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Sunday, August 18, 2013
Pugh makes NFL debut, shows promise

By Kieran Darcy

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the few bright spots for the New York Giants on an ugly night at MetLife Stadium was rookie offensive lineman Justin Pugh.

The Giants' first-round draft pick made his NFL debut after missing the team's first preseason game because of a concussion, and he held his own at left tackle with the second unit.

Justin Pugh
OL Justin Pugh had a strong start to his professional career Sunday.
"I felt comfortable over there," Pugh said, following the Giants' 20-12 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. "Had some good plays, had a couple that I wish I could get back. But I think overall, definitely learning from this, I’ll be able to do better next week."

Pugh's first play was actually going to be with the starters, serving as the extra lineman in the team's jumbo package. The Giants had a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line following a pass interference penalty with just more than four minutes left in the second quarter, but, after discussion, the officials decided there was no pass interference on the play after all.

Needless to say, Pugh was disappointed.

"It was funny. I thought, 'Oh my god. My first jumbo, I'm in there with the ones [first-team offensive players], we're gonna get a touchdown, they're gonna run right to my side,'" Pugh said. "All of a sudden, you had all these things going on in your mind, and they wave off the flag and I have to come off the field."

But Pugh finally entered the game for real on the Giants' next offensive possession and got some professional game experience under his belt. He felt no ill effects from the concussion.

"I’m happy to get in there and take the opportunities that I had and do some good things," Pugh said. "I’m excited to get out there next week and improve."

Coach Tom Coughlin liked what he saw. "Well, I was glad to see him compete," Coughlin said. "Some of those kids on the edge were good rushers, and he did a pretty good job of that. I like to look at the tape. I know we got tremendous pressure after he came out of the game, for example. He and a couple of others, so I’ll have to look at the tape."

It wasn't a very good day for the offensive line overall. Last season, the Giants allowed just 20 sacks, best in the NFL. On Sunday night alone, the Giants gave up a half-dozen of them.

Center David Baas suffered a sprained knee on the team's opening drive and had to leave the game. Right tackle David Diehl, in particular, appeared to have a tough time keeping his man in front of him. (Diehl wasn't available in the Giants locker room after the game.)

There's already been speculation that Pugh could eventually supplant Diehl as the team's starting right tackle, and that talk will only increase now. But Pugh still has just one preseason game's worth of experience and a lot more to learn.

"Whatever role they want, it’s fine for me. Wherever they want me," Pugh said. "As long as I can get out there and play and contribute and help us win, I’ll be happy doing that. And I think some of the stuff I was able to learn tonight will definitely help me out."