It was never a question of “if” but rather “when” the Giants were going to get Justin Pugh, their first-round draft pick, into the starting lineup.
Pugh got his opportunity at right tackle when David Diehl, last year’s starter, needed to miss six weeks because of a thumb issue.
Once Pugh stepped into the lineup, there was no removing this 6’4”, 304-pound prospect.
“You know, Justin’s progressing along fairly well,” said offensive line coach Pat Flaherty. “In the last few weeks I've seen his technique and fundamentals become better.
“In the beginning, with learning the offense, one, and then learning the techniques that you need to protect in the pass protection, some things were very challenging to him because he was playing against some savvy veterans there in the beginning of the season,” Flaherty continued. “In the last couple of weeks, he’s settled down.”
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Pugh, who’s taken every single snap on offense since Week 1, has only allowed 2.0 sacks and two quarterback hits.
While his 29 quarterback pressures are the most of the Giants offensive linemen, the former Syracuse standout has shown he’s not afraid to battle through to the whistle, and he's demonstrated fine balance, even if being walked back into the pocket.
Pugh, who was the fifth offensive tackle taken in the 2013 draft, might just be the best of the bunch, according to former NFL offensive lineman Ross tucker, now an analyst for NBC Sports.
"He's been the best of the bunch, probably even better than [No. 11 pick] D.J. Fluker, who struggles in pass protection as well," Tucker said via NJ.com.
"Pugh has probably been more solid than any of those [other rookies]. It's really been because of his feet, and he's playing smarter," Tucker added.
Flaherty believes that with more reps, Pugh will become even better.
“When you’re going into your ninth game it should slow down for you as a rookie but he’s still a rookie, so he’s going to learn each and every game,” he said.