Today is a joyous one for many New York Giants fans, whether they defeat the Houston Texans or not. Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, a favorite target of fans’ anger for more than three seasons now, is no longer part of the team’s starting lineup.
Here are five things I think that means for the Giants.
Flowers’ scholarship has been revoked
Former GM Jerry Reese spent the last couple of seasons defending Flowers and trying to justify passing on Todd Gurley and several other quality players, rather than admitting his mistake and trying to fix it. As long as Reese was GM, Flowers had protection. Tom Coughlin had to play him. Ben McAdoo had to play him.
Well, with Dave Gettleman having replaced Reese new coach Pat Shurmur doesn’t have to play him. The Giants have Flowers under contract this year and tried to get something out of him by moving him to the right side.
After two games, after watching countless communication breakdowns on the right side, after Flowers appeared to admit that he hadn’t studied properly for the Week 1 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shurmur appears to be done with Flowers.
Sunday, he will be the only backup tackle on the roster. He will almost certainly only see the field in an emergency. It wouldn’t surprise me, to be honest, if we see a new backup tackle on the roster next week and that Flowers, except for the aforementioned emergency, is done as a player for the Giants.
The Giants are 0-2. Shurmur and Gettleman weren’t part of last season’s 3-13 disaster. They are, in fact, Giants decision-makers because of it. They know, however, that because of last season and because of their decision to go all-in on 37-year-old Eli Manning at quarterback, that there is growing unrest in the fan base and in the media.
They know they have no more time to talk about getting better or being on the right path. They know they have to win games, and they know that facing the Houston Texans in their building is not going to be easy. They know that they don’t have a whole lot of options with the current roster, but this was one of the realistic options they had.
Will it help? J.J. Watt & Co. will have something to say about that.
I would expect to see the Giants throw caution to the wind Sunday afternoon. They started to do that by going for it twice on fourth-and-1 in their own territory last week vs. the Dallas Cowboys, and by using Odell Beckham Jr. on a fourth-quarter punt return. They wasted no time this week trying to upgrade the fullback spot after Shane Smith played poorly vs. Dallas.
Don’t be surprised at all to see Shurmur dig deep into the playbook today. A pass by Beckham or Saquon Barkley? Maybe. More shots down the field? Have to try. Fifteen targets for Beckham AND 25 touches for Barkley? The best players have to get the ball. Beckham on punt returns and Barkley or Beckham on kickoff returns? If you aren’t going to use them today it might be pointless to use them in those capacities the rest of the season.
“There’s urgency built into everything we do. Winning each Sunday is very, very important regardless of what the math says,” Shurmur told Kim Jones of NFL Network before Sunday’s game.
Let’s give Reese and his staff a little credit for Wheeler being a Giant. They took a chance on a player who many thought had the talent to be selected in the middle rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, but who went undrafted because of off-the-field concerns.
Since the spring the Giants have obviously been intent on giving Flowers every chance to make a successful transition to right tackle. Wheeler got no first-team reps in OTAs, mandatory mini-camp or training camp.
Now, Wheeler gets his opportunity. Lining up against J.J. Watt is no picnic, but it’s the job. Wheeler doesn’t have to be great. He just has to be adequate. He has to know his assignments. He has to properly pass off stunts and twists.
Even if he’s terrible today and the Giants sign a veteran offensive tackle it will take a few weeks for that player to get up to speed on the playbook. So, this is Wheeler’s big chance. Let’s see if he can take advantage of it.
What about Patrick Omameh?
As soon as the news broke about Flowers being replaced in the lineup, the “now remove Omameh” sentiment started. Like this:
Good... now get omameh out!— Eric Stein (@estein2223) September 23, 2018
Well, Omameh is playing today ... and probably staying in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
When you try to fix something that is broken you go piece-by-piece. You don’t throw out the motor because you need new spark plugs or an oil change. Because they are replacing Flowers and having to insert John Greco at center to replace the out-for-the-season Jon Halapio the Giants are already replacing 40 percent of their offensive line in Week 3.
Let’s see what that accomplishes.
Omameh has a 3-year, $15 million contract with $10.05 million guaranteed this season and next. He isn’t getting benched after two games.
Pro Football Focus has Omameh with 1 sack and 3 pressures allowed in two games. The biggest issue on that right side with Flowers and Omameh lined up next to each other has been communication on defensive line stunts and twists. The Giants have talked about players needing to know their assignments, and it’s apparent much of that was pointed at Flowers. Let’s see if that communication and what Brian Baldinger called “basic assignment football” improves this week.
I don’t know if this is the case and I won’t make an excuse for the less-than-acceptable play of Omameh so far, but sometimes an offensive lineman’s play can be impacted by the struggles or mistakes of the guy next to him. Let’s see how Omameh fares with new players on each side of him Sunday.
Help on the horizon?
As I mentioned above, it’s too late for any type of roster move before today’s game. That means Flowers will be the backup offensive tackle today, and should something happen to Wheeler or Nate Solder he will be in the game.
Next week? If I was undrafted free agent center Evan Brown, on the 53-man roster but inactive for the first two games and never mentioned by Shurmur as a possible replacement for Halapio, I would start wrapping my mind around being bumped down to the practice squad.
Maybe the Giants bring the recently-signed Brian Mihalik off the practice squad as a backup tackle. Maybe they look to players currently looking for jobs — a list that includes Austin Howard, Menelik Watson, Austin Pasztor, Cyrus Kouandjio and others. After today, though, I will be very surprised if there isn’t a new tackle on the 53-man roster for Week 4.