Excerpt: "On one side, there will be Giants rookie right tackle Justin Pugh, the 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Syracuse. On the other side Sunday in San Diego, there will be D.J. Fluker, the 11th overall pick by the Chargers out of Alabama.
They were the fourth and fifth offensive tackles selected in this year’s draft. To Pugh, the order in which they were selected doesn’t matter. The doubters, not his contemporaries, drive him.
“It’s not more me competing against guys I know are good players and I played with at the Senior Bowl. They’re all good guys and I hope they do well, except when they are going against some of our guys,” Pugh said. “But I think the biggest thing I want to prove wrong are the people who said I couldn’t play tackle in the NFL, or the people who said I couldn’t do this or that, my arms are too short, I’m not big enough. I think that is what drives me.”
Pugh’s 31½-inch arms were well documented prior to the draft. Most pundits thought with that limitation he was best suited to play guard.
But the Syracuse product played left tackle in college. He wanted to play tackle in the pros. He relishes the opportunity to prove the critics wrong.
“I want to prove that I can play tackle, I can play guard, I can play center if I need to,” Pugh said. “I want to be that versatile guy that I told the Giants why they should draft me.”
The Giants have plugged Pugh in at right tackle. He’s started all 12 games and progressively improved. The transition hasn’t always been easy.
“My pass set on the right side [is the most difficult change] because I’m moving from the left side where my kick step feels very comfortable, second nature,” he said. “Now moving to the right, everything is flipped.”
Comparatively, the transition has still gone well. Of the five offensive tackles selected in the first round (Kansas City’s Eric Fisher, Jacksonville’s Luke Joeckel, Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson, Fluker and Pugh), Pugh has the highest 2013 grade, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s allowed just three sacks this season and eight hurries in his last seven games. Pugh allowed 24 in his first five games.
Fluker has played some right and left tackle. He’s also allowed three sacks, but 14 pressures in his last three games on the left side.
Pugh hears and sees how the other rookie tackles are doing. He knows most of them pretty well. Pugh and Fluker spent time together during the pre-draft process. They were the first non-seniors (even though they had already graduated) to play in the Senior Bowl. And he receives constant updates from his friends on Johnson and the Eagles. Pugh grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs.
“He’s been playing better, too, I heard,” Pugh said. “All my friends are Eagles fans. At the beginning of the year, they were all like, ‘Dude, I wish we had you instead.’” Read more...