Ten games into his rookie season, New York Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty describes left tackle Ereck Flowers pretty much the way you would expect based on studies and opinions we have gathered from other experts throughout the season. Flashes of the outstanding player he could become, a terrific demeanor and desire to learn, but he struggles with maintaining proper technique under duress.
"I really like his attitude, his play strength, he wants to be a tackle in the NFL. His technique was something that we knew needed to get better. I think you see flashes of his technique. As a coach, I don't see enough of it yet, but that's coaching more than playing and he's got to learn to trust the NFL technique," Flaherty said earlier this week. "It's really difficult for a young player when he gets in -- he'll do it in practice, he works hard at it in practice, he's the kind of guy you love to coach, but when you get into a game situation, a lot of times the young players revert back to what they've been doing and that's the thing we're -- going into game 11 here against the Redskins coming up, that's where we have to show more than flashes, we have to see the improvement."
Earlier this season, I did a Google+ Hangout focused on Flowers with Dan Hatman (@Dan_Hatman), director of The Scouting Academy, and performance consultant and offensive line specialist Duke Manyweather (@BigDuke50). Give the full Hangout a look for their thoughts, but here is part of what I wrote after our session:
The general takeaway, by the way, is that Flowers has tremendous physical gifts and occasionally flashes technique that wows. There are, however, many times where his tremendous athletic gifts are covering for faulty footwork or technique.
Giants' general manager Jerry Reese was also asked this week for an assessment of Flowers.
"Flowers is a big, tough kid, and is learning the game," Reese said. "We think he's going to be a good left tackle for a long time for us. He's got some technique flaws that he needs to clean up and he works hard at it."
Virtually the same thing Flaherty said to reporters during this week's media session, the only time Giants assistant coaches will be available to reporters during the regular season.
Asked if Flowers' technique issues were related more to footwork or handwork, Flaherty said that it was "a combination" of both.
"Most of it becomes one thing on top of the other, it happens when he's very technique-conscious in the beginning of the game and then something happens that gets him out of whack because he's playing against good players that have been playing a long time," Flaherty said. "Then I have to settle him and we talk on the sideline and we settle down a little bit and then it's gone almost series by series from that standpoint."
One of those times when Flowers struggled came Sunday against the New England Patriots when he allowed a sack, six hurries and received a Pro Football Focus grade of -5.5.
Flaherty was asked if he has to grade Flowers on a curve because of his inexperience and the difficult of playing left tackle as a rookie.
"The only curve I know is you get the job done or you don't get the job done," Flaherty said. "He brings energy to the game, he loves playing the game and a lot of times when he goes out and plays, he'll play out of his technique more so than with good technique."
Flowers, as Manyweather, Hatman and now Flaherty have told us, could end up being a really good NFL player. Or, he could end up being Marshall Newhouse. His attitude and work ethic have made him well-respected in the Giants' locker room, and no one seems immune to his no-nonsense demeanor.
This is a 21-year-old kid who, because of the injury to Will Beatty, was asked to take on more responsibility than the Giants wanted to give him. All-in-all, no matter what the PFF grades say, Flowers has done an acceptable job. He has had ups and downs, as you would expect, and has shown in those flashes that he could be very good for a very long time.
The question is whether or not we will still be talking about those technique breakdowns a year from now. Knowing how hard the young man works and how professionally he takes his responsibility my guess is we see a huge improvement by the middle of the 2016 season.
If we don't, then there might be a problem. Right now, though, the Giants have to be pretty satisfied with their first-round pick.