Pugh making biggest transition in Giants' new-look O-line
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Justin Pugh originally had his mind set on moving from his right tackle spot of the last two years to right guard, where he would team with first-round tackle Ereck Flowers to transform the Giants into an efficient power-running team.
That plan changed last week when starting left tackle Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle in the weight room. He had surgery will be sidelined until mid-November at the earliest. The first-unit front that lined up in Wednesday's first organized team activity practice of the season represented a totally new look from 2014, featuring Flowers and Pugh on the left side, Weston Richburg at center and guard Geoff Schwartz and free agent tackle Marshall Newhouse on the right side.
Newhouse played the last four years with Green Bay. Richburg started at left guard as a rookie. And Schwartz had spent time at left guard, filling in for the struggling Richburg, while John Jerry handled right guard.
Beatty's injury forced Coughlin and his prospective starters to be flexible, including Pugh, who faces the biggest transition.
''I haven't started a game at guard since high school,'' said the 6-4, 301-pound Pugh. ''But I love it. I have to keep guys out of Eli's face. And I get to help out a tackle, which I love because I know what it's like to be out there on an island (at tackle).''
The Giants were not able to run the ball last year with any consistency. They finished their 6-10 season ranked 23rd in rushing yardage, largely because they lacked a true mauler on the right side.
Flowers was supposed to start his pro career as that powerful entity. But Beatty's injury will now force Flowers into the role of quarterback Eli Manning's blindside protector.
Although the Giants ultimately projected Flowers as Beatty's successor, it wasn't exactly what coach Tom Coughlin had in mind before last Wednesday's mishap.
''(Beatty) was trying to get stronger,'' Coughlin said. ''He was working with X-amount of weight and was in the middle of his second rep and this unfortunate thing happened.''
Pugh was headed inside, anyway. He had begun preparing for the move by seeking advice from Schwartz and Jerry, as well as retired Giants guard Chris Snee. Moving to the left side simply added to the transitional challenge.
Despite that, Coughlin said lining up Pugh at left guard is not experimental.
''It's an attempt to take advantage of a very versatile, gifted athlete,'' Coughlin said. ''Experiment would be a word you could say because he hasn't played there, but we moved him there with the full intent that he'd be able to play there.''
NOTES: DE Robert Ayers slipped while going against Flowers on the first play of team drills and had to be carted off the field with left ankle and knee injuries. He did not return, and his future status had not been determined. ''First play, he went low and got pushed down into the ground,'' an irritated Coughlin said. ''This is a time, and we've told the players this, where it's non-contact. You have to play with your hands and your feet. I'm disappointed in that. I'm hoping what it turns out to be is not serious.''... LB Devon Kennard (ankle) did not participate. ... DE Jason Pierre-Paul remained absent from the offseason program as he attempts to negotiate his franchise tag into a long-term contract. Coughlin said he has had conversations with Pierre-Paul, and as of now expects him to attend the mandatory veterans minicamp June 16-18. ... Coughlin said WR Victor Cruz continued to progress in his rehab from patellar tendon surgery, and spent the practice doing lateral and cutting drills on the side. ''He's coming along well,'' Coughlin said. ... Manning said he is looking forward to the Giants' combined practice in Cincinnati the week of their Aug. 14 preseason game against the Bengals. ''It's good. Mix it up, get some new blood in there. It'll break up a tedious, long deal.''