Ereck Flowers came out of the University of Miami in 2015 a highly-touted offensive line prospect with a “high ceiling”. When the New York Giants selected him with the ninth-overall selection in the draft that year, they figured their woes at left tackle would be over soon.
How wrong they were. GM Jerry Reese and his talent guru Marc Ross, who are no longer with the team, missed badly on Flowers. Sure, he had the size (6’6″, 325) and the promise but he had little else. On the field, the 20 year-old left tackle was overwhelmed and outplayed. He missed assignments, drew penalties and then went into a funk. He floundered for three seasons as the Giants’ underperforming offensive line became a bone of contention between the team, the fans and the media.
In the business world the Flowers miscalculation, or error, would be classified as one of such: correctible or collectible. The Giants aren’t about to write him off, hoping he is a correctible mistake.
Last season, still only 23, Flowers was stuck back at left tackle again. This time he fared much better. The team stunk but he wasn’t the reason anymore. A 3-13 finish prompted Reese and Ross’ ouster and a new front office and coaching staff has been brought in.
New GM Dave Gettleman promised the fix the line with what he called “hog mollies” and signed veteran free-agent tackle Nate Solder of the Patriots to play left tackle. The big question is what to do with the Flowers, who has three NFL seasons under his belt at the ripe old age of 23. The logical choice now is to try Flowers at right tackle.
Hal Hunter, the new offensive line coach who has 35 years experience in the business, has been charged with figuring out where Flowers fits in. His philosophy is one that cannot be pinpointed. He favors versatility and requires linemen that can play several roles.
“It will be a mix of everything,” Hunter told reporters on Wednesday. “It’ll be power offense, it’ll be zone offense, it’ll be drop back passing, it’ll be a variety of different things. You have a lot of different coaches with a lot of different backgrounds, they bring a lot of different things. We have a lot of coaches with a lot of experience. So, I think you bring the experience from all those different things, where we’ve been and all those different places and then you try to pick and choose to put the best thing. I think the most important thing for an offensive line, for an offense, is to fit what you do to the personnel that you have. It’s square peg, square hole. That’s kind of what you need to be.”
The personnel Hunter has includes a lot of mediocre and unproven players. Flowers is just another piece of the puzzle. He won’t be coddled like when Reese was here. Reese was loyal to his draft picks to a fault. Under the new regime, if you can’t cut it, you’ll be gone regardless of where you were taken in the draft.
Hunter said he spoke to Flowers but would not reveal the contents of their conversation as NFL rules prohibits any type of ‘football’ contact with players until the team formally meets this spring. He was asked if he felt Flowers, who will be only 24 this season, was a kind of a ‘blank slate’.
“It depends,” he said. “Until you actually get your hands on somebody and work with them. Nobody is a real blank slate. He’s had a high school coach, he’s had a college coach, I believe he’s had two coaches here since he’s been here at the Giants. So, everybody has different ways, so sometimes you have to erase the tape. Sometimes you can’t just re-record over it. So, it’ll take some time to get him doing some things that we want him to do then, but I know both his offensive line coaches that he’s had in the past. I’ve known them for a long time and they were very experienced, very highly though of coaches in this league. And I know things that they teach are fundamentally sound.”
The move from the left side to the right could be beneficial to Flowers – and the Giants – should he prosper at the position. It is not always as easy as it seems, however. Hunter explained it’s up to the individual how they adapt.
“Yeah, the left side or the right side, I don’t think the assignments are that tough,” he said. “It might not be quite as hard, but it would be like, I golf right-handed, if all of a sudden I have to golf left-handed, it’s going to be awhile. He’s been playing left tackle for a long time. He’s been playing it in college and I remember we had a pre-draft visit with him, I met him at the Combine a few years ago. Good, solid left tackle. So, the footwork is going to be different. Everything is going to be just the opposite and he’s a good enough athlete that he’s going to be able to adjust to all of that, but it’s like anything. You’re writing and all of a sudden you guys all have to write left-handed. You can do it, but it takes some time to adjust. So, there has to be a patience on the learning curve. Like again, the better the athlete, the easier the transition and he is a good athlete.”
Expect Flowers to be given enough latitude to win a spot on the roster, but he won’t be an automatic like was under the previous administration. I see him embracing the new role and the new opportunity but he’s still quite flawed. The light has not gone on for him as many thought it would have by now. His pass protecting has improved and that will likely get better as he swings over to the right side but it’s his run blocking that became a concern last year.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers was ranked 65th out of 80 tackles in run blocking. That, as we know, was a contributing factor to the Giants’ low rushing output in 2017. They were 26th in total rushing and their 3.9 YPC is well below where Gettleman and new head coach Pat Shurmur want it to be.