Let’s take a quick trip down the forlorn lane of memories that is the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The New York Giants had the ninth overall pick and they selected a raw, but physically intriguing, prospect out of the University of Miami named Ereck Flowers. These Flowers never saw sunshine in New York and after three-plus mediocre seasons, he was uprooted from the Big Apple and now is the starting left guard for the Washington Redskins.
Many Giants fans wanted to see if Flowers could be salvaged by playing on the interior offensive line, which isn’t a ludicrous thought at all. Before we dive into the film, let’s look at some Pro Football Focus numbers; Flowers currently ranks 36th among guards in overall offensive grade, while Kevin Zeitler is ninth and Will Hernandez is 57th. His pass blocking grade is 48th among guards, while Zeitler is 22nd and Hernandez is 30th. Run blocking grades is the same as overall offense for Flowers at 36th among guards, with Zeitler at 13th and Hernandez at 100th. Among all offensive linemen, Flowers has allowed 21 pressures; with Hernandez allowing 24, Mike Remmers 40, Nate Solder 49, Jon Halapio 23, and Zeitler at 19. For context, the Giants have also passed the ball 518 times, with the Skins only passing the ball 404 times (numbers according to Pro Football Reference), so there’s a passing disparity of 114 attempts, which must be considered in this equation of statistics.
I know there’s a Giants’ contingent that really wanted to try Flowers out at guard. I do feel he’s a much better fit at guard, but he still maintains the same inconsistencies and fundamental problems that are a bit more masked when he’s not in space. Also, we have to remember that this player was a part of the old regime, and didn’t exactly take well to coaching, according to some reports. All this doesn’t mean he’s a heaping lump of clay that can’t do anything. I feel he’s a player that Washington will look to upgrade, but in confined spaces he can have success because of those intriguing physical gifts.
Let’s look at some clips.
Above are two plays against the struggling Carolina Panthers on the road, but Flowers executes both these blocks in order to have success. The first clip is against Kyle Love (77) at the 1-Technique position; Flowers is able to use that brute size and strength to wash Love down the line of scrimmage to open the hole for Adrian Peterson. In the second clip, Flowers, with some help from his tackle, is able to gain the outside shoulder of Gerald McCoy )93) and continued to churn his legs and utilize that strength to help clear that cutback lane.
Both these reps got the job done, but neither were executed well from a fundamental standpoint; the first one was better than the second, but he’s still way too high and his aiming point looked like it could have drew a hands to the face. The second clip, Flowers had good positioning on McCoy, was able to locate the outside shoulder, stay in front of his target, but still “tongs” him to the point of almost drawing a holding penalty. Tonging is when you clasp the outside of a player and don’t establish inside hand placement to control the opponent. Think about anytime you’ve stayed in a hotel and used their ice machine; that cheap metal instrument you use to put your ice in your drink is a tong. That’s essentially what Flowers is doing here and has done for the majority of his career. His fundamentals are very questionable and it leads to a lot of penalties, but that doesn’t mean he can’t win with strength or have marginal value in these confined spaces.
Above is an excellent Wham Block by Flowers. A Wham Block is when the offense allows an interior defensive linemen to be initially unblocked, just to eventually be met with a pulling blocker, which in this case was Flowers. There isn’t much space in which to operate here, which I feel assists Flowers immensely since his footwork and balance in space is atrocious. Flowers locates the unblocked 3-Technique and finishes strong to help a positive gain. Bill Callahan, the interim head coach for the Washington Redskins, has experience going back to the 1980s with coaching the offensive line position, and you better believe he can maximize a lot of talent that comes his way. Callahan was the mastermind that really brought the vaunted Cowboys offensive line together back 2014, so this really helps Flowers with development, but some things just don’t change, as you’ll see below.
These are the first two plays of the Redskins game vs. the Green Bay Packers game in Week 14. Both of these clips illustrate the struggles that Flowers had with New York - an ability to block in space. The first clip is in the run game as a pulling backside trap blocker in split-zone. He pulls, he’s too high, he lunges, and he drops his head as he aims for the inside shoulder of a squared up Za’Darius Smith (55). Smith easily dips his own inside shoulder to just go right around and locate Peterson in the hole. The second clip, he has to take on a 4-Technique from a 2-point stance in a passing situation; Flowers over-sets, gives up the inside, gets way too high, holds, then gets arm-tossed like a wrestler to the ground by Smith.
Even if we give Flowers the benefit of the doubt and say he expected center help on the play, this still shows an inability to adjust, maintain any semblance of a center of gravity, or have an ability to combat the inside spin. We’ve seen Nick Gates handle himself better in similar situations. Flowers significantly struggles in space and his balance has always been an issue because of his high center of gravity, and the fact that he doesn’t establish any inside hand placement, while also lunging at the hip and overextending himself to locate targets.
Here is a simple screen that was initially played well by Brandon Graham )55), who does a good job reading the play. You can see how wide Flowers’ hands are before he makes contact with Graham, it’s like he’s making himself into a triangle. He then tongs Graham and slips on the tackles foot, but can never regain his balance and just falls to the deck, which is a place Flowers will end up if he’s tasked to move and locate in space. This play isn’t as egregious because of the slight trip on the tackle’s foot, but it shows the lack of balance or the struggles Flowers possesses with coming to balance. He’s big and strong, but lumbering and unbalanced.
Above you see him in a power concept where he’s the pulling play-side guard that’s tasked to kick out Kyler Fackrell (51). In the confined space, he locates him well and gives him a powerful push backwards, but he doesn’t drive his legs through and maintain the contact; he hits Fackrell, extends at the hip, and allows himself to become off balance, so Fackrell can just pull Flowers’ inside arm, dip his own outside shoulder, and go right around Flowers to help blow the play up. Second clip he tries to scoop the outside shoulder of the 2i-Technique, but gets way too high and tongs the inside shoulder, which is easily defeated by lifting the inside arm of Flowers and creating space towards the play-side.
Flowers is a marginal starting guard that teams will always look to replace. He’s with one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL, yet still has the same fundamental problems that he had in New York. Those intriguing physical gifts that he possesses allowed for him to dominate at the collegiate level, which will also peak the interest of NFL teams that feel they can “coach him up.” The Giants thought that, it did not work. Struggles with balance, footwork, hand placement, pad level, and adjustments during plays will always be exposed in the NFL and hinder his potential. With all that being said, he is 25 years old and possesses incredible strength (98th percentile at combine for Bench Press). He’s 6-foot-6, 329 pounds with a 34 ½ inch reach and this will always endear teams, but Giants nation shouldn’t be crying over spilt milk at the fact that Flowers is starting at guard for a 3-11 Redskins team.