Justin Pugh has done just about everything for the New York Giants on the offensive line in the three seasons he's been with the club. Big Blue's top selection in the 2013 NFL Draft has played tackle and guard, winning roles at both positions and filling in during times when the line was under the injury siege, something they hope to put an end to in 2016.
Pugh told reporters he's strictly been working at guard, left guard to be more specific.
"I have been a guard all throughout OTAs so it has been good. I am loving that I am able to stay there, really feel at home and get all the reps there," Pugh said on Wednesday. "Sometimes when you go out to different positions you learn different nuances so I am really focusing on getting this left guard down and getting the camaraderie going with these guys up front."
Those "guys" Pugh was referring to are center Weston Richburg, left tackle Ereck Flowers, and the two veterans on the right side, guard John Jerry and tackle Marshall Newhouse.
Jerry came to the Giants three summers ago a much-maligned player after his role in the Miami Dolphins' "Bullygate" scandal. The Giants picked him up and he has been nothing but steady and reliable. Newhouse was practically out of football after several disappointing seasons in Green Bay and Cincinnati. The Giants took a flier on him last summer.
Don't try to sell Pugh on the negatives of either player. He's not buying.
"John Jerry has to be one of the most underrated guards in the NFL," Pugh said. "If you look at the way he plays and the way he carries himself, literally every game he stepped out there and played, literally with the drop of a hat and then now to step into that starting role midway through the season and he played very, very well throughout the rest of the season, so he is a guy that I look up to. When he is out there doing the things, he is all business. He comes out here, he doesn't say anything, he isn't griping about not being the starter going into last season. I think that what he brings to the table is invaluable and I think a lot of people should recognize the value that he brings to the team and how good he is at right guard."
It's no secret the Giants have been trying to replace Newhouse, whom they see as a third tackle. Their efforts fell short in both free agency and in the draft, and now they seem to be committed to him at right tackle.
"Marshall is a great player and he has been in this system, he knows how to play in this system," Pugh said. "I think that sometimes he was dealing with a little bit of injury here and there and guys go through that. If you have a bad game, like I have had bad games in my career, sometimes that snowballs on you but I am very, very confident in Marshall as our right tackle. He is a hell of a player."
Pugh is optimistic about the careers of Flowers and another second-year lineman, Bobby Hart.
"They have done a great job," Pugh said. "Ereck came back with a great mentality, he was ready to work. I think last year as a rookie, it was such a long season for those guys, they never really get a break so for him to get away and refocus and regroup and get back here, the sky is the limit for him. I can just see it already, the mentality he has and he wants to be great."
Pugh also pointed out that new offensive coordinator Mike Solari is coming in with a better grasp on the offense than Pat Flaherty had the last two seasons.
"Under Flats we were working hard, we were working every single period, same mentality with Coach Solari. He is unbelievable," Pugh said. "He knows this offense inside and out. He has been in this offense for five years. He was in there with San Fran when they ran it, with Green Bay, so he knows it in and out more than any of us, just because he has been in it so long. We are using a lot of the film he has from that San Francisco O-line when they went to those NFC Championship games and getting to watch those teams has been really good for us. He is really critical of technique, making sure you are always on point. Even if you get the block done, there is still always something you can do to be a little bit better because we are striving to be great."
The Giants are hoping they finally have the components that make up a great offensive line. It seems Pugh feels the Giants are on their way.