Ereck Flowers was searching YouTube the other day when he came across a highlight film of some of the NFL’s best offensive linemen.
“Just looking at them, looking to emulate things they do,” the Giants’ second-year left tackle said. “Those guys were the originals. They were tough. Very physical, tough guys. You look at [former Cowboys guard] Larry Allen. That guy could bench- press 700 pounds.”
There was an important take-away for Flowers, who has struggled at times this season with his pass blocking. He hopes to carry it with him as the Giants prepare for their first playoff run since 2011.
“The physical part,” he said. “Just very aggressive. That was a big thing, and that’s important for me.”
Flowers hopes to translate an increased aggressiveness to his own game, especially when it comes to protecting Eli Manning’s blind side. Flowers has been inconsistent with his technique at times, which has led to some unwanted pressure on his quarterback. Part of Manning’s struggles this year can be traced to erratic pass protection, and Flowers is trying to do his part to keep his teammate “clean,” as offensive linemen like to say about limiting hits.
While Manning’s playing time for Sunday’s game against the Redskins has come into question, given that the Giants’ playoff position will not be affected whether they win or lose, there’s no question about how much Flowers expects to go.
“The whole game,” he said. “Unless I’m told otherwise, I’m playing. Who doesn’t want to play? That’s why you come up here [to the NFL]. I’m expecting to play.”
Flowers knows he’ll play a significant role in the playoffs, even if most of his work is done anonymously in the trenches. In fact, if you do hear his name, it likely will mean he has made a mistake in pass protection or has been called for a holding penalty or false start. For any offensive lineman, less is more when it comes to being noticed.
The Giants’ coaches are cautiously optimistic that Flowers can raise his level of play now that the Giants are in the tournament. His biggest challenge: paying attention to the little things.
“He’s coming along,” offensive line coach Mike Solari said. “It’s a work in progress. Ereck’s working hard in practice, trying to develop the techniques. It’s just a matter of taking the techniques he’s working on in practice and taking it to the game.”
Flowers seems particularly susceptible to speed rushers, and the way he drops into pass protection is critical in setting a firm base and thus being able to react to a given move to the inside or outside.
“The most important thing is that Ereck’s got to keep working on his fundamentals and improving that asset,” Solari said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to grow and keep developing, and Ereck’s working hard at it.”
There have been suggestions that Flowers’ more physical style is better suited for right tackle, but that suggestion is quickly dismissed by offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
“He’s our left tackle, and our players are our players,” Sullivan said. “We have to continue to work hard. There’s no magic potion, there’s no easy answer in terms of trying to do the things that we can from a technique standpoint, from a fundamental standpoint and, schematically, trying to get him and all of our players to be successful. Like a lot of the players on our offense, there’s a lot of area for improvement, and he’s certainly no exception.”
Flowers played through a badly sprained ankle last season and again limped off the field near the end of the loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia on Dec. 22. As erratic as Flowers has been at times this year, the idea of replacing him outright would have been far more problematic than keeping him in the lineup.
“I’m good,” Flowers said. “My body feels good. It’s on to the next week.”
It’s uncertain what the Giants would do if Flowers couldn’t play. Will Beatty is an option, but he has had injury problems of his own in recent weeks. Fortunately for the Giants, Flowers is good to go.
And he’s confident of what lies ahead.
“Feel good about this team,” said Flowers, a man of few words.
Does he feel the Giants are good enough to win the Super Bowl?
“Yeah,” he said. “I do.”