It was as dreadful a performance by a Giants’ offensive lineman in recent memory, a Week 2 meltdown that was so complete that it made you wonder if Ereck Flowers would ever recover. With Eli Manning under siege most of the game and with Flowers causing most of the havoc, all this preseason talk about a more improved version of the Giants’ left tackle looked as if it was completely misguided.
Flowers was subjected to an avalanche of criticism after that 24-10 loss to the Lions, and it was well deserved. He was helpless in trying to protect Manning from the likes of Ziggy Ansah and the Lions’ pass rush, giving up three sacks and doing nothing to convince skeptical fans he would be anything other than a complete bust.
Well, guess what. All these weeks later, Flowers hasn’t given up a sack.
Is he suddenly the second coming of Anthony Munoz? Hardly. But his improvement since that woeful start is indisputable. The best evidence that Flowers has settled down after that early-season debacle: His name is rarely mentioned on television broadcasts, and he seldom draws attention from coaches and teammates.
That’s about as good as it gets for an offensive lineman: The less you’re noticed, the better you’re playing.
“He’s a young player that works hard at getting better at his craft each and every day,” coach Ben McAdoo said Tuesday of Flowers. “He’s improved in meetings. He’s improved on the field, improved on the practice field. He has his ups and downs, just like other players do, but he’s getting better.”
Flowers has been the subject of consternation through much of his career with the Giants, which began as the ninth overall pick out of Miami in 2015. After a promising rookie season, he struggled in pass protection last year and was directly challenged by general manager Jerry Reese to improve his game.
He spent more time around the Giants’ practice facility in the offseason, dropped some weight, increased his hand quickness by taking up boxing and looked much more comfortable during training camp and the preseason.
But he struggled in a Week 1 loss to the Cowboys and then was obliterated by Ansah against the Lions.
So much for that storyline about the new, improved Flowers.
But give the guy credit. He has shown unmistakable improvement since the Detroit game and keeping the opponents on his side without a sack is as good as you can get.
“I think Ereck has done a good job,” Manning said. “He’s a guy that’s stayed healthy, he competes, he fights and he’s handled his own. He’s been called out by the media, but he’s hung in there tough. He’s a mentally strong kid and playing good football.”
How does Flowers feel about Flowers? Tough to tell. He rarely grants interviews — he offered a polite “no comment” on Tuesday — and chooses to do any of his communicating by virtue of his play.
Manning manages to get through to Flowers, though, which is really all that matters.
“Ereck and I have a good relationship, and there are a few things I can get him laughing and get him to show a little emotion, so it’s good,” Manning said.
Manning has been sacked 22 times this season, and Flowers is responsible for four of them, yet none in the last eight games. With the Giants’ offensive line in a frequent state of change because of injuries, Flowers has played every single snap. He’s the only player on offense to do so.
“Ereck just needed to keep working and believe in himself,” said right guard D.J. Fluker, who may miss Thursday’s game against the Redskins because of a toe injury. “He’s done a good job. He’s gotten better. He’s still a young guy, and he understands. He hasn’t given up a sack and no hits.”
Fluker suggested the move of right guard John Jerry to left guard also has helped Flowers.
“John’s a good veteran,” Fluker said. “That definitely helps Ereck out.”
Flowers needs to continue to show further improvement before you can deduce that his earlier problems won’t flare up again. But at 23 years of age and with a difficult apprenticeship seemingly behind him, there’s at least some cause for optimism.
Eight games and counting since his nightmare showing against the Lions, Flowers is still pitching a shutout.