Justin Pugh started all 16 games at right tackle for the New York Giants as a rookie in 2013. But because he was a first-round pick and left tackle Will Beatty struggled, there are those who wonder if Pugh will or should be moved to left tackle, either now or in the future. And because many pre-draft scouting evaluations categorized Pugh as a better fit at guard than tackle in the NFL, there are those who wonder if he will or should be moved to one of the guard spots.
None of it makes sense to Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
"I don't see wiggle room," Flaherty said Thursday. "Matter of fact, somebody -- not anybody with anything to do with decision-making -- asked me, 'Would you experiment with him?' Why experiment? He's a starting right tackle. Do I need to move him over to left guard? He's a starting right tackle. I tell the offensive linemen: 'You're a starter. You have a position. You earned that position. To move you has got to be to help the football team.'
"Now, a guy that's a backup right tackle, to move him to left tackle, to move him to left guard, that's versatility, as everybody says. But the reason for that is he's not a starter. He's got to earn his starting position."
In Flaherty's eyes, which seem to reflect the Giants' overall organizational view, Pugh has earned that position and should stay there.
"Justin got better each and every game last year, and he needs to get a lot better, but I don't see it," Flaherty said of moving Pugh off of right tackle. "I don't see it in the near future. I guess you never say never, but if you're asking me today, no, I don't foresee that. You don't want to fight change if you have to do it because it's going to help your football team, but my vision right now is him being the right tackle."
Pugh said earlier in the spring that he'd added 10 pounds this offseason. Flaherty said Pugh played at 300 pounds last year but is now working at 313 or 314 due to an aggressive offseason strength program that should help him play stronger this year.
"He has been, knock on wood, this past offseason, the healthiest he's been in a while," Flaherty said. "And he attacks the weight room and his technique and his fundamentals like you want somebody on the offensive line to attack, and that's to get better. So I like his attitude, and he has gotten bigger."
The Giants didn't draft Pugh thinking he'd start 16 games as a rookie, but they're happy he was able to do it and they believe it can only help his development, which they see as a bright long-term proposition.
"He's got a high ceiling," Flaherty said. "He's nowhere close to it, as you will see. He is going to be a good player. Is he there yet? It's hard to be there after one year, it really is. But he's progressing."