DENVER -- The game of musical chairs on the New York Giants' offensive line has Justin Pugh at right tackle, D.J. Fluker at right guard and John Jerry at left guard this week against the Denver Broncos, multiple sources told ESPN.
With Brett Jones expected to start at center for the second straight week in place of the injured Weston Richburg (concussion), this will be the Giants’ fifth different offensive line combination in six games.
The latest shuffling moves the Giants’ best offensive lineman, Pugh, back outside in place of Bobby Hart, where he draws an unenviable matchup against Von Miller. The Broncos linebacker has 4.0 sacks and nine pressures already and is arguably the league’s best pass-rusher.
The move was prompted by Hart’s struggles last week against the Chargers’ Joey Bosa, who had two sacks, two hits and a hurry. Hart went into this season as the starter at right tackle but missed a good part of three games because of an ankle injury and struggled last week in his return.
Pugh is hardly unfamiliar with right tackle. This will be his third start there this season, and 34th of his career. He spent his first two seasons at right tackle before being shifted to left guard, where he started 12 times last year and three times this season.
Jerry will take over at left guard after being benched last week in favor of Fluker. Jerry was dealing with a hamstring injury and was replaced in the first quarter against the Chargers.
Fluker provided a boost to the Giants' running game with his ability to move defenders at the point of attack each of the past two weeks. The Giants ran for a season-high 152 yards last week.
The entire Giants offensive line will have to deal with Miller on Sunday night. The Broncos like to move him around, and the Giants aren’t about to leave Pugh one-on-one the entire evening. That would be unfair, and it’s not an indictment on Pugh’s recent performances. He has held up relatively well at right tackle and limited a difficult opponent in Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham in Week 3.
“Well, Von Miller is a concern, regardless,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said this week. “I mean, you take the greatest right tackle, left tackle, take every tackle that ever played in the National Football League -- they’re going to struggle against Von Miller. That’s, in my opinion, the best pass-rusher in the game. So, we have to do everything that we can to try to help.”
There could be running backs, tight ends and guards helping Pugh in Denver. The Giants are likely to use it all to try to slow one of the NFL’s top pass-rushers.
The Giants' offensive linemen -- and their entire short-handed offense -- will have their hands full against the Broncos, ranked the top defense in the NFL.
“Yeah, I mean, [Miller is] a guy you have to adjust for. He’s a guy you have to change up,” offensive line coach Mike Solari said. “You double every time? No. I mean, no. But, again, he’s a guy that you want to change up, whether you chip him, whether you slide to him, whether you double him with a tight end chip in, with a back chip in, will you slide your line to them. You have to change up your protection against him as well as moving the pocket, as well as your rhythm of throws.”
The Giants are likely to try it all against the Broncos. And they’re going to do it with Pugh at right tackle.
More from the Week 6 Giants cheat sheet:
Altered diet for Denver
The altitude in Denver is something the Giants took into consideration. Some of the players have never played there. So coach Ben McAdoo had them focus on their nutritional intake. The plan called for lot of fruits (watermelon and pineapple, in particular) and iron-heavy foods. They also considered hydration a key, according to several players.
Fluker is familiar with the conditions, having played the first four years of his career in the AFC West with the Chargers. He said the Giants' linemen will feel the altitude after the first drive of the game, then they will settle in. The hope is the dietary adjustments they made throughout the week will help.
Bring on the tight ends
With the Giants short on healthy wide receivers, don’t be surprised to see them use two-tight-end sets more than usual Sunday night. They have used two tight ends on 28 percent of the plays this season.
With four tight ends (rookie Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams and Matt LaCosse) expected to be active, that percentage could be closer to 40-50 percent this week. It would also serve to help the offensive line and running game in a tough and loud venue.
Giants without Beckham
When Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t played the past few years, the results have not been pretty for quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants were outscored 68-20 in the two games their star wide receiver has missed over the past three seasons. Beckham will miss the remainder of this season with a fractured ankle that required surgery.
Manning’s interception rate is considerably higher without Beckham in the lineup. It’s 3.7 percent without him in the lineup compared to 2.2 percent with him, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manning also has been much more conservative, averaging 7.0 air yards per attempt without Beckham compared to 7.9 yards when Beckham is playing.
The Giants will look like a different team without Beckham.