Rookies in Focus: Justin Pugh
Steve Palazzolo breaks down the rookie-season performances of offensive tackles selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
Rookies in Focus: Justin Pugh
Our offseason rookie breakdown started with the first round edge rushers and now it’s time to take a look at the other side of the line. Offensive tackles came off the board at a furious rate, with the 2013 draft perhaps as unique as any in recent history.
Here’s a look at the first round offensive tackles, with a couple other mid-round starters and even an undrafted free agent mixed in. This is by no means a definitive draft grade on any of these players, just a one-year look at their role and production, and perhaps a look forward to how they might improve.
Round 1, No. 19: Justin Pugh, New York Giants
Role: 16 starts at RT
Yet another second half riser, Pugh made great strides over his last eight games, grading at -4.9 during the first half of the season before finishing with a +12.0 mark during the second half. Pugh was touted as an outside possibility to sneak into the first round a year ago with many analysts citing short arms and a potential move to guard as reasons to grade him as a second rounder. If he continues his ascent, he should remain in the Giants’ plans at tackle, either remaining on the right side or potentially moving to the left at some point over the next few years.
Pass Block Snaps: 644
Total Pressures: 52
Pass Blocking Efficiency: 93.4
Outside of an early rough outing in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, Pugh remained fairly consistent in pass protection, showing slight improvement from his -3.7 first-half grade to a +2.1 mark in the second half. Of his 52 surrendered pressures, 56% of them came to his outside shoulder, the highest percentage among the rookie offensive tackles. Despite his pass blocking grade coming in at a slight negative, it was still the highest on a dismal Giants offensive line.
Pugh gives up pressure to the outside:
Run Block Snaps: 398
The running game is where Pugh made his most drastic improvement, increasing from a -4.8 first half grade to a stellar +7.3 mark in the second half. Granted, much of that came in a +4.1 effort in Week 17 against the Washington Redskins, but it was an impressive improvement nonetheless.
Most of his struggles came when facing head-up defenders, so some of the league’s better run-stopping 3-4 defensive ends such as Tyson Jackson, Cedric Thornton, and Fletcher Cox gave him some issues. Pugh was much better when working against shaded defenders, having some success in the run game against top 3-techniques Jason Hatcher and Ndamukong Suh. He was also proficient at finding defenders at the second level.
Here’s a look at Pugh getting stood up and easily shed by Cedric Thornton:
Pugh works to the second level off the double team and seals the linebacker:
Much like Lane Johnson, Pugh’s second half improvement is extremely encouraging. He has some clear weaknesses to his game, namely outside pass rushes and working against head-up defenders in the running game, but both areas got better as the season progressed.
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