Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Pugh told Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald that he "had some good battles" against Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones during their practices at Syracuse.
Will the 6'4", 307-pound Orangeman ever face his old teammate in practice again?
It's a possibility that cannot yet be ruled out. Pugh did meet with the Patriots at the combine, per Howe, and he fills a need on the inside of the offensive line.
Pugh, who played primarily left tackle in college, is projected to play guard at the next level. He's a bit undersized as far as NFL tackles go. After all, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are both 6'8".
Although Pugh's tape shows him playing on the blind side of quarterback Ryan Nassib, it's easy to see how his game could translate to guard. He's very experienced, starting 33 of a possible 37 games over the last three seasons. On top of that, he's as well-rounded a blocker as you can find in the second round.
A confident run-blocker, Pugh pushes ahead until the whistle is blown. And if he doesn't get all of his first block, he looks upfield and disrupts linebackers at the second level. As a pass-protector, Pugh sometimes loses the leverage battle and his feet leave the turf momentarily.
Nonetheless, the senior knows how to frustrate pass-rushers with his hands and feet more so than sheer athleticism.
Yes, he will occasionally get beat to the edge by bigger and faster defensive ends, yet that's not as much of a concern due to his impending move to the inside. On the interior, Pugh will be challenged by bulky run-stuffers. But by posting 23 bench reps of 225 pounds at the Syracuse pro day (according to Michael Cohen of Syracuse.com), Pugh showed he's strong enough.
This draft has two surefire first-rounders at guard: Alabama's Chance Warmack and North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper. Pugh is in the second tier, which means he could go anywhere from the end of Round 1 to early in Round 3.
If the Patriots could grab No. 67 somewhere on Day 2, it would mean that Dan Connolly would have some competition for the starting right guard spot. In the worst-case scenario, Pugh fulfills a backup role at left and right guard during his rookie year, also offering depth as an emergency tackle.