Justin Pugh is excited about the status of the offensive line heading into the second preseason game.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Every few days, one of the Giants' offensive linemen stands in front of the media and at some point is asked to give a state of the unit address. Inquiring minds want to know how the O-line – one of the most important groups on this or any other team – is progressing.
Today, it was Justin Pugh's turn. The left guard is the line's longest-tenured player, and has started more games for the Giants' offense (56, including one in the postseason) than any player not named Eli Manning. So he is expertly qualified to answer the broad and recurring questions about the line.
"I'm excited about the direction that we're headed in," Pugh said. "Just watching the game film, we're doing some good things. It has to transition to the games, though. I'm excited about going out there this week and getting some game action. Obviously, it's a little more of an extended week for us playing on a Monday night (in Cleveland), and again on Saturday, so we have to make sure we're taking care of our bodies this week, and really starting to get into the flow of the regular season-type schedule and getting your body ready for that."
Asked about the line today, coach Ben McAdoo said, "I see a group that is growing together."
The starting line – which also includes center Weston Richburg, right guard John Jerry, and tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart – played 18 snaps in three series in the opener last Friday against Pittsburgh. The Giants didn't gain a yard on their first possession, lost eight yards to a sack on the second, but drove 30 yards and kicked a field goal on the third after getting the ball on Valentino Blake's interception.
"We did some good things," Pugh said. "You learn from some things that happened. Obviously, we got down on the score. The offensive line is headed in the right direction."
The line has three more preseason games to improve its execution before the Sept. 10 regular-season opener in Dallas.
"For your confidence, it's definitely a positive, it's a bonus," Pugh said. "But we want to go out there and make sure we're doing the things to keep ascending, building things the right way. You don't want to put much out there; we have meaningful games come September. We also want to have that confidence rolling over, to have some successful plays and run the plays you want to run and execute them the right way. Make some good blocks and have some nice catches; those are definitely going to help us."
When McAdoo is asked for his assessment of his offensive line, the questioning typically starts and/or ends with his thoughts on Flowers, the team's first-round draft choice in 2015. And so it was today.
"Ereck, I thought, was a bright spot in the game versus the first opponent we played," McAdoo said. "I think he got his hands inside, had a couple nice strikes and punches. I thought he was bending pretty well and I look forward to him taking a jump this week."
When they play the Browns, the line hopes to establish consistency in the run game, according to today's unit spokesman.
"It's huge, and it's going to help us when we get down to the green zone," Pugh said. "(That's) the biggest area where we have to score more points than we did last year. We have to be more efficient and more consistent when we get down into the green zone. Running the ball is going to help us do that. I'm excited because that first play (in the Pittsburgh game) actually had two guys run into each other. It was literally just bad luck. If we wouldn't have had that, that play would've hit, too (instead, it gained seven yards). It's something good to build off of, but obviously getting some playmakers out there and having the full offense with all those weapons out there will deter some of those defenses from dropping an extra safety in the box or doing some of those things."
*McAdoo said "the plan" is for Manning to play in the second and third preseason games, as he did last year. Manning did not face the Steelers.
*Wide receiver Dwayne Harris did not practice because of upper body soreness.
*Linebacker Mark Herzlich continues to be sidelined with a stinger.
"He's progressing," McAdoo said. "He is not where we want him to be yet to put him back on the field, but he is working through it."
*Rookie quarterback Davis Love had a heavier workload today.
"We are giving him some more team snaps," McAdoo said. "Today was a little bit of a change of pace. We are learning to practice on how to prepare for an opponent. So we had some ups and downs today. We were a little slow with our tempo, but that will get better as we move forward. But Davis is going to get an opportunity to take some more snaps in that environment, yes."
It is widely assumed that Webb will be the No. 3 quarterback, behind Manning and the competition between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson for the top backup position.
"I think we all have to be careful making assumptions," McAdoo said. "Josh and Geno are competing right now for the number two spot and if that doesn't look the way we want it to look, Davis will get a crack."
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