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Preseason preview: Ereck Flowers needs to step up tonight

The New York Giants, and specifically maligned left tackle Ereck Flowers, are about to get a crash course in readiness over the next 11 days, as starting with tonight’s preseason matchup with the Cleveland Browns, kicks off a stretch of three games in that time span.

Flowers, the No. 9 pick in the 2015 National Football League draft, will be under fire, beginning tonight in Cleveland.

It’s a primetime matchup on ESPN for all the country to see. And with tonight being the first live action of the summer for quarterback Eli Manning, for Flowers, who’s been under fire since midway through his rookie season, this a great test to show Big Blue backers that he literally has Manning’s back.

Manning, should he remain upright against a frisky Browns defense, should acquit himself nicely, as usual. But that’ll largely be up to Flowers, if he’s up to the task. All eyes will be set upon the marquee matchup between the embattled tackle and this past draft’s No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Myles Garrett of Texas A&M University.

Giants head coach Ben McAdoo reasoned that Flowers “played well” last week in the team’s preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but this will be Flowers’s first game against a big-name pass rusher.

Garrett was the consensus top pick in the draft, a rare no-brainer which most scouts were high on – especially after registering 31 sacks and 47 tackles for a loss in three seasons at A&M. And since he overcame a nagging injury early in organized team activities [OTAs], he’s been getting rave reviews from his teammates and coaches.

“He is the one that has jumped out and fit in faster than any of the other ones, and I have had some really, really good ones,” Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said when asked where Garrett stacks up to other first-round picks he has coached. Williams’s praise is high because he’s coached such stellar rookies like the late-great safety Sean Taylor and cornerback Carlos Rogers with the Washington Redskins and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the Los Angeles Rams.

McAdoo is also keen on Garrett, but is confident his guy can hold his own.

“He’s a talented young player. Very rangy, tremendous skill set. First pick in the draft, [and] that says a lot,” McAdoo said of the Browns rookie. “I’m excited [about the matchup]. We have good competition going at the offensive tackle spot, and Cleveland has some good rushers. So, I’m excited to get out there on a big stage for a preseason game and see how we perform.”

Flowers has actually had an up-and-down camp so far, with some very good practices mixed in with lackluster performances. Since OTAs, Giants coaches and players have pumped up Flowers for his extra commitment to improving his footwork and conditioning. The time to face an elite pass rusher is almost upon him, with an 8 p.m. kickoff.

But the good news for Flowers is that he faces a top-flight defense – and elite edge pass rushers – every day in practice, so if he can keep up with the likes of defensive ends Jason PierrePaul and Olivier Vernon, he should be able to at least hold Garrett to a standstill.

The Giants have publicly backed their guy, and showed that faith by not chasing one of the available veteran free agents this offseason, so tonight will mark whether the former University of Miami product will reward the team’s faith. All the public verbal bouquets are nice, but the Giants hope their optimism is well-founded and not just wishful thinking.

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