Giants Justin Pugh moves to Guard: Off-season MMA training

by Adam Nardelli | Contributor

With Eli Manning having turned 34 this past January, as well as with the collection of weapons the offense will have at the skill positions, it’s never been more important to consistently get quality play from the offensive line. 

Justin Pugh’s transition from right tackle to left guard, a move that became apparent during Organized Team Activities (OTAs), is evident of the Giants attempt to form the best offensive line group they think they can construct.  If that means moving a relatively established player around the line and asking him to learn a new position, the Giants are clearly willing to do it. 

Pugh was by no means a bust at right tackle, but had his share of struggles while getting used to playing on the right side after playing left tackle at Syracuse University.  After fighting through a quad injury in the middle of last season, Pugh was able to finish the season strong out on the edge.

Still, much speculation ensued after the 2014 season about the possibility of Pugh moving to guard.  Pugh’s short arms are generally the fault that is pointed to most when discussing his weaknesses, an attribute that can affect his pass blocking.

While Pugh shot down questions from the media at the end of last season about the move, Pugh has not openly come out against the transition to guard.  Instead, he has embraced the move to the interior line with his off-season training. 

Pugh’s confidence that he openly puts out to the public is one of two major reasons his transition is going to be a success. In a New York Post article written by Paul Schwartz Pugh made it known he has no doubt that he’s going to flourish at his new position, even going as far as saying that the left tackle (presumably rookie Ereck Flowers) is going to love playing next to him. 

While these are merely words, Pugh needs to have this type of confidence in himself as changing positions in the NFL is no minor task.  The belief and confidence that he can successfully make the transition just a little over three months before the season starts is a tremendous step in the right direction for Pugh and should provide encouragement to fans.  

Secondly…Pugh has also dedicated the off-season to getting his body in the best shape that it’s ever been in.  As was first reported by NJ Advance Media’s Jordan Raanan, Pugh spent the months prior to OTAs changing his diet to all gluten-free, as well as training at MMA Athletics, a workout facility run by FOX Sports reporter Jay Glazer where Pugh trained in leverage and  “hand violence”.

He also participated in various wrestling and boxing competitions with former MMA stars Chuck Lidell and Randy Couture.  Pugh believes the wrestling specifically has helped him learn how to develop more leverage and control in one-on-one situations that he will face as a guard. 

Regarding his new diet, Pugh has said the gluten-free eating has made him feel the best he’s ever had, and his new-found energy has made a difference in the weight room pointing to his improved bench press numbers.  The increased strength and energy will do nothing but to help Pugh train better and harder during these next couple months prior to the season. 

Let’s hope it translates into keeping Giants quarterback Eli Manning upright in the pocket.