The New York Giants decided to make a change on the offensive line hoping it could help bring life to the offense against the Houston Texans. Head coach Pat Shurmur benched right tackle Ereck Flowers, feeling it was time to give second-year player Chad Wheeler a chance.
Flowers, a 2015 first-round pick out of Miami (FL), started 48 games for the Giants. After three years at left tackle, he was moved to right tackle in the offseason.
Ironically enough, Flowers didn’t play a terrible game in the Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He was matched up against Demarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys’ best pass rusher, and held him in check for most of the game. The decision to move Wheeler into the starting lineup was more about Wheeler improving rather than Flowers regressing.
“It’s probably more about Chad and less about Ereck,” Shurmur said after the Giants’ 27-22 win. “I just felt like it was time for Chad to get an opportunity to play. It’s super-important that those guys (on the offensive line) play hard and play together, and they did that. A couple of times (Wheeler) got beat, but Chad fought his way through it. I thought, for the most part, he competed and battled.”
Shurmur refused to call the decision to move Flowers out of the starting lineup a “benching”.
Wheeler played collegiately at USC but he went undrafted. The Giants signed him the day after the 2017 NFL Draft was completed. Wheeler was known for having solid technique throughout college but didn’t possess prototypical strength and size (6-foot-7, 312 pounds). He also doesn’t possess the desired height-to-weight ratio for an offensive tackle.
The Giants offense had new life against Houston. They scored on their first four drives and built a 20-6 going into halftime. Eli Manning had much more time to operate than he had in the previous two games. He looked comfortable completing 25 of 29 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. The ground game functioned well also. As a team, the Giants rushed for 114 yards. Saquon Barkley had 82 yards on 17 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run.
Wheeler deserves credit for both phases of the offense improving. The Giants gave him a good amount of help in the form of tight ends. However, the key for Wheeler was maintaining his balance and leverage when engaging with defenders. This has always been a weakness of Flowers’.
Wheeler certainly had his ups and downs against Houston. That is expected when he spent an afternoon trying to block defensive end and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Watt’s three sacks of Manning were his first sacks in more than two years and ended an eight-game streak without a sack dating back to 2016.
Manning had nothing but praise for Wheeler.
“I thought Chad did a good job,” Manning said. “(Shurmur) did a good job mixing in some quick passes and some tempo stuff and got (Wheeler) going and got him in good shape.”
Manning also didn’t blame Wheeler for the three sacks.
“J.J., he’s going to make plays,” Manning said. “He does that to everybody. I told Chad to just keep competing, keep fighting. I thought he did a good job. I thought he held his own.”
Even Watt gave Wheeler some encouragement after the game.
“Great game,” Watt told him. “Good job. Good luck.”
Shurmur would not comment on if Wheeler would start Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium.
– Christian Morell is a Contributor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL and the New York Giants. Please like and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Christian can be followed on Twitter @CMorellNFL.