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Giants need Ereck Flowers, or someone, to play well at right tackle

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Giants to face several quality pass rushers who will come from that side

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

As we meander our way through our player-by-player profiles of the New York Giants 90-man roster, some are obviously more important than others. Today, we reach one of the interesting, important ones as the Giants shape their 2018 53-man roster. That would be fourth-year offensive tackle Ereck Flowers.

The 2015 first-round pick (No. 9 overall) has long been a much-maligned player. To many, he is a symbol of the inability under then-GM Jerry Reese to get the offensive line right no matter how many resources the Giants threw at a position that has been a problem pretty much since the team last won a Super Bowl in the 2011 season.

With a new regime making decisions, a new emphasis on the “hog mollies” and a new position for Flowers, can he be part of the solution? Will he be the weak link on the revamped line? Will he, for that matter, even be a Giant when the 2018 season opens?

Let’s examine all of those questions.

The basics

Age: 24
Experience: 3
Position: Offensive tackle
Height: 6-foot-6
Weight: 325

2017 season in review

Flowers had a much-ballyhooed streak of 348 snaps without allowing a sack — a streak that extended from Week 2 until Week 12. He ended up, however, allowing 6.5 sacks for -48.5 yards on the season, both career worsts. His numbers showed marginal improvement in some areas, but his overall grades from Pro Football Focus were right in line with what he did his first two seasons.

Here is the breakdown:

Penalties By Season

2015: 10
2016: 14
2017: 9

QB Sacks Allowed

2015: 5
2016: 5
2017: 6

QB Hits Allowed

2015: 17
2016: 9
2017: 8

QB Hurries Allowed

2015: 47
2016: 50
2017: 27

Overall grades

2017: 51.5 (54th out of 81 OTs) -

  • Pass Block Grade: 61.4 (52nd out of 81)
  • Run Block Grade: 40.8 (68th out of 81)

2016: 49.9
2015: 35.5

You can easily argue that Flowers’ 2017 numbers showed some improvement. That would be true, at least in pass protection. His run blocking remained mystifyingly ineffective when you consider that he is an immensely strong 325-pound man.

Better in 2017 or not, two-thirds of qualifying offensive tackles (right and left) graded higher. His play wasn’t enough to keep the Giants from signing Nate Solder and moving Flowers to right tackle. It wasn’t enough to convince the Giants’ new regime to pick up his fifth-year option, which means he can be a free agent after the upcoming season.

2018 outlook

Flowers didn’t get off to a good start with the Giants’ new bosses. After being told he would be moved to right tackle to make way for Solder, Flowers didn’t show up for the first few weeks of the team’s voluntary workouts. The Giants were listening to trade offers for him during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Even once he decided to begin attending the offseason program, there has been plenty of speculation. Would he have to earn his way into the good graces of Pat Shurmur and the coaching staff? Would he adjust to right tackle and win a competition with Chad Wheeler? Were the Giants hoping to ultimately just boost his trade value so they could dump him during the preseason?

Well, halfway through OTAs and having witnessed two of the practices, one thing appears clear. At least right now, the Giants view Flowers as their starting right tackle. In the two sessions open to media, Flowers has taken every first-team rep.

“He’s been great,” Shurmur said on Tuesday. “He’s been communicating well, he looks like he’s having fun playing out there, he’s worked in with the offensive line and he’s done everything we’ve asked and I anticipate that will continue.”

While it’s difficult to get a handle on offensive line play with players in shorts and t-shirts, Shurmur said Flowers is handling the switch from left to right tackle well.

“He’s actually done a really good job. He’s an excellent athlete and he’s handling the move pretty seamlessly,” Shurmur said. “Through the first two weeks of his training, I think he’s made improvements.”

The Giants need Flowers to play well.

There is the long-held belief that the left tackle is more important the right because he protects the blind side of a right-handed quarterback, and traditionally faces the best pass rusher on the opposing team. Blind side or not, the NFL is changing, defensive coordinators move players around to find favorable matchups, and the best pass rushers can often be found lined up over the right tackle.

Look at the Giants’ 2018 schedule.

The right tackle, whether it is Flowers or someone else, will have to face a slew of talented defensive ends or edge rushers. Dante Fowler of the Jacksonville Jaguars (8 sacks in 2017), Demarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys (14.5 sacks in 2017) twice, three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints (13 sacks in 2017), Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles twice, Ryan Kerrigan of the Washington Redskins twice, and Vic Beasley of the Atlanta Falcons (15.5 sacks in 2016) are among the players the Giants’ right tackle will have to handle during the upcoming season.

The Giants need whoever plays right tackle to be up to what will be a significant challenge. Flowers is getting the first crack. Let’s see if he’s up to it.