HOUSTON — In a make-or-break Week 3, Ereck Flowers will not start at right tackle for the Giants on Sunday, sources have told the Daily News.
Chad Wheeler, the undrafted second-year pro out of USC, will replace the embattled former first-round pick Flowers in the starting lineup against the Texans.
The Giants (0-2) hope Wheeler will help keep Eli Manning upright against J.J. Watt and Co. and give them a chance for their first win under new coach Pat Shurmur.
Flowers, 24, the Giants’ ninth overall pick in 2015, has done nothing these first two weeks to instill confidence that he would be able to handle Watt and Houston’s defensive front.
He has been as big a liability at right tackle the first two weeks of this season as he was at left tackle for the first three years of his career.
This is the second time in the Giants’ last three regular season games that Wheeler, 24, has started over Flowers.
In Week 17 last season under interim coach Steve Spagnuolo, Flowers was benched and Bobby Hart was released reportedly for refusing to play. Wheeler took Flowers’ spot at left tackle and helped the Giants beat Washington behind a season-high 260 rushing yards.
This season, GM Dave Gettleman moved Flowers to the right side but the experiment already has failed.
Manning was sacked six times last Sunday night in Dallas, fumbling the ball away once. There were plenty of culprits, including fullback Shane Smith, who Gettleman promptly released on Wednesday for his two sacks allowed.
But Flowers has been to blame plenty and can’t be relied upon in this big a spot in Houston.
In Week 3 of last season, for example, with the Giants 0-2 and on the ropes in Philadelphia and the game tied 24-24 with 51 seconds to play, Flowers committed back-to-back illegal shift and holding penalties that cost the offense 15 yards.
That forced a punt that Brad Wing shanked, which was followed by a 19-yard Carson Wentz completion to Alshon Jeffrey, who got out of bounds. And that was followed by Jake Elliott’s buzzer-beating 61-yard field goal that essentially ended the Giants’ season.
The game should have gone to overtime at least. Flowers was a major reason it didn’t.
Going into that Philly game, in fact, then-coach Ben McAdoo had been forced to change his entire offense’s rhythm to quick, short, predictable throws and a hurry-up scheme to compensate for the lack of pass protection his line, especially Flowers, was affording Manning.
Gettleman should have moved on from Flowers this offseason, or at least not handed him a starting job without much competition. The Giants reportedly were open to trading Flowers during April’s draft but wanted a mid-round pick in return, and no team would pay that price.
Flowers has started 48 of 50 regular season games since the Giants drafted him, but the experiment is over. The season is on the line.
Shurmur played Wheeler at right tackle almost all preseason to get him acclimated for just this type of situation. Left tackle is Wheeler’s natural position, so in his audition to be the lone swing tackle, Wheeler played mostly on the right in August and passed the test.