Last season was not pretty for New York Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers. The Giants' first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft stepped in for the injured Will Beatty, now released from the team, and graded out as the worst pass-blocking tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. But, entering his second season, a switch of his jersey number is just one of the major factors why Flowers is more comfortable and confident that he is primed for improvement.
"That's what I wore in college and that's what I want to continue to wear," Flowers said today. "It's just back to the basics. I love seeing 74."
Flowers added that, as a rookie last season, he wasn't as well-versed in the playbook as he is now, and that it will lead to better things.
"I know the plays, I know the system," said Flowers. "As a rookie, you don't really know anything. So it's definitely a lot better now the second go-around, a lot better than not knowing anything coming in."
Last season, the Giants were again riddled by injuries, having the second-most players on injured reserve in the NFL. Flowers battled an ankle injury throughout much of the season, but missed only one game. The 22-year-old believed he could play in the NFL, but he learned the difficulties of playing through nagging injuries.
"I knew that I could play (in the NFL)," Flowers said. "I played last year with a lot nagging things. But I really found out what it's like to play injured in this league. That's one thing I'll say that I really learned. All in all, I feel great right now. I feel a lot better this year. I'm more comfortable knowing the plays and knowing the system. I'm definitely ready to go this year."
Entering offseason training activities, the Giants return all of their starting offensive linemen. New York did not draft any offensive linemen this year, the first time since 2008. Although the Giants finished sixth in the NFL in scoring and eighth in total yards behind another Pro Bowl campaign from quarterback Eli Manning, the offensive line finished in the bottom half of the NFL in both pass and run protection. But Flowers believes that the continuity the team is establishing up front will lead to more success.
"The best lines always have been together for a while," Flowers said of working with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse. "Look at Green Bay; Dallas is on their third or fourth year together. That just comes with time. I think this year we'll definitely be a lot better than we were last year, being that we all know each other, we know different things, we're on the same accord, and we're not all new to each other."
Flowers also believes that the comfort he's found in his second season will ensure less mental errors.
"I think that's something that everybody learns," Flowers said. "Nobody is perfect, so you just try to minimize them as much as you can. I feel a lot more comfortable. I'm just looking forward to the season and getting some wins."