Justin Pugh   OT/OG   Syracuse

TALENT BOARD ROUND  3

 

STRENGTHS

Justin has the mental toughness to play more than one position on your offensive line.  He shows great athleticism and is one of the better offensive lineman in this draft at moving his feet when both pass and run blocking.  He is a smart player and shows leadership skills through his play on the field.  He is very consistent with his techniques and has the foot speed and quickness out of his stance to be used for sweeps, screens and in a pulling offensive line system.  Justin was used as a left tackle for his college team that uses the pistol offense and has done a very good job.  He can play that position in the NFL if a team uses that style of offense, but I suspect his impact position for the next level will be as a left guard in any style of offensive line system.  He has that rare ability to recover as a guard or a tackle when pass blocking because of the way he keeps his feet moving.  If he plays on the inside as a guard or center, that ability will allow quarterbacks to slide in the pocket and extend plays, which is a very valuable skill to have for an offensive lineman.  Justin's has the mental stamina and athletic potential to be a very valuable multi-position offensive lineman with the skills to play one or more of those positions at a Pro Bowl level.    

 

CONCERNS

Justin has to get bigger and stronger to be a starting offensive lineman in the NFL.  When he does that, he should be a very good left guard with the ability to play tackle in a pinch.  I would like to see if he has the ability to play center.  If he can make the snaps, he could be a Pro Bowl center in the future.  Justin still needs a lot of technique work with hand usage, but it is the norm for most offensive lineman coming out in the draft. The key for Justin to be successful in the NFL is getting bigger and stronger.

 

BOTTOM LINE

I'm not sure that Justin was healthy this year from a shoulder injury, but I can tell you this, in spite of a past shoulder injury, Justin did a very good job playing a position that is not his impact position.  When this kid puts his hand down and comes off the ball, he is an excellent and powerful drive blocker.  Most of the time, he worked from a two-point stance and because of his lack of overall strength, he was at a disadvantage and yet, was still successful.  Pass blocking in a pistol offense for a tackle is easier mentally and physically than working in a conventional pro style offense.  The reason for this is that the angle and direct line for a defensive end to get to the quarterback is more of a constant.  It's better than a spread offense because the depth of a quarterback (although a constant also), is different.  In a conventional pro style offense, the tackle (when pass blocking) has to first react and make his drop off the line, set the angle to defend (depending on the quarterback's drop) and then defend that angle against an inside rush.  Tackles have to remember the amount of drop steps (3, 5, 7 or shotgun depth) and then make the lateral step to cut down the angle and be in position to stop an inside rush or an outside rush.  That's much harder and makes lateral agility more of a priority.  In the pistol offense, the offensive tackle takes a small drop off the snap that defends the already established inside angle or direct line because the quarterback sets up and delivers the ball from a more constant and shorter depth from the line of scrimmage.  If an edge rusher takes an outside rush, all the tackle has to do is turn his hips and shoulders and move his feet to push the defender up past the quarterback.  This makes foot speed more of a priority than lateral agility.  For all left tackles in any style of offensive system, the priority is always preventing the defender from taking an inside rush.  The pistol offense takes the guessing game out of where the direct line to the quarterback is and makes it easier to prepare for and defend against.  The pistol offense will make it easier in the future to play the left tackle position and good left guards will be able (in a pinch) to move over and play the Left Tackle position when needed if they have the foot speed to recover when they get beat.  Justin is that type of offensive lineman.  He might not have the size and length to play the left tackle position in a conventional NFL offense, but he can play left guard and be moved to the left tackle position if your team plays the pistol offense. This make Justin a very valuable player -- more valuable than 5 years ago.  Five years ago, Justin would be considered an undersized left tackle who would need to learn a new position and gain a lot more strength and bulk in the process.  Justin still has to get stronger and learn a new position, but he is ahead of most NFL offensive linemen because he has played in the pistol offense and the pistol is coming to the NFL -- it is not just a gimmick offense.  Class is out, but there will be homework.  

 

Drew "The B.S. Detector" Boylhart

Mar/2013