BAYONNE, N.J. - The New York Giants' offensive line seen for most of last season will likely be the same at the start of this season.
And according to left guard Justin Pugh, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
No, the Giants' line did not play well last season, and no, the team didn't do much to improve the personnel this offseason. But as Pugh, a fifth-year veteran, said on Monday, continuity "is the most important thing with offensive line play."
The Giants definitely have that. Last season, they lined up most of the time with Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Pugh at left guard, Weston Richburg at center, John Jerry at right guard and Bobby Hart at right tackle. Right now, it seems that's exactly how the Giants are planning to line up this summer when training camp begins.
The hope is that the more the same line plays together, the better it will eventually get.
"Obviously you need talented guys," Pugh said at the Newark Mentoring Movement golf outing at the Bayonne Golf Club. "But to go out there and play as a unit is more important than anything. Any other position you can have an individual be just so much better. I mean, look at Odell Beckham. He can go out there and he's unbelievable. But if someone runs the wrong route it doesn't really affect him, for the most part.
"But offensive line play, if the right tackle struggles, or the right guard or left guard, the whole offensive line looks bad. So it's five guys that have to execute at the same time, every time, together. That's why offensive line is so unique."
In theory, a lot of former NFL offensive linemen agree (as long as the talent is there). That's a big question mark for the Giants, especially given how much Flowers and Hart struggled last season. Their play is why many expected the Giants to go shopping for tackles this offseason, something they failed to do in both free agency and the draft.
They did add depth in free agent D.J. Fluker (who is believed to be playing guard), sixth-round draft pick Adam Bisnowaty (a tackle from Pittsburgh) and two undrafted free agents: Chad Wheeler (a tackle from USC) and Jessamen Dunker (a tackle from Tennessee State). But with the starting five, barring injuries or a late-spring surprise, what you've seen is probably what you're going to get.
"It's good," Pugh said. "We have the same camaraderie. We kind of know where each other's going to be. It's something that's going to be beneficial for us."
Pugh also thinks two newcomers, tight end Rhett Ellison and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, will also help the offensive line with their blocking abilities. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ellison fills the void at blocking tight end that the Giants basically played without last season. And the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall has the size and strength to be the best blocking receiver the Giants have had in years.
"I think that will help us tremendously," Pugh said. "Last year we lose Nikita Whitlock, we didn't have a fullback on our roster. We've had some tight ends go down. We lost Daniel Fells and he was a blocking tight end. So to get those guys in here is huge and is going to help us out tremendously."
Pugh believes that, despite the status quo, this line "will be able to do some really good things." If he's right, the Giants' line will surprise a lot of people. Whether it's fair to them or not or not, the expectations for this unit are definitely low.
"I mean every year it's the same questions, and rightfully so. We haven't played as well as we should," Pugh said. "But I mean, there's a lot of things that go into offensive line play than just the five guys up front. We've got to do a better job ourselves. I think if we run the ball more effectively we're going to be all right.
"No one really understands offensive line play. No casual fan knows anything about offensive line play, so it's easy to be like 'Oh, well they didn't run the ball well this week, it's the offensive line to blame.' That's the part that probably irks most offensive linemen. But it's part of the job description."