The seat was not by choice but rather assigned and so, dutifully, Will Hernandez, plopped himself down in the offensive line meeting room right next to Ereck Flowers. The rookie guard did not know Flowers but heard things about him because, well, everyone hears things in this day and age.
“A lot of random, different stuff online or whatever,’’ Hernandez told The Post after Tuesday’s minicamp practice.
What Hernandez learned, firsthand, “was really surprising’’ because it did not match Flowers’ sight-unseen reputation.
“I sat down next to him he was extremely helpful with me,’’ Hernandez said. “He talked to me, he tried to coach me up, he tried to help me out a lot, so I love the guy. I’m glad he’s here, I’m glad he’s right there next to me in the meeting room. I’m glad he’s my teammate.’’
The characterization of Ereck Flowers as a positive influence is in direct conflict with the reality of his first three years with the Giants. He proved he was dependable, as far as lining up and playing and mostly undependable with everything else. He was not a quality left tackle — certainly not befitting the No. 9 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft — relying on his size and brute strength to overcome his glaring technique failings, in terms of footwork and hand placement. He was not a great teammate, uninterested in the camaraderie-building required on the offensive line.
“You want your O-line to be its own little dysfunctional family,’’ tight end Rhett Ellison said. “Like brothers to each other.’’
Last year’s line was not close. Flowers and Bobby Hart sat together on one side of the locker room, surrounded by defensive players. Center Weston Richburg was on the same side of the room as Hart and Flowers but isolated from all the other offensive linemen. Justin Pugh, John Jerry and Brett Jones were grouped together on the other side of the room. The group was fractured, did not enjoy socializing together.
“There were a lot of things going on last year,’’ Ellison said of the 2017 offensive line.
It was no shock Dave Gettleman’s first moves after he was hired as general manager were the release of Hart, benching of Flowers for the regular-season finale and a promise to fix the offensive line. He signed Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh in free agency and in the second round of the draft selected Hernandez. When Flowers inexplicably was a no-show for the first month of the voluntary workout program — he was upset about moving to right tackle to accommodate Solder — Gettleman dangled Flowers on the trade market but got no takers, not even a seventh-round pick.
Retired Giants offensive linemen had no use for Flowers. Pat Flaherty, the popular offensive line coach for the past two Super Bowl teams, was not retained by Ben McAdoo, a dismissal the former Giants viewed as mostly the fault of Flowers’ lack of development. Some players are coach-killers.
“The challenge is his job’s on the line,’’ said David Diehl, the former starting left tackle and two-time Super Bowl champion. “I mean, let’s face it, he’s had every opportunity to prove why he was a first-round draft pick and it’s not about what anybody says now. He has to prove that he is a viable tackle in the NFL and basically, his livelihood’s on the line.’’
Fans wanted Flowers gone but, with no obvious replacement on the roster, the Giants want him to earn the starting right tackle job in what most likely will be his final year with the team. There is a sense this last chance could produce a credible season.
“I see him improving and I see a guy that enjoys training,’’ said head coach Pat Shurmur, who seems at ease dealing with reclamation projects. “He’s fit in well with the new players on the offensive line. I know he’s a tough guy.’’
Already, those on the scene see a difference.
“They’re a lot closer than they were last year,’’ Ellison said of the offensive line. “They want to be a unit and they want to be around each other so that’s pretty cool to see.’’
As for Flowers, Ellison said, “I like him at right tackle. He’s a strong dude, he’s an athletic dude.’’
Perhaps the light has finally gone on for Flowers and this will all work out.
“If I wouldn’t have known he played left tackle last year, I would have assumed [right tackle] was his natural position, because he looks good in it right away,’’ Hernandez said. “Honestly, I think he’s great.’’
The Giants need more from Flowers than looking great in the spring, but it is a start.
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