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Fact or Fiction: Toughest position change to make

Posted May 29, 2015

The Giants.com staff debates Big Blue topics as several players make position changes for 2015

Aside from QB, left tackle is the most difficult position to start as a rookie.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Cornerback is part of the conversation, too, but left tackle is just so important in the NFL. If you pay attention to what coaches and general managers say, it is regarded almost like the quarterback position. Every team needs a franchise left tackle to be successful. The required skill set, as well as the caliber of players they have to block, make it difficult for a rookie to be successful.

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LANCE MEDOW: Fact - I'd throw out middle linebacker and corner as two other challenging positions for rookies, but not much tops left tackle. There's a reason most left tackles in college start out at right tackle or guard in the NFL. Protecting a quarterback's blind side is the biggest priority for an offensive line and that job falls mainly on the left tackle, who has to deal with the opposing team's best pass rusher on a weekly basis. Case in point, if Ereck Flowers wins the left tackle job, from Weeks 4 through 6 he’ll have to face, in order, Mario Williams, Aldon Smith and Brandon Graham.

Justin Pugh's move to guard is than Bennett Jackson's to safety.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Even though he hasn’t started at guard since he was an 18-year-old at Council Rock South High School in Holland, Pa., Pugh has shown his versatility in the past. After playing left tackle throughout college, he switched to the right side after being selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2013 draft.

He went on to start all 16 games as a rookie, the first Giants to do so since Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981. Meanwhile, Jackson has barely gotten his feet wet in the NFL, spending his rookie season on the practice squad/injured list. Playing in the secondary is tough enough as it is for a young player. Switching roles makes it that much harder, but that’s not to say it can’t be done.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Although Justin Pugh said he hasn't played guard since his high school days, his transition from tackle to guard should be easier than Bennett Jackson's move from corner to safety. In Pugh's case, there are a number of factors that will help his cause.

First, he's returning to the left side, where he played in college, so there's already comfort established in terms of footwork. Second, as he mentioned when speaking with the media, when you play guard, you're responsible for establishing the pocket with help from the center, unlike tackle where you can be left on an island against some of the best pass rushers on the opposing team. Third, he has two years of experience under his belt, which has given him a taste of the speed of the game in the trenches.

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Jackson, on the other hand, is entering uncharted territory in essentially his rookie year in the NFL because he was hurt all of 2014. His biggest adjustment will be covering space as a safety as opposed to one player as a corner. Plus, don't forget the safety group as a whole is very young, so there aren't many polished veterans to turn to.

Damontre Moore is the most likely Giant to have a breakout season.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - He needs to keep earning the trust of his coaches, but he’s getting there, especially with veteran Mathias Kiwanuka no longer on the team.

Moore has the opportunity to build on last season when he had the first 5.5 sacks of his career.

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LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Damontre Moore is certainly in the mix to be a breakout player but it remains to be seen how Steve Spagnuolo will use him in the new scheme. Will he start? Will he be a pass rush specialist? Will he be used to stop the run? With those questions looming,

I'd lean more toward Devon Kennard as the most likely player to have a breakout season. He showed flashes of his potential in the final few games last season and has a very good shot at starting this season because of some turnover at the linebacker position during the offseason. Given his versatility, I think Kennard could be a real x-factor in Spag's defense.

Landon Collins and Cooper Taylor will be the starting safety tandem in Week 1.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Saying otherwise would be pure speculation at this point. We’ve only had a couple of OTAs with the full team together, which had Collins and Taylor together on the top unit. There are a lot of unknowns with the group as the team doesn’t return any starters from last season. So I’ll go with those two until we see otherwise.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - This was the combo on Day One of OTAs, but by the end of training camp, I think it will be Landon Collins and Nat Berhe who win the starting safety spots. When the team began voluntary workouts in April, Berhe seemed to have a chip on his shoulder and that should translate to the football field. Based on his words, last year’s fifth round pick sounds extremely motivated and is collecting bulletin board material from the media chatter that he’s perhaps too young and inexperienced. Coming out of San Diego State, Berhe was known for his big hits. That strength should complement Landon Collins’ versatility in the starting lineup come Week 1. Taylor has a great deal of upside given his size, but he also has to prove he can stay healthy.