D.J. Fluker is a mountain of a man. He is 6-foot-5, 345 pounds, which certainly sounds big. Stand next to him, though, and you realize that big isn’t a big enough word. Fluker is ENORMOUS. He lockers next to the 6-2, 318-pound Brett Jones — a large man in his own right — and makes him look puny. Fluker even makes the 6-5, 340-pound John Jerry look small.
“He is the biggest human being I have ever been around,” teammate Justin Pugh said this week. “We got to get extra big doors put in so he can fit through them in the facility. I always joke around with him about that too, because he’s just so damn big. He’s like a size 20-something shoe, it’s like nuts.”
Fluker is also having a big impact on the New York Giants’ offensive line.
Over the past three games, the Giants are averaging 130.3 yards rushing per game, which would be sixth in the league over the course of the season. Their 4.6 yards per rushing attempt average would also be sixth in the league for the season.
The fact that Fluker has been at right guard for nearly every snap of those last three games has not been the only factor. The play of running backs Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman in place of the injured an ineffective Paul Perkins has helped. Solid run-blocking across the board and an increased commitment to running the ball have helped.
A physical presense
That is the primary Fluker brings to the table when he is on the field. He isn’t a perfect offensive lineman. There is a reason the Chargers didn’t try to keep their 2013 first-round pick after four seasons. There is a reason why the Giants were able to get Fluker on a low-cost one-year, $3 million contract when scads of mediocre offensive linemen were cashing in with extraordinary contracts last offsesason.
He is limited athletically. Watch him play and see you see why the Giants don’t believe he is a legitimate option at right tackle. Quickness and working against speed on the outside are not his strengths.
He is, however, physical. And insanely strong. Probably stronger and more physical than anyone who has played the offensive line for the Giants since Chris Snee.
You have seen the clips by now, but I have to show one again. When is the last time a Giants offensive lineman did this to someone?
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan knows that the physicality can be contagious.
“Especially when you look at one of the particular, there was the two big blocks that he had on inside plays that – one was the 47-yarder that you mentioned. The other one was really just a three or four-yard gain, but it was just such a devastating block that everyone sees on the sidelines, some of the defensive guys see and you look at the film room afterwards, and it does bring about just a sense of pride in the unit and just guys feeling confident, more confident I should say, in one another and there is that spark,” Sullivan said. “When you talk about wanting to be tough-minded and tough physically and have that type of mentality that shows up from a physical standpoint – that is something that can help you out and it certainly helped us last time.”
“He’s playing physical,” coach Ben McAdoo said of Fluker. “The thing we like about D.J. is he gives you everything he has. He’s a physical player. He’s tough. Has great enthusiasm for the game and glad we have him. Any time you have big guys with enthusiasm and a passion to play the game and to be physical and come off the ball and run the ball, it helps.”
Maybe, just maybe, GM Jerry Reese did find an under-the-radar way to upgrade the offensive line after all.
About that passion
To say Fluker is passionate about what he does is probably putting it mildly. He loves it, and that was obvious the first time I talked to him at the beginning of training camp. He is animated and enthusiastic. He’s a big, lovable dude with an optimistic, infectious personality.
What Fluker is really doing is helping change the mindset of a group that, for years, has been looked at as a weak link for the Giants.
“He’s a guy that just brings a lot of energy. He’s a fun guy to be around and he loves football and his strengths are going to be his strength and his size and the more we can try to do the things that are going to accentuate that – I think that’s going to put him in a good position,” Sullivan said. “But, like so many of the players, the thing you like about D.J. is that when it does not initially go right, when things – maybe he misses a block or maybe he doesn’t redirect well enough on a pass protection or whatever the case may be. Or maybe we as an offense don’t do well. He’s one of the guys that you always see there on the sideline that’s constantly trying to lift everybody’s spirits and be encouraging and be positive and so his energy, as I mentioned, as well as his size and strength are things that make us better.”
Teammate Justin Pugh, also drafted in the first round in 2013, agreed.
“He’s brought great energy to the offensive line room and a competitiveness and a work ethic that has been good for us. I’m just so happy for him to get his opportunity and showcase what he can do, because he really is a good player.”
Why did it take so long?
Fluker didn’t play until Week 4, when injuries forced the Giants to start him. After starring at Alabama and being a starter for four seasons with the Chargers, Fluker didn’t like sitting and waiting.
“It was real tough for me,” he said. “I’m used to playing and it kind of got taken away from me. I wanted to be out there with those guys, but it’s just about being patient, wait for my time and things change. The best thing I can do is be positive and encouraging, and that’s what I did until my time came. I’m playing now, so it feels great to play and be a part of this team and be a part of this unit.”
Asked this week if he regretted not getting Fluker into the lineup sooner, McAdoo said “I think we brought him along at just the right pace.”
If you believe differently, nothing McAdoo can say or that anyone could write will convince you otherwise. Sometimes, though, players succeed when they get an opportunity because they aren’t forced to play before they are ready.
Fluker spent four years in San Diego with constant turmoil on the coaching staff, probably not getting the solid, consistent coaching that could have helped him. He spent much of the offseason working with offensive line specialist Duke Manyweather, and admitted he wishes he had learned some of what Manyweather taught him years ago.
Playing and practicing with the reserves during the preseason, Fluker admitted he had much to learn and was honest enough to admit missed assignments when asked to assess his play.
When the season began, the Giants judged that Fluker was not yet one of their best five offensive linemen. Now, it is apparent that he has become one.
“I needed a change,” Fluker said. “I needed to get around a group of guys that were more about the team and what can we do better. We got guys, we go hard, and we are going to fight. When we come here, we know we’re here for one job, and that’s to get better. When we got guys like that that want to buy into that, it makes everything easier.”
Fluker is questionable to play Sunday with a knee injury that apparently flared up late in the week. The Giants will have a better chance to keep up the success they have enjoyed recently if he is able to play.