The conversation about Ereck Flowers never ends. All offseason the talk was about why the Giants stubbornly refused to replace the third-year tackle, or at least move him to the right side. Now, every rep he takes in training camp is scrutinized.
How does he look? Is his technique better? Is he moving better after his well-publicized off-season conditioning work? Oh my God, there is a video on Twitter of him dropping his head and getting beat on one play. He still stinks! He will get Eli Manning KILLED! The Giants are DOOMED!
Everyone you ask will tell you Flowers is better this season. Coach Ben McAdoo said Saturday that Flowers is “getting better with his punch in pass protection.” Defensive end Olivier Vernon has said Flowers’ technique is better.
Flowers appeared to have a pretty good day Saturday. He even said so himself when he made a rare, brief appearance in front of the media.
“Today was a good day,” he said. “I think it went pretty good.”
McAdoo also liked Flowers’ work on Saturday.
“Development takes time. And right now we’re developing a lot of players. But for a guy like Ereck, third down’s a big period for him,” McAdoo said. “That’s where he needs a lot of work in pass protection and one-on-one versus defensive ends and he took a step today to get better on our third down period and he did a nice job.”
There was only one rep on Saturday where Flowers suffered a noticeable breakdown, getting an arm up near Vernon’s neck for what likely would have been called holding in a regular game. Of course, the caveat to Saturday is this — there were a number of reps where Vernon gave Flowers an initial thud, then seemed to shut his pass rush down. Maybe that was by design. Maybe Vernon was just acknowledging that Flowers was in good position. Maybe he was just saving wear-and-tear. We don’t know.
Watch Flowers every day and you see both good reps and bad. It’s easy to flip out when a Twitter video of a bad one shows up. Take film of every rep Flowers takes, you will invariably find a bad one now and then. That’s probably true of any lineman.
Yes, there have been some bad ones. A dropped head here. A head up on the neck there. An occasional hand sliding up around the back of a rusher.
There have also been good ones. He excels in run-blocking, especially moving forward. Flowers guarded his weight like a state secret on Saturday, saying “That’s not to be talked about.” Still, he excels when he can just use his 300-and-whatever-pound frame to just move people off the earth they want to try and occupy. He can pass protect when he stays low enough and gets his hands, properly placed, to the rusher first.
The 23-year-old knows he still has work to do, especially in pass protection.
“I see myself improving every day out here at camp,” he said.
That is really all anyone can hope for from Flowers. That he recognizes the need to get better, and that he shows improvement.
Do we really know right now if Flowers is better than he was a year ago? We’ve heard about his off-season work. We have seen him battle with Vernon in camp. Really, though, we won’t know anything for sure until the regular-season games start.
Flowers will never be perfect. He will look clunky sometimes. His technique will break down sometimes. The Giants are hoping, though, that his work and their patience will lead to fewer of those breakdowns.
Pro Football Focus grades are not the be-all and end-all of how to judge a player. They can be subjective, no matter what PFF analysts tell you, and don’t give the whole story. Still, they can be a reference point.
Flowers was PFF’s fourth-lowest graded tackle as a rookie. He was 59th out of 80 qualifying tackles as a second-year player, a jump of roughly 17 spots. A similar jump in 2017 would put him in the middle of the pack among offensive tackles. That would make him average.
I think at this point the Giants would sign up for that.