When Victor Cruz was injured last season and Odell Beckham Jr. had to step into the starting lineup, the Giants coaches had a message for Beckham. Because he was needed, there was no longer any time to nurse him along.
"Congratulations," they told him, "you're no longer a rookie."
By that measure, Ereck Flowers' rookie year was even shorter; maybe just a few weeks.
The first-round pick has been inserted as the starting left tackle on the offensive line with Will Beatty requiring surgery to repair a torn pectoral suffered last week. Flowers was at that position during Wednesday's first OTA of the offseason, anchoring a realigned line that didn't have one player returning to a starting position.
Flowers figured to start his career at right tackle, a somewhat less strenuous position than protecting a quarterback's blind side, but the Beatty injury scrapped that plan. The Giants get to see what they have in Flowers right away, and Eli Manning said it is good that Flowers is thrust into such a high-profile position now rather than later in the season. But they are still bracing for the pitfalls that always seem to bother first-year linemen.
"He's a rookie and he's been here three weeks," Manning said. "He'll have some mistakes, and that's just part of it. You have to get them out now and be out with the first team and learn from it all and it'll make him better down the road."
"Sure, there are going to be things that happen to him that haven't happened before," Tom Coughlin said. "We knew there were a couple of things we need to clarify and work on him, but he will work."
The rest of the offensive line in the first OTA: former right tackle Justin Pugh at left guard, former guard Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz, coming off an injury-riddled 2014, at right guard, and newcomer Marshall Newhouse at right tackle. John Jerry split first-team reps with Schwartz at right guard. Coughlin said the Giants will continue to experiment with various permutations on the line.
"Our plans are to continue to try to figure out how this line is going to fall out, who is going to be where," he said.
Flowers was selected with the ninth pick in the draft, and no one can argue that he isn't built like a premier offensive lineman (6-6, 329). But since he was drafted, several reports have quoted unnamed scouts and coaches criticizing Flowers' technique and coachability. Coughlin came to Flowers' defense.
"I don't subscribe to that, what people say," Coughlin said. "He's our kid. He's an outstanding young player. He's going to do nothing but get better."