At Arm’s Length


Scouts look for a variety of attributes that in an offensive tackle, some the player is born with, such as size, strength, intelligence, and quick feet, while others, like leverage, bend, and hand placement, can be taught and refined, if the athlete has the measurables that makes him a candidate likely to succeed at the position. Arm length is a physical characteristic important in an offensive tackle as it provides the leverage in blocking, and the one attribute that current Giants right tackle Justin Pugh lacks. But exactly how important is it?

To gauge the importance of this misunderstood, but frequently discussed physical trait, Giants360 went to one of our favorite resources, Pro Football Focus, and pulled the names of the offensive lineman that had the best and worst blocking ratings over the past three seasons. We then researched their arm length to see if there was a correlation between their ratings and their arms. It should come as no shock that there wasn’t, given the wide array of factors that makes for a successful offensive lineman, but something did pop out in the data. Pugh’s just over 32 inch arms lined up with the measurements for the top rated guards and centers in the league, and are below all but one of the offensive tackles that were part of our study. It should be noted that the this tackle, Washington Redskin Tyler Polumbus, was one of the low rated player.

All-Pro Tackle Joe Thomas' arms are only 1/2 inch longer than Pugh's
All-Pro Tackle Joe Thomas’ arms are only 1/2 inch longer than Pugh’s

Of the tackles that had the best overall seasons, top rating both run and pass blocking, all have arms that are a full inch or more longer than Pugh, with the exception of Joe Thomas, the All-Pro tackle for the Cleveland Browns, has arms only a half inch longer, and would appear to be an outlier. The top guards, Josh Sitton of the Green Bay Packers and Marshal Yanda of Baltimore Ravens, are on opposite ends of the spectrum, with Sitton’s arms measuring over 34 inches, and Yanda’s under 32.

Having long arms does not guarantee success, as tackle Bradley Sowell of the Arizona Cardinals proved in 2013. He had one of the worst combined blocking seasons of any offensive lineman in the past 3 years, and his over 35 inch arms did nothing to help limit the punishment Cardinals quarterbacks absorbed. Former Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons tackle Gabe Carimi also has arms over 35 inches long, but consistently ranks among the NFL’s wost blocking linemen.

What conclusion can we draw from this information? Pugh has performed admirably at tackle, despite being “poorly armed” for the position, and is better suited to play guard in the long term. Despite statements to the contrary, this has to be in the back of Tom Coughlin’s mind, as he’s a man who researches everything in excruciating detail, and he certainly knows the arm length of the most successful offensive tackles and guard throughout NFL history.

Clemmings has the longest arms among the top OL prospects
Clemmings has the longest arms among the top offensive line prospects

One of the options available at pick 9 or pick 40 for the Giants will be an offensive tackle, and selecting one to play one the right side would enable the team to move Pugh inside. The top 5 offensive linemen on the 2015 draft big board all have arm lengths longer than Pugh, and each would be a candidate to replace him at right tackle. Lining them up from shortest arms to longest, we have La’el Collins, LSU (33 1/4), Brandon Scherff, Iowa (33 3/8), Andrus Peat, Stanford (33 3/8), Ereck Flowers, Miami (34.5), and T.J.Clemmings, Pittsburgh (35 1/8).

While arm length won’t be the first consideration when evaluating these players, it will be one of the physical characteristics examined as Jerry Reese turns over every rock in an effort find that last piece of the puzzle to complete the Giants offense.

The signing of Marshall Newhouse and re-signing of John Jerry point to the Giants picking a lineman high in the draft. Both are experienced starters, with nearly 100 games started between them. Adding experience backups to the team is an indicator that there will be youth up front.

Second year player Weston Richburg will be the starting center, and star Canadian Football League lineman Brett Jones will compete for a starting guard job. A big, long armed mauler in round one or two complete the line, give the team maximum flexibility and competition, and most of all, make Ben McAdoo’s offense hit on all cylinders in 2015. Coughlin wants experienced linemen to fall back on should the youngsters struggle and their knowledge in the meeting rooms to help bring the less experienced players along.

If only they could lengthen Justin Pugh’s arms two or three inches.

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