EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was all there again for a national audience to see. New York Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers continued to struggle with his pass protection, a problem that has plagued him since he came into the league in 2015.
Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah exposed the third-year tackle in Monday night’s 24-10 victory over the Giants. Ansah had three sacks of Eli Manning in the game after finishing with two sacks all of last season.
That hasn't changed the Giants’ sales pitch on Flowers, which began in April and has continued into the season. They are sticking by the left tackle they loudly declared to be in better shape and greatly improved, no matter the depth of his struggles.
When asked if the Giants contemplated benching Flowers during Monday night’s debacle, coach Ben McAdoo only said they talked about giving him more help. But there has to be a breaking point, right?
“It’s more than one player,” McAdoo said.
It’s true. The entire Giants offense hasn’t played well. They have scored only 13 points and haven’t reached 100 yards rushing in the two games combined. There is a lot of blame to go around, but in this case it begins with the offensive line, which was neglected by general manager Jerry Reese this offseason. The face of it all is the No. 9 overall pick in 2015, especially after allowing three sacks in a nationally televised contest.
Justin Pugh knows what it’s like, but the fifth-year lineman has his teammate's back.
“I’ve been in his shoes before. I was in Philly my second year in the league and gave up four sacks in a game, got beat 38-0,” Pugh said. “The NFL is tough to play tackle. I can tell you that firsthand. And to play left tackle in the NFL is very, very hard.
"So everyone wants to come and take shots at Ereck and that is trying to kick somebody while he’s down. He knows he didn’t do what he’s supposed to do [Monday night]. He’s 23 years old trying to go out there and do everything he can. It hurts me to see one of my teammates, somebody I try to help out, and see him get beat up like that because it’s tough to go out there and play that position. I didn’t play great. Go put my film on. It’s five guys. We can help him out. We can do a better job. We can run the ball better. So when it comes to offensive line play, it’s all five of us. It’s not one person. So if you’re going to come bash us, don’t bash one guy."
The line is taking its fair share of the criticism pie that is being passed around the table. So is the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. Nobody is immune when things start like they have for the Giants’ offense this season.
But Flowers is exposed more than most right now. Pugh knows that can be tough on a young tackle.
“That’s the hardest part. It’s the mental aspect of the game,” Pugh said. “No fault to [the media], you have to write what you have to write, but when you guys beat him up and put it out there, that makes every single fan come right at him when not everyone knows what is really going on. So you guys gotta do your job. He’s gotta do his job. I’ve gotta do my job. That is the tough part of it.
“The mental side of it is they beat you down, beat you down, and you want to go out there and play well. And he will. He just has to get that confidence and we start playing football complementary again. We run the ball, don’t get in third-and-long, don’t get all these pressures and looks. When you’re doing that, everyone looks a lot better.”
Flowers wasn’t the only left tackle struggling Monday night. But since the Lions were able to win, Greg Robinson's struggles take a back seat. He was flagged for three penalties when lined across from Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon.
It’s not unique to the Giants, either. Poor offensive line play has been an epidemic across the league throughout the first two weeks of the season.
“You can go look at their left tackle from Detroit. OV was having a good time against him,” Pugh said. “If we get up and not down, everyone is pointing out that kid instead of our left tackle. Like I said, [Flowers is] a human being. We’re all human beings. I’m looking forward to picking my brother up."
At least Flowers has that. The Giants still have his back, even though fan support seems close to nonexistent.