Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
If you thought that offensive lineman Justin Pugh as a reach in the first round last year, you’re probably not alone.
Elevated to the starting lineup after injuries hit the unit hard, Pugh not only justified his draft pedigree, he was also the lone bright spot on a Giants offensive line that, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), was the 29th worst in the NFL.
Pugh finished with a 7.1 overall grade from PFF, the highest overall grade of any Giant who took at least 75 percent of the team’s snaps on offense.
He started all 16 games at right tackle, becoming the first Giants rookie to start an entire 16-game season since defensive tackle Barry Cofield in 2006, and the first Giants’ first-round draft choice to do so since Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981.
Despite questions about his size and his short arms, Pugh allowed just five quarterback sacks and four quarterback hits, per PFF.
He started the season shaky—his Week 3 performance against Carolina was his worst—but he never seemed to make the same mistakes twice.
He was so good, in fact, that the coaches rarely gave him any kind of chip blocking help.
Pugh, named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team, was only flagged for three penalties all season long—two of which were illegal formation calls. That’s a testament to his technique and his attention to detail.
“My whole goal was just to contribute and help the team win in any way possible, if it was on special teams or as a starting right tackle,” Pugh told Giants.com senior writer Michael Eisen.
“I wanted to play my part and show these guys that I came here to play and play well.”
He did just that with aplomb.