BAYONNE, N.J. -- It is hope season right now. The New York Giants just began organized team activities (OTAs) on Monday, training camp remains two-plus months away and their first real game is in the fall. Right now, it's still spring.
Just about everything for the Giants at this point can be viewed with blue-colored glasses -- even the offensive line, which admittedly didn't play particularly well last season. The Giants allowed relentless pressure off the edges and couldn't run the ball. It was a major reason the offense sputtered through much of the season.
So the unsettled unit faces the same questions it did last year and the year before that. And deservedly so, according to veteran left guard Justin Pugh.
"Every year it’s the same question about the offensive line, and rightfully so," Pugh said Monday at the Newark Mentoring Movement Golf Outing. "We haven’t played as well as we should."
Still, despite only minor tweaks to the group, he's optimistic the unit will be fine. The biggest additions to the offensive line room were sixth-round pick Adam Bisnowaty and second-tier free-agent D.J. Fluker.
No worries, says Pugh. Here's why he believes there will be improvement:
Continuity: It's entirely possible that the Giants could start the same five linemen again this season, with (left to right) Ereck Flowers, Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart as the first-team unit. No matter the previous results, that has its benefits.
"It’s good. It’s good we have the same camaraderie," Pugh said. "We kind of know where each other is going to be."
The line needs to move as a unit. If the right or left tackle struggles, it makes the entire line look bad.
The hope is that another year together for this group will iron out the kinks that existed most of last season.
"[Cohesiveness] is the most important thing with offensive line play," Pugh said. "Obviously you need talented guys, but to go out there and play as a unit is more important than anything. At any other position you can have an individual be so much better, look at Odell Beckham. He's unbelievable. Someone can run the wrong route and it doesn't affect him, for the most part.
"On offensive line play if the right tackle struggles, right guard or left guard, the whole offensive line looks bad. So it's five guys that have to execute at the same time, every time, together. That is why offensive line is so unique."
Additions elsewhere: It's not just the offensive line that was responsible for the lack of running game last season. The Giants didn't have a fullback, their tight ends struggled with their blocking and their wide receivers weren't exactly assets in that phase of the game.
"I think they’ll help us tremendously," he said. "Last year you lose Nikita Whitlock and we didn't have a fullback on our roster. Had some tight ends go down. Lost Daniel Fells [in 2015], he was a blocking tight end. So to get those guys in here is definitely huge and will help us out tremendously."
It’s not just Ellison and Marshall who give Pugh hope.
"You have a guy like Matt LaCosse, who probably not many people know who he is, but he’s a 6-foot-5 kid who can go out there and get the job done, too," Pugh said.
LaCosse missed all of 2016 with a knee injury. He likely would have played a significant role if healthy.
One thing that Pugh didn't mention but should help is better health. Pugh missed a good chunk of time with a knee injury. Richburg played through a hand injury most of the season that required offseason surgery. If they're healthier it should lead to a more effective line.
Also, if Flowers and/or Hart show any kind of growth the Giants will benefit. They struggled badly at times in 2016, so there is plenty of room for improvement.
The line should also receive more help. Pugh mentioned the possibility of coach Ben McAdoo "sprinkling in some new wrinkles" to his program as the season progresses. Maybe that includes different formations and personnel packages, something the Giants didn’t use often last season. That could potentially help as well.
"There are a lot of things that go into offensive line play than just the five guys up front," Pugh said. "We have to do a better job ourselves. I think if we run the ball more effectively, we’re going to be all right."
In mid-May there is always hope.