Sticking Justin Pugh on the other side of the New York Giants’ offensive line was exactly what Ereck Flowers needed.
It’s safe to say at this point that New York Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers is simply not good enough to start in the NFL, at least at left tackle. He lacks the speed to keep up with skilled pass rushers and has still yet to learn how to consistently use his size to his advantage in the run game. He was supposed to be the X-factor this season—he’s failed miserably in that role.
The hope was that the team would be able to use Rhett Ellison to help Flowers deal with speed rushers. That didn’t happen for two reasons: Head coach Ben McAdoo didn’t put Ellison on the field much and when he did, the tight end needed to help on the right side with Bobby Hart also struggling.
While these problems could have been somewhat solved by drafting Ryan Ramczyk over Evan Engram, there’s an argument to be made that not drafting him was the right idea. However, ever since the Giants moved Justin Pugh to right tackle and removed Hart from the line, Flowers’ play has improved.
Moving Pugh to right tackle has helped Flowers on the left side.
The simple fact is that you can’t cover up for two bad tackles on your offensive line. It would take away way too much of your gameplan, would leave the quarterback with only three options to pass to and would allow teams to stack the box against the run.
Pugh isn’t an elite-level offensive lineman and may be better as a guard than as a tackle. However, he is something that Bobby Hart isn’t: capable. He can hold his own against pass rushers one-on-one and can help seal off the right side. This is huge for the Giants, as it allows them to adjust their gameplan to not leave Flowers exposed.
Pugh allows them to put a tight end on the line next to Flowers to help block the speed rushers who can usually get around him. He allows them to have a running back chip the edge rusher that Flowers is blocking while they’re running out to the flat. In short, they can leave Pugh alone and be reasonably confident that they’ll have enough time to allow a play to develop.
The stats have shown this as well. Flowers has been charged with 4.5 sacks against this season. However, three of those came against the Lions, when Hart was still at right tackle and Flowers was matched up with Ziggy Ansah. That’s a tough matchup for any tackle, especially one who struggles as much as Flowers.
Allowing 1.5 sacks over seven other games isn’t great, but it’s not awful, either. While it isn’t ideal to have to scheme to help your left tackle, it’s what the Giants are stuck with. While the season is on its way down the tubes at 1-7, blocking is still very important.
Eli Manning hasn’t missed a game since he took over as the starter during his rookie season, but he’s now 36 and has never been a mobile quarterback. There are only so many hits he can take, and the team would like to keep him alive for the last eight games.
And should Manning be forced to miss time, the team would be turning to either Geno Smith, who had injury problems with the Jets, or Davis Webb, who has never taken a snap in the NFL and would presumably need even more time to go through his progressions than Manning does. Thus the importance of keeping the quarterback standing, even in a lost season.
This isn’t to say Flowers is the long-term answer at left tackle, or that he should be the starter entering next season. However, for the final eight games, he appears to be the Giants’ best option. As long as Pugh is around on the right side, Flowers should be able to keep the quarterback alive. At this point, that’s all you can hope for from him.