The early reviews are in, and they are overwhelmingly positive.
With this portion of the offseason over and done with, so many words of praise have come Ereck Flowers’ way. The Giants are thrilled with the way their still-young left tackle looks, delighted with the shape he is in and the dedication he has shown. He is leaner, quicker. He is lighter on his feet.
This is all great stuff for Flowers, as he sets sight on his third season with the Giants. The scent of improvement is in the air, and after all, he is just 23 years old. In mid-June, sticking with Ereck Flowers is just fine for the Giants.
Of course, on the night of Sept. 10 inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Flowers’ sleeker physique and his springtime work ethic either will pay dividends or fall by the wayside as he attempts to block the Cowboys and keep Eli Manning upright.
The Giants want to believe the massive player they took with the ninth-overall pick in the 2015 draft can rise above two disappointing years and finally show the potential and performance they projected for him. His problems were evident, painfully so. Now comes the part where he does something about them.
“Yeah, you got to be critical of yourself,’’ Flowers said, in his first comments to the media this offseason. “You got to look at it and try to improve.’’
Flowers is a young man of few words. He does not enjoy speaking in public, is not comfortable doing it — his right leg pulsing up and down during a seven-minute interview session that was short on conversation and long on awkward pauses. As a rookie, Flowers developed a tough-guy persona, the strong, silent type as he played through a series of sprained ankles, injected into the starting lineup at left tackle after an injury to Will Beatty, forced to embark on his NFL career at left tackle rather than right tackle, which was the initial plan.
Ereck FlowersBill Kostroun
Last season was one of regression. Flowers was one of the lowest-rated left tackles in the league, but there was no one on the roster remotely capable of replacing him.
Coach Ben McAdoo said he believes Flowers played his best game of the season in the playoff loss to the Packers. Everyone around the Giants was thrilled with seeing Flowers at the team facility day after day — right tackle Bobby Hart was on hand as well — and it is clear Flowers has lost weight and looks to be in better physical condition.
“I’ve been watching what I eat,’’ Flowers said. “I’ve dropped a few pounds. I’ve dropped some weight. I feel good, feel better, feel a little quicker. Just looking forward to continuing it.’’
Clearly, the increased attention to his body was in response to dissatisfaction with what he put on the field in 2016.
“Probably say this might have been the smartest I’ve worked than the other offseasons, I would probably say that,’’ Flowers said. “Just from diet to specific things I’ve targeted in the weight room.’’
Flowers also took up boxing, because he learned other offensive linemen use it as part of their training regimen.
“I tried it, it’s pretty good,’’ he said. “I think it’s helped me. Hand quickness, hand placement and punching.’’
The sloppy use of his hands has held back Flowers, who came out of Miami as a 21-year old with deficient technique, leading to all sorts of problems when matched against fire-breathing NFL defensive ends. He is encouraged by what he has done in the spring, but acknowledges these practices were merely a facsimile of real football.
“I’ve gotten better, but then again we’re not in pads so it’s not the real — it’s in the game where you really see the difference,’’ Flowers said.
No hitting means no legitimate gauge of an offensive linemen’s readiness, but McAdoo already has seen a difference in Flowers.
“He is in tremendous condition,’’ McAdoo said. “You can see it as practice goes on, and especially in a no-huddle period when the ones run back out there for a second time. He is in better condition, so his feet move a little bit better, his technique is a little bit better.’’
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said, “You can see that Ereck looks leaner. There is initial quickness that is there that is impressive.’’
Flowers said his confidence never wavered.
“What’s the point in being out there,’’ he said, “if you don’t believe in yourself?’’