Justin Pugh, the Giants’ first-round pick in the 2013 draft, arrives Sunday at MetLife Stadium as the Cardinals’ starting left guard. Eager to face his former team for the first time, Pugh said he is especially interested in seeing Eli Manning and Zak DeOssie.
Pugh calls DeOssie, the longtime long snapper, “probably one of the biggest role models I’ve had in the NFL. He’s been a huge mentor for me.”
As for Manning, Pugh was not able to follow every plot twist in the quarterback drama, but he did notice last month Manning was replaced by rookie Daniel Jones.
“It’s not something you want to see, and obviously if Eli wants to play, I would hope he would be the starting quarterback,” Pugh told The Post. “Eli is a Hall of Famer. There’s nothing taking away from what he’s done for that organization. Consummate pro. He’s the pro that I hold every other guy to that standard, because Eli does everything the right way. It was great for me to learn from a guy like that.”
Free safety Antoine Bethea, 35, is most recently associated with the Cardinals after spending the past two years in Arizona. Good luck trying to get some extra emotion out of him.
“No. Nah,” Bethea said. “It’s all business. I was there for two years, got some great relationships, but go out there and play football.”
This is also something of a reunion for defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who was with the Cardinals from 2013-17, the last three as the defensive coordinator, before coming to the Giants in 2018 to run the defense for coach Pat Shurmur.
“No, it’s not about that at all,” Bettcher said. “I have a ton or respect for Mr. [Bill] Bidwell [owner], Steve Keim [GM], there’s a lot of people in that building that are just great people. My wife and I had a great five years in Arizona, it’s a great place to raise a family, but we’re lucky and fortunate to be New York Football Giants.”
The Giants last season finished with just 30 sacks by the defense, tied for 30th in the league. This season, though six games they have 16 sacks, on pace for 43 sacks, and currently tied for 13th. Markus Golden, a free-agent signing, leads the team with five sacks, and 10 other players have at least half a sack.
“There was a lot of conversation about how we were going to create a pass rush all summer,” Shurmur said. “Nobody seemed to believe when we said that we had some guys that were going to be better than they were a year ago, and then we added a couple of guys that would help us. I think that’s what has happened.”
Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson will play for the first time this season after sitting out a six-game suspension. The 29-year-old has 23 career interceptions and rookie QB Daniel Jones has been forewarned.
“You have to be very, very careful when you’re throwing the ball in his direction for a lot of reasons,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said.