OT Ereck Flowers is the X Factor for the New York Giants Offense in 2017
Nov 27, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (74) during the third quarter between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Giants won 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL season was rough on New York Giants’ left tackle Ereck Flowers. However, given that he’s essentially hit rock bottom and has been improving his game throughout the offseason, Flowers is the X Factor for the Giants’ offense in 2017.

The 2016 NFL season was not so kind to New York Giants’ left tackle Ereck Flowers. After a so-so rookie campaign, Flowers was underwhelming last year. By not holding his ground and allowing opposing edge rushers to go right through him, Flowers struggled to hold his own in 2016. It reached the point where you could even see Eli Manning shaking his head in what was likely disgust. at Flowers. Flowers’ struggles, paired with the underwhelming production from the Giants’ offensive line as a whole, were key liabilities to them being one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. As a result of Flowers and their line woes as a unit, the Giants went out and brought in some reinforcements in the offseason.

As soon as free agency began, the Giants got busy. One key move they made in the early stages of free agency was bringing in Minnesota Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison. The Giants inked Ellison to a four year, $18 million dollar deal to come in and be a blocking presence.

While not known for being a go-to receiving option, Ellison brings a much needed blocking presence to the big apple. His ability to be a blocking asset will also help the Giants run game pick up some steam (a la Paul Perkins). Ellison though, isn’t the only new face who will help assist the Giants’ blocking efforts.

The Giants also brought in Los Angeles Chargers guard D.J. Fluker. By inking the four year guard to a one year, $3.8 million dollar deal, the Giants have added a versatile body to their line.

While known for being a guard, the 6’5″, 339 pound Fluker has the ability to play on the outside at tackle too. That versatility could be helpful if right tackle Bobby Hart or anyone else on the right side struggles to hold their ground. Another key facet to Fluker’s game is his durability.

Throughout the duration of his career, Fluker has missed just five games. Given their struggles with injuries in year’s past, Fluker’s durability will be an asset this upcoming season for the Giants’ line.

In addition to inking Ellison and Fluker, the Giants also resigned guard John Jerry to a three year, $10 million dollar deal and traded up in the sixth round of the NFL Draft to select Pittsburg tackle Adam Bisnowaty.

While the Giants did upgrade their offensive line in the offseason though, it’s still not great, and in reality is still mediocre. However, it’s only mediocre if players like Hart and Flowers perform at the disappointing level they did in 2016. Could 2017 be redemption for one or both of them?

Given that he essentially hit rock bottom last season and has been working on improving his game in the offseason, Flowers is the X Factor of the Giants offensive line, but also their offense as a whole.

Last year, Flowers was a liability to the Giants’ offense. His inability to protect Manning and help out the run game, made Flowers a key reason for the Giants being unable to take off offensively. With that in mind though, there’s no expectations on him in 2017.

After the 2016 season, many have built up the notion that Flowers cannot and will not live up to the hype. However, while that may ultimately be true, if he can, at the very least, improve his game a tad bit, Flowers could do wonders for the Giants offense.

If he can learn to stay low, and not allow edge rushers to blow by him, then Flowers could help grant Manning more time in the pocket to operate – doing so would immensely help the Giants’ passing attack.

With the installment of veteran wideout Brandon Marshall, the Giants now have a prolific wide receiver trio. With Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr., as well as second year man Sterling Shepard, the Giants now have a lethal receiving corp. If Manning can be granted more time to find those three down the field, then he won’t have to force many passes and will be able to operate more efficiently; an efficient Manning = a dependable product on the offensive end.

The biggest thing going against Flowers though, is his size.

Standing at a towering 6’6″ and weighing in at 329 pounds, Flowers’ stature tends to be a big culprit for his struggles in allowing rushers to get by him. Flowers though, appears to have shed some pounds.

Given his weight loss, as well as the fact that he’s been working out in East Rutherford all offseason long, the Giants could very well be seeing a new and improved Flowers this upcoming season.

Flowers has without a doubt not lived up to being the ninth overall selectee in the 2015 NFL Draft, but the only way his career can go from here on out is up. Many view him as their biggest liability, but given the overwhelming amount of criticism he has dealt with, he’s essentially hit rock bottom. He now, has nothing to lose. If he can stand his ground  this season, Flowers can only help the Giants’ offensive line, as well as their offense as a whole; that makes him the X Factor of the Giants’ offense in 2017.

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop - part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos