Sometime between the team flight back from Kansas City and the week leading up to the first Philadelphia game, Justin Pugh's game clicked into place.
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It wasn't necessarily an exact moment – nor was it because of seeing where he stacked up against the NFL's last unbeaten team – but the speed of the pro level started to slow down for the first-round draft pick. What the rookie right tackle learned in the film room and on the practice field translated to live action.
"I just think it was just me feeling comfortable in all my techniques that I was doing and feeling more comfortable using those in the game – and switching it up, being able to change up my step, change up where I'm shooting my hand," Pugh recalled. "I think that kind of helped me."
After all, that's the biggest adjustment from college to pro ball.
In the NFL, there's a book on every player – even rookies – and flaws are exposed. A re-dedication to the run game and ball control also helped the Syracuse product. That allowed him to get those first punches in earlier and find a rhythm.
"I think everyone is so good in the NFL that if you slip up one time, you'll get embarrassed very easily," Pugh said. "So I think it's just keeping the defense on their toes as much as possible, and I think us running the ball better and not being down in games is something that has definitely helped me out as well."
In a turbulent season, Pugh has provided some stability to the line and the offense as a whole through the first half of the season.
Pugh has started all eight games at the same position. Will Beatty, playing at the opposite tackle, is the only other lineman who can say that. Meanwhile, the interior shuffled around with season-ending injuries to Chris Snee and David Baas, but the Giants are starting to settle in with who they have.
"I think coming into it I wasn't sure where I was going to play," said Pugh, who has gained some attention from NFL analysts regarding his draft class. "All I knew was I just wanted to be able to help us win games. To come in here and play right away definitely helped me out a lot and got my confidence going. I feel very comfortable out there, and I just want to keep winning. We got two in a row. I think we owe it to the fans and everyone in this organization to win some games."
The Giants return from their bye this week to face the Oakland Raiders, who, despite giving up 49 points to the Philadelphia Eagles last week, are stout up front and sixth in the NFL against the run.
"The Raiders defense is very good," Pugh said. "They're ranked in the top 10 in the NFL. The Eagles, if you put up 49 points on top of that defense, that's saying something. But we've just got to go out there and execute our game plan and do what we have to do on the offensive line. We have to protect and create some holes for running backs."