Giants offensive linemen are paid to protect Eli Manning. It turns out they protect each other as well.
Two of the cornerstone members of the unit — left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg — have defended two of their much-maligned teammates this offseason, stating that no additions or upgrades need to be made for the group to function at their desired level.
“Everyone tries to get on the right side of the line, but I have no worries whatsoever,” Pugh said on Wednesday of right guard John Jerry and right tackle Marshall Newhouse. “I know what those guys bring to the table. They are vets, they know how to play this game, they know how to win and they have both won in the NFL. So I am excited for them to go out there and prove to everyone how good they are.”
Earlier this spring, Richburg shared similar thoughts.
“John Jerry played quite a bit last year, and I think that guy deserves a lot more credit than what people give him,” Richburg said. “Marshall Newhouse as well. I think we’ve got five good guys that I’m very comfortable with going and playing with on Sundays.”
The question is whether the Giants are. It’s no secret they pursued several veteran tackles in free agency with the idea of replacing Newhouse as a starter. And they seem to be grooming second-year lineman Bobby Hart for the job. But so far this spring, Newhouse has taken the majority of snaps with the starters at right tackle with Jerry by his side.
Fans and some in the media have treated the duo — Newhouse in particular — as punching bags. The perception is that they are the weak links in a chain. Newhouse was signed as a backup lineman last season, then emerged as a starter because of an injury to Will Beatty. Jerry, a starter for the Giants in 2014, stepped back into that role when Geoff Schwartz was injured early last season.
“If you ask Coach (Mike Solari, the Giants offensive line coach), every day we put on film and Marshall is doing things and he is like: ‘Great job, Marshall, that is excellent,’” Pugh said. “Marshall is a great player and he has been in this system, he knows how to play in this system. I think that sometimes he was dealing with a little bit of injury here and there, and guys go through that. If you have a bad game, like I have had bad games in my career sometimes, that snowballs on you. But I am very, very confident in Marshall as our right tackle. He is a hell of a player.”
Pugh also stood up for Jerry, calling him “one of the most underrated guards in the NFL.”
“He is a guy that I look up to,” Pugh said. “When he is out there doing the things he is all business… I think that what he brings to the table is invaluable and I think a lot of people should recognize the value that he brings to the team and how good he is at right guard.”
Last year, the Giants opened the season without a single offensive lineman returning to his starting position. This year, they could have all five back in the same spot.
“It is huge,” Pugh said. “You need all five guys firing on all cylinders because if you keep replacing guys, keep interchanging guys, it is hard to get that jell, that feel for the guys next to you. That is the most important thing about offensive line play, that you really trust that guy next to you.”