might've pushed Hernandez but now that Murray has been out, Hernandez likely has got a grip on the starting job.)

Battles with Watt aren't necessary to carve out a role, although potential battles with the defensive linemen on the schedule will be embraced.

Whatever Hernandez can do to help.

"The cool thing about these guys, they've been playing together," Hernandez said. "I'm the one who just came in – no vet days, by the way. I want to be in there as much as I can."

Images from 2022 Cardinals Training Camp at State Farm Stadium