ESPN: OL Justin Pugh is Arizona Cardinals’ most underrated player
Jul 3, 2022, 6:00 PM
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Justin Pugh has been an anchor for the Arizona Cardinals at left guard, starting 45 games there over the past three seasons.
The 31-year-old nearly retired after taking a pay cut last year, but he and general manager Steve Keim agreed to terms for the 2022 season during the spring.
ESPN posted a list made by Football Outsiders Friday of every team’s most underrated player, and Pugh was selected to represent the Cardinals.
For two years in a row now, Pugh has ranked among the top 10 guards in ESPN’s pass block win rate and has also finished among the top five left guards in snaps per blown block according to SIS charting. Pugh considered retirement after the season, but Arizona general manager Steve Keim convinced him to return on a reworked deal.
Pugh is entering his fifth year with Arizona after signing as a free agent in 2018.
He’s had his share of injuries during his time in the Valley but has managed to stay available over the last three years, especially. He was held to seven games in 2018.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said during minicamp he felt Pugh had one of his best seasons in 2021 when he played 82% of offensive snaps.
“Great leader, great professional and, like I said, I think he’s playing some of his best football right now,” Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury mentioned he gained a lot of respect for Pugh in 2019 when he asked the veteran to slide over to tackle because of injuries.
The Cardinals asked Pugh to try a new position again during OTAs and minicamp.
At OTAs, Pugh was taking (delivering?) snaps at center in Rodney Hudson’s absence, and he might end up playing there should Hudson fail to return for the regular season.
Pugh said playing center could unlock opportunities for him, noting the position is less physically demanding but more mentally taxing.