From Bust to Boom: Why Former Giants Castoff Ereck Flowers Found NFL Success
When news broke that former Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers signed a three-year $30 million deal with Miami, many Giants fans who had watched Flowers go from being the No. 9 overall draft pick in 2015 to an outcast were stunned.
In his four seasons with the Giants, Flowers did little to live up to his draft pedigree at left tackle and didn't fare much better when he was moved to right tackle, which ultimately led to his being released before his rookie contract was over.
After a brief stint in Jacksonville, where ironically he as reunited with Pat Flaherty, his offensive line coach at the start of his Giants career, Flowers went to Washington where famed offensive line coach Bill Callahan converted him to guard.
Flowers flourished at the position so much so that he landed the big payday with Miami, his hometown team no less.
Meanwhile, the Giants, who were set back after Flowers didn't pan out--they were forced to overspend on Nate Solder to fill the all-important left tackle role--are at a crossroads with that position.
Solder will likely fill it again this year despite his well-publicized struggles last year, which were probably due in part to injuries and concerns for his young son undergoing cancer treatments.
But with the draft class rich in offensive tackle help, it would not be surprising if the Giants dip into that talent pool to fortify the position for hopefully the next decade.
But let's get back to Flowers and why after a disastrous tenure with the Giants, he has likely flourished. We can tie it down to two reasons: a lack of maturity and him playing out of position.
Lack of Experience and Maturity
Flowers turned 21 a few days before he was drafted, While traditionally 21 was thought to be the first year of adulthood until years ago when it was lowered to 18, being of age doesn't translate to being mature.
When it comes to the offensive linemen, there are so many guys who are just not ready to be successful for various reasons against the elite defenders one faces in the NFL.
Players like Flowers, when they struggle, often rely on the technique, however flawed it might be, that they used in college to get to the NFL to survive out there. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, depending on the level of competition they face.
This was a big knock against Flowers during his time with the Giants. Rather than trust his coaching and his technique, he instinctively went back to what he knew.
Since then, Flowers has matured a little bit. He spoke highly o Callahan when the two were in Washington and seemed more open to the techniques Callahan was showing him. And it's made a difference in his play.
Playing Out of Position
Flowers spent this past season playing left guard for Washington and was their most consistent performer.
Emory Hunt, CEO of Footballgameplan.com, opined that as a left tackle, Flowers lacked the footwork to be left on an island.
“I felt as though when he was protected, he performed his best in New York, but that wasn’t often," Hunt told GiantsCountry.com.
"In Washington, it showed that to be true, as he was moved to guard. He started having success and regained the confidence that made him a first-round pick."
Make no mistake about it: Based on his play and to a certain extent his growing surly attitude which may or may not have been out of frustration, Flowers deserved to be released by the Giants.
According to data gathered from Pro Football Focus, his 180 pressures allowed while with the Giants was by far worse among all offensive linemen.
As previously noted, not even a move to right tackle after signing Nate Solder seemed to salvage Flowers, as he was benched after two games.
So how could a person who performed so poorly as a tackle be infinitely better at guard?
Unlike tackle, the guard is always boxed in, meaning he only has to worry about protecting a small gap where he is supported by the center on one side and tackle on the other.
Offensive linemen with slower feet can have success because they don't have as much ground to protect, and one of the knocks against Flowers was--you guessed it--slow feet.
In New York, Flowers was a much more effective blocker when he played next to a tight end. Flowers is also very strong and explosive in short areas, so playing guard doesn't expose his slow feet.
At guard, he rarely ever has to encounter the elite level speed rushers who dominated him at tackle, and if he does, it's in a confined area that flips the emphasis towards power, which is where Flowers shines.
Current Cleveland Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan may have had a lot to do with seeing Flower's value at guard. Last season he was in charge of Washington's unit and started Flowers at left guard.
Callahan has long been well-respected for identifying and cultivating offensive line talent. Instead of focusing on the things Flowers struggled with, he put him in a position where those shortcomings wouldn't be as big an issue, and it proved to be successful for Flowers.
At guard for Washington, Flowers only gave up two sacks. So why didn't Washington retain him? Clearly, they were not willing to shell out the money that Miami did to keep him.
This might be the product of a new coaching staff and front office letting a piece they didn't deem as important walk out the door.
His confidence likely at an all-time high, the Miami native returns "home" with a renewed vigor. But his story bust to boom story is hardly unique.
It's unfortunate for the Giants, who thought they had their franchise left tackle for at least the next decade, that previous coaching staffs could not figure out how to best apply his talents.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Flowers does in Miami while Callahan continues grooming young offensive linemen in Cleveland.