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Friday Film Room: Justin Pugh's Worst Game Ever

Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles was the worst performance of Justin Pugh's career. What did he do so wrong?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants' shutout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was shocking. The injury to Victor Cruz was gut-wrenching. But the performance by Justin Pugh was the most surprising of the night.

And not in a good way.

Prior to his game against the Eagles, Pro Football Focus had Pugh rated as the fourth-best offensive tackle in the NFL. That game they credited him with four sacks, though defenders he was responsible notched six of the eight sacks the Giants gave up.

So that begs the question: What did Pugh do so wrong in that game that he looked worse than his worst game as a rookie?

Pass Protection

Play 1


For our first play, we see the GIants lined up with Henry Hynoski and Peyton Hillis flanking Eli Manning. Both running backs release into routes, with Hynoski helping John Jerry with a great chip block along the way.

The pass protection is good for the most part. Will Beatty pancakes his man, and while Richburg gets beat by the fast swim move, J.D. Walton comes over to help. John Jerry does a great job with his man after the chip block by Hynoski. The problem comes from the right side with Pugh. Connor Barwin is lined up at the "Wide-9" and comes in with what looks like a bull rush, but transitions to an inside spin move. Pugh lunges a bit to meet the bull rush, and loses his balance when Barwin spins inside, giving Barwin a free run to Eli Manning.

Pugh's technique is flawed here, but this was also a very well-timed rush by Barwin, who is past Pugh after Hillis can no longer help with a chip block.

Play 2

In this play the Giants line up in the shotgun, with their base "11" -- one running back, one tight end -- personnel package. It appears as though the Giants are trying to set up a screen pass to Peyton Hillis on this play, with Larry Donnell running a route to draw a defender away from the play. However, the pressure gets to Eli too quickly for the screen to be set up properly. Richburg doesn't do much to slow the defensive tackle down, while Pugh allows his man to get low and inside his pads. Low man wins, and Pugh gets pushed back into Eli, as he throws the quick pass to Donnell.

While the Giants do manage to pick up six yards on the play, the potential screen play could have picked up much more, and slowed down the Eagles' pass rush.

Run Blocking

Play 1

Pugh Run Block

Next we change things up and look at Pugh's work in the running game. Unlike the last two plays, EManning starts this one under center, with Daniel Fells as the tight end, and the backs in an "Offset-I" formation. This is a pretty simplepower run using zone blocking, and the Giants do a good job opening a hole.

Pugh slips through to block a linebacker at the second level, and generates some good movement. The failure here comes from Jerry, who can't sustain his block. His man is the one who tackles Williams from behind and prevents a potentially bigger gain.

Play 2

Pugh Run 2

The Giants are back in the shotgun for this play. The fault for this play failing falls on Pugh and Andre Williams. Richburg pulls around to help Donnell block the the linebacker on the right side of the formation. However, Pugh once again lets the defensive lineman -- a tackle in this case -- into his body. He gets stood up and discarded before his man makes the stop.

Williams does do a good job of following the play, and runs right where he is supposed to. However, he runs right past a ginormous hole. Williams isn't a cut-back runner, so it is distinctly possible that had he attempted to go off-script and hit the hole on the left side, it would have closed by the time he got there. With that in mind, I'm not going to criticize Williams' vision too much, he followed the design of the play (something many running backs never learn to do) and might even have made the conscious decision to follow his blockers. But he does miss the opportunity to run where the defenders aren't, and that could have cost the Giants some yards.

Final Thoughts

There's a part of me, a fairly big part, that wants to know who was that wearing 67, and what did he do with Justin Pugh? How does a guy go from making J.J. Watt tap out and silencing Brian Orakpo and/or Ryan Kerrigan to doing THAT?

Apparently that was, in fact, Pugh, as he took to Twitter to publicly apologize for his -- or perhaps his doppelganger's -- performance.

That game wasn't all on Pugh. He had nothing to do with Cruz getting hurt, nor with the defense's inability to stop LeSean McCoy. He's right, however, about one thing: He absolutely needs to work to make sure that this game was a fluke, and prove that he is one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL.

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