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Giants look for attitude in linemen, not necessarily finesse or beef

Iowa offensive linesman Brandon Scherff warms up before

Iowa offensive linesman Brandon Scherff warms up before an NCAA college football game against Ball State, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Iowa City, Iowa. Credit: AP / Charlie Neibergall

Justin Pugh said he would like to see the Giants draft "the kid from Iowa."

By that he meant fellow offensive lineman Brandon Scherff.

"He seems like a tough kid," Pugh said this past week. "I've watched a few games on him and that is someone I would like to play with."

Pugh doesn't have a scout's eye. He's only two years removed from being scouted himself before he was selected with the Giants' first-round pick in 2013. And he admits that he has not done much studying on other players.

But what he saw in a few glances at Scherff told him all he needed to know. Nasty. Physical. A clear-your-sinuses run-blocker who played tackle in college but whose best fit in the pros probably will be guard.

In other words, old school. Just the way the Giants like 'em, even though that philosophy is becoming a minority in the NFL.

"Big, strong, fast and smart," general manager Jerry Reese said of what he looks for from the position.

As the league evolves into more of a passing game and spread offenses trickle in from the college ranks, the need for such hulking heavy-lifters is becoming less universal. The new model for linemen is a lithe, athletic blocker who can match the speed of outside pass rushers and have the agility to zone block rather than maul.

The Giants have seen their offense change in the last few years, adopting more West Coast principles under coordinator Ben McAdoo, but they still remain dedicated to the old standards for measuring their linemen. For instance, the ideals they saw in Chris Snee 11 years ago are the same as the ones they hold to today.

"From the Giants' perspective, I don't think it's really changed," said Snee, who retired at the start of last season and spent time helping the Giants grade collegiate offensive linemen in recent months. "They look for physical guys, smart guys. But then you travel down the road to Philly, you are looking at more athletic, maybe leaner offensive linemen than the group that we had where everyone weighed over 300 pounds."

That group, which included fellow Giants draft pick David Diehl along with Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara and Kareem McKenzie, helped the Giants win one Super Bowl, and most of them added a second one a few years later. They've become the standard for Giants offensive lines.

Snee said the Giants gave him a list of criteria to judge the prospects as he watched them on screen.

"But for me it always boils down to: Are you a physical or a finesse guy?" he said. "As much as the game is changing, I refuse to believe that finesse offensive lines are the way to go. You'd have a hard time convincing me of that."

It can be difficult to find such players, given the way colleges run their offenses. But Snee said the essential elements stand out no matter the system.

"Technique is something you can fix and work on, but if a guy doesn't want to hit somebody at the college level, he's not going to want to hit anyone at the pro level," he said. "Even if it is a zone scheme, you want to see if a guy wants to finish his opponent and not stand up straight with him and pat him on the rear end when the play is over . . . There has to be that edge to you. You can't be a nice guy all the time. You have to have that desire within yourself to move somebody off the ball against their will."

At some point this week, the Giants are expected to select a lineman, most likely in the first two days of the draft. It could be Scherff or a handful of other first-round prospects with the ninth overall pick. It could be a lesser-known talent in the second or third rounds. But after adding very little to the unit in free agency, it's clear that the Giants will use the draft to bolster their depth -- if not improve their starting unit -- on the line.

They did that the last two years when they selected immediate starters Pugh and Weston Richburg.

"What we want to do is get as many good players as we can and create as much competition as we can on the offensive line," Reese said.

Giants-type players.

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