EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Cowboys defense won’t be the only ones sporting a new look up front for the season opener.
The New York Giants’ offensive line will seemingly have just as many changes on display in Dallas Sunday night.
Once a constant in terms of personnel, the Giants will go against the Cowboys’ new 4-3 front with two new faces on the line and a third player, Kevin Boothe, being shifted from left guard to center.
That wasn’t the way Tom Coughlin planned things for the season, but preseason injuries to center David Baas and right tackle David Diehl forced the changes that now have first-round draft pick Justin Pugh at right tackle and third-year pro James Brewer at left guard.
"That’s the way the NFL is," Boothe said. "I think it is rare to find an offensive line that is there for many years, like we had in years past. James has been here for a long time and Justin is more than qualified by his status. Obviously, everyone here thinks highly of him.
"You have to play sometime."
Going against Dallas is not going to be easy, especially considering the Cowboys’ front features ends DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, who has not practiced this week because of a knee injury.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride isn’t sure whether the changes will force him to tone down the game plan.
"You’d like to say that it isn’t going to influence you at all," Gilbride said Thursday. "But I don’t know how realistic that is. You have to take into account the matches and make some decisions where you have to, if at all, call for some assistance. Do you have to slide (the line) a certain way, put the back to a certain side? Do you have to put a tight end somewhere? Do you left the guards handle the inside guys and help the tackles, or help the guards? You have to wait and see."
For Pugh and Brewer, waiting for their first NFL starts might be the toughest thing. Both have been spending extra time in the film room. Pugh has also leaned on four-time Pro Bowl right guard Chris Snee.
"He’s been great to me," Pugh said. "He’s been out there on the field with me and he’s been making sure if I do something wrong on one play, he’s: ‘Forget about it, drive on. We’ll get it right the next play.’ It’s something to keep me going and making sure I stay focused."
Brewer might be making the biggest adjustment. He played tackle in college and spent much of his first two years in the NFL at tackle.
The decision to move Boothe to center, where he started five games in 2011 when Baas was also hurt, opened a job at left guard. Line coach Pat Flaherty deemed Brewer the best to play there.
"I think we’re a really versatile line," Brewer said. "Guys can play more than one position. I don’t think there is a guy who only plays one spot with maybe the exception of center. Other than that, guys can play left tackle, right tackle, left guard, right guard.
"That’s what common with us."
When the week started, Brewer wasn’t sure whether he would get the start. However, Baas has not practiced since spraining his left knee on Aug. 18 and there is little chance he will be ready.
"There is definitely a different sense of urgency as opposed to the past few years," Brewer said. "You always want to prepare as if you are going to play, but it’s different knowing you are going to play."