The battle between youth and experience is the essence of NFL training camp. Two players at very different stages of their careers are asked the same questions each summer: Can the neophyte supplant the wily veteran? Does the old man have anything left in the tank?
The topic of who should start at right tackle for New York has been contentious thus far.
For starters, offensive line coach Pat Flaherty has made it clear who he has penciled in, saying on Monday, "My right tackle is David Diehl." As reported by the Daily News, Flaherty was unapologetic in singing Diehl's praises.
This very well may be a coach posturing out of respect for an established veteran. Perhaps Flaherty feels as though a rookie should not be handed the job prematurely, and that it would be a slap in the face to bench Diehl in early August. The question must be asked, however, what is the purpose of allowing this camp battle to drag on?
Despite allowing the fewest sacks in the NFL last year (20), New York made offensive line a priority this offseason.
Age and health took a toll on several linemen in 2012, including Diehl. In order to avoid the prospect of being old up front for a second consecutive year, the Giants decided now is the appropriate time to bring youth into the fold.
Based on physical merits, David Diehl should not be considered a starting lineman in the NFL.
Throughout the course of the 2012 season it became apparent that Diehl had lost a few steps. When called upon, backup Sean Locklear outperformed him in nearly every facet of the game. Coming off his worst season as a pro, which included offseason surgery in February for a sprained MCL, Diehl unsurprisingly took a pay cut of nearly $4 million.
The Giants are in the midst of a very common August approach to camp battles. A stalwart is getting shown some well-earned respect with the first team while a rookie intently learns the tricks of the trade.
Jumping through hoops out of respect for David Diehl is not something New York should spend too much time worrying about. With his 19th overall draft pick in Justin Pugh, head coach Tom Coughlin has a stud to deploy in the trenches.
Versatility and athleticism are Pugh's greatest assets heading into camp.
After being featured at left tackle for most of his collegiate career, Pugh has shown he can be serviceable at all five positions along the offensive line. The Giants currently see him fitting in best at right tackle, which, coincidentally, is not a position of diminishing returns.
Due to his below-average arm length, there are lingering questions as to Pugh's ability to play tackle in the pros. Some critics believe this impediment will eventually land him on the interior at guard.
What these critics fail to notice, however, is Pugh's exceptional footwork and aggressiveness. Perhaps his arms (32") are an inch or two short for some scouts' liking, but what this player lacks in reach he makes up for in nastiness.
Pugh is a surefire starter as a rookie in this league.
Unlike David Diehl, this rookie will be able to make his second-level blocks in a timely manner. Things that are easily taken for granted such as athleticism and balance will be restored on a consistent basis.
Diehl's blood, sweat and tears over the years have not gone unnoticed. If they had, the Giants would not have done him the favor of paying him $1 million this fall. Additionally, Diehl will be an asset for New York in short-yardage situations as an extra blocker.
Getting old and slow is an inevitable reality in sports. As a player gains experience in this business, he unceremoniously loses his youth. With this reality comes a tradition of passing the torch. Once the Giants' smoke-and-mirrors tactics have ended, Justin Pugh will be the last man standing on opening night in Dallas.
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