David Diehl out up to six weeks, gives rookie Justin Pugh chance
Giants offensive lineman David Diehl and head coach Tom Coughlin both seemed insulted Tuesday when asked about the practice availability of Diehl when he walked out with a heavily banged right thumb.
Diehl deemed it “not a problem” and said he’s worked with worse injuries before, while Coughlin merely frowned at the inquiry and called the thumb a “nuisance thing.” Well, one day later it appears that little inconvenience will be a huge hindrance for Diehl as the lineman will miss up to six weeks, due to what team doctors termed instability in the right thumb.
Just 24 hours prior, the Giants were scrambling to replace starting center David Baas, who is considered “week to week” and out of the lineup due to a sprained knee. Diehl was initially thought to be moving from right tackle to left guard, while left guard Kevin Boothe would take Baas’s spot. Rookie first-round pick Justin Pugh would then start at Diehl’s right tackle spot. Chris Snee and Will Beatty will stay at right guard and left tackle, respectively.
But as the Giants are finding out the hard way, their offensive line rotation seems to be fluid at best and chaotic at worse.
Diehl, who is scheduled to undergo surgery by Dr. Robert Hotchkiss at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, was unavailable for comment, but Boothe was able to give his thoughts on the newest development.
“We’ll be fine. Obviously, Dave’s injury is a tough one. But if anybody could’ve played through it, Dave could. But for it to be that significant, it was something that needed attention now,” said Boothe. “We’ll regroup. Unfortunately, we’ve had experiences with guys going down, so we’ll just have to respond. … It [the new grouping] is not up for me to decide, but I’m sure a plan’s in place.”
Boothe, who lined up at left guard in Wednesday’s session while Jim Cordle took snaps at center, went on to give an example when such influx on the offensive line occurred for the Giants, and how the team simply adapted and still found success.
“We’ve had situations going back to the Super Bowl year [in 2011] when I started at three different positions in three weeks, so I’m used to it,” Boothe said. “I think the team’s used to it, and it’s just something you have to prepare for in this game.”
Those who may need the most preparation are the young veterans and rookies who will see a significant boost in playing time.
Versatility is the biggest asset a Giants offensive lineman can have. And now that Diehl is out for an extended period of time, more will fall on the laps of lesser-known, interchangeable players like tackle/guard Pugh, center/guard Cordle, guard/tackle Brandon Mosley and tackle/guard James Brewer.
None, however, are considered as versatile as Diehl, who has started games at every position but center during his 11-year career in New York. Diehl has plenty of experience at left guard — where he’s started 42 regular-season games — including 10 in 2011, as well as right tackle where he started nine games last season.
Boothe evoked the “next man up” philosophy, adding the youngsters have a daunting task in trying to match Diehl’s versatility, but that’s just how life goes in the NFL.
“That’s the name of the game. I know they’re definitely excited for the opportunity. James [Brewer] and Brandon [Mosley] are always itching to get in there, so this is their chance now,” Boothe said. “Pugh’s been doing well. He’s very athletic, obviously, and he’s counted on to perform at a very high level, or else he wouldn’t have been drafted so high. … The organization is high on him and everything I’ve seen from him so far has been great. His work ethic has been what you want it to be.”
The Giants routinely have their linemen play different positions in practice to prepare them for situations like this, so for Pugh, it’s just another opportunity to show what he can do.
“I’m willing to play any position,” Pugh said. “It doesn’t really matter to me where I’m at — right tackle, left tackle and both [guard] positions. … I just wanted to get an opportunity to play, [and I] definitely love the opportunity to go out there and compete.”
Coughlin, who was “disappointed” in losing two valuable offensive linemen within days of each other, believes all the switching parts on the offensive line will jell quickly.
The coach then had some praise for Pugh, noting how the rookie has handled so much information even though he missed 10 days of practice in early August due to a concussion.
“Obviously we have a lot of confidence in him or he wouldn’t be here,” Coughlin said. “Certainly he’s got plenty to work on, [because] he’s a young kid. But hopefully you put him in there now and we bring Chris Snee along, and Chris is there to help him. It’ll be a good move. The more they can work together, the better off we’ll be.”
Pugh regrets earning a starting nod by way of injury, but added he’s “excited” to have the opportunity to contribute immediately, as well as line up alongside someone as decorated as Snee.
“I’m ready. [Offensive line] Coach Flats [Pat Flaherty] has definitely made sure I’m covering all the bases and going over game film. I know getting out there for the [Jets] game will give me some valuable experience that will be something great,” said Pugh, who then praised Snee for his assistance. “He’s been great. Having him out there next to me and being able to go over things … it can’t hurt to ask somebody at the line, [and] be able to run things by him. It’s been great for me and I think it’s going to mean a lot for me going down the road.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.