EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Justin Pugh had a rapid journey from green rookie to wizened sage on the right side of the Giants' offensive line.
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Go inside the Giants locker room The team's first round draft choice this season, Pugh has started every game at right tackle with a changing of the guard next to him. For the first three games he soaked up advice from Chris Snee. When the 10-year veteran required season-ending hip surgery, James Brewer stepped in for a week. For the last 10 games, Pugh has lined up next to David Diehl, a fixture on the line for 11 years.
Diehl has a knee injury and is listed as doubtful for the Giants game Sunday against the Detroit Lions in Ford Field. That means the likely starter at right guard will be Brandon Mosley, a second-year pro who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, has played sparingly in 11 games and would make his first career. That makes Pugh the senior member on that side of the line.
"You know what, after this year, I've seen everything out there," said Pugh, who lockers next to and is good friends with Mosley. "Whoever's out there, we're going to compete and play football. Brandon's a great player. He played at one of the best schools in the country (Auburn), he's played in big games before, he's played in national championship games in college, he's played in the NFL. I have no worries about him. We're going to go out there and play hard on Sunday."
The Giants continue to dig deeper into their depth chart as injuries sideline an increasing number of players.
>> LATEST GIANTS-LIONS INJURY REPORT
Today four players were declared out of the Detroit game: wide receiver Victor Cruz (who had a procedure on his knee yesterday), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder; he will miss his fourth consecutive game), running back Peyton Hillis (concussion) and safety Cooper Taylor (hamstring).
Brewer (ankle), who has started the last three games at left guard, and wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan (knee) are questionable.
Diehl hurt his knee last week in a loss to Seattle. The Giants had hoped he would practice today, but Diehl was unable to go.
"Right now, he is just not able to go out there and practice the way that we would like him to," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We'll see. Maybe another day will help. We thought today would be a day he would be able to do some work and he actually came out and did some things, but we just didn't put him in our practice."
Mosley has practiced at right guard this week. He was a fourth round draft choice in 2012, but hurt his ankle in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. Mosley was inactive for two games early this season and played primarily on special teams for eight weeks. He has recently been an extra lineman/eligible receiver and last week he replaced Brewer at left guard. Now Mosley might get his big chance to show what he can do in Detroit.
"Anybody that's a backup is always ready and eager to get in there and play and show the coaches and organization what they've got," Mosley said. "I've been eager all year and especially after last year and not being able to play because of my injury, I'm excited. If the opportunity presents itself that I'm able to start, then I'll be excited to go in there and start. If not, then I'll be excited to still do my job as the backup."
"He's worked hard," Coughlin said of Mosley. "He's a hard-working young kid. He's a nice and thick O-line type and hopefully he'll play well."
Mosley couldn't have for a greater challenge in a first start. His assignment will be to block Ndomukong Suh, the second overall selection of the 2010 NFL draft, a two-time Pro Bowler and perhaps the league's finest defensive tackle.
"You can see his athleticism," Mosley said. "He's just a great D-tackle. He does a lot of good things, so it will take a lot more evaluation to get the gist of him."
Because Mosley will have enough to deal with, the suddenly-experienced Pugh will handle the communication on the right side.
"I think I'm taking over that role where I'm trying to communicate as much as possible, making sure we're on the same page," Pugh said. "Brandon knows his stuff, he's been in this system for two years. We're going to go out there and execute, and I know we're going to do well."
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- Cruz's absence will create more playing time for Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan.
"I look forward to playing every game," Jernigan said. "I prepare the same every week, so it's just me going out and making plays from offense."
He did that last week after Cruz went down, finishing with career-high totals of seven receptions for 67 yards.
"I thought he came in and did a terrific job for not really having a lot of opportunities to play as much as he did," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "After Victor got hurt, he came in and showed the quickness that we always knew he had and I thought he made great decisions in the zone coverages. He obviously can run after the catch, which we tried to exploit and take advantage of. Some of those things where we throw a ball underneath and let him catch it and run, that can offset the pass rush that they had. And then you got an example to see his toughness when they unloaded on him with just about as hard a hit as you can hit anybody. He not only didn't go down, but he turned around and spun, got an extra five or six yards. It was great to see him play like that. We've been kind of waiting and feeling that he has that ability and just anxious to see it come out, and manifest itself the way it did was very encouraging."
"I went out there and didn't give up, still made some plays and helped the offense," Jernigan said. "We were disappointed we didn't score, but I showed that I could get some yards after contact and make some explosive plays for this offense."
The Giants will need a few more of those plays on Sunday in Detroit.
- Coughlin gave his first public reaction regarding Cruz, who yesterday underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his left knee, which will sideline him for the season's final two weeks. Cruz hurt the knee last week vs. Seattle.
"Very unfortunate," Coughlin said. "Victor was having a good year. It would have been great to have him for these last two games. We're very confident that the swiftness with which the procedure was done should give him an outstanding opportunity in the offseason to be stronger than ever."
- Coughlin said wide receiver Julian Talley, signed off the practice squad this week, could get a chance to play on Sunday.
- With Hillis sidelined, running backs Andre Brown and rookie Michael Cox, plus fullback John Conner, will be the only available ballcarriers.
"(Cox) works very hard," Coughlin said. "He's a serious-minded kid, so he'll be ready to go. He's got good energy and good endurance."
"It's definitely going to be tough, but that's what we're here for," Conner said. "We've just got to execute. We've been dealt a tough…but we've just got to get through it as a team and fight through."