2015's rookie standouts aim to improve in year 2

Posted Jun 6, 2016

Ereck Flowers and Landon Collins look to build off of their impact rookie seasons: 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Ereck Flowers is wearing jersey No. 74 this year after donning No. 76 a rookie last season.

"That’s what I wore in college and that’s what I want to continue to wear,” Flowers said today. “It’s just back to the basics. I love seeing 74.”

Flowers’ old/new number – worn last year by the departed Geoff Schwartz – isn’t all that’s behind his increased comfort level. After starting all 15 games in which he played at left tackle, Flowers knows he can play at a high level in the NFL, and is eager to improve.

“I know the plays, I know the system,” said Flowers, the ninth overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. “As a rookie, you don’t really know anything. So it’s definitely a lot better now the second go-around, a lot better than not knowing anything coming in.”


Traveling the same path as Flowers is Landon Collins, the team’s second-round draft choice last year. Collins started all 16 games at free safety and led the team with 108 tackles. Both are impressive facts, but Collins is far ahead of where he was a year ago.

“Landon Collins now is very confident in himself and very knowing - very understanding of the situation and progress with what he’s learned,” Collins said when asked to compare the Landon Collins of a year ago to the player of today. “If you saw him this past year, his standard of playing is elevated. Last year, Landon was kind of out there just trying to make plays and going through the motions, just trying not to mess up. So that’s probably the biggest thing - you could say that last year I was kind of lost, and just trying to figure it out as the season went on.”

Like Flowers, Collins has been a more comfortable and confident player in the Giants’ organized team activities.

“After seeing things and going through a lot of stuff last year, now it’s basically kind of second nature,” he said. “It’s like, ‘I’ve seen this before, I know what’s going to happen or what the outcome of this situation, so let me just play it this way and put myself in the best situation to make a play.’”

Flowers was lauded throughout his rookie season not only for his fine play, but also his toughness. He was bothered by a sore ankle (that forced him to miss one game) and other minor injuries, but refused to stay off the field.

“I knew that I could play (in the NFL),” Flowers said. “I played last year with a lot nagging things. But I really found out what it’s like to play injured in this league. That’s one thing I’ll say that I really learned. All in all, I feel great right now. I feel a lot better this year. I’m more comfortable knowing the plays and knowing the system. I’m definitely ready to go this year.”


Although their attitudes and experiences are similar, Flowers and Collins are in very different situations this spring. Flowers is lining up with the same players he did a year ago, as the Giants are returning all five starting linemen from last year. Collins, meanwhile, is getting accustomed to a new group of safeties.

“The best lines always have been together for a while,” Flowers said of working with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse. “Look at Green Bay; Dallas is on their third or fourth year together. That just comes with time. I think this year we’ll definitely be a lot better than we were last year, being that we all know each other, we know different things, we’re on the same accord, and we’re not all new to each other.”

Last year, Brandon Meriweather (12 games) and Craig Dahl (four) started at free safety opposite Collins. They are no longer with the team. The new safety group includes three players who were injured all of last season – Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson and Mykkele Thompson – and third-round draft choice Darian Thompson. Collins, with 16 games of experience, is now the elder statesman in the back of the defense. He says he’s well-suited for the role.

“I definitely like helping other guys out,” Collins said. “Once you get to know it (the defense), and once you get it under your belt, then you figure where you can get help. Then the coaches constantly give you more and more help with the defense, and where you can help out everywhere. You pass it on to your guys that are behind you and when they go on the field, it’s like second nature to them.”

Flowers and Collins admit they made plenty of mental errors last season, as many rookies do. They all but guarantee to reduce them this year.

“I’ve cut down the worst,” Collins said. “Starting all 16 games last year was a privilege, and it’s an honor. And it gives me the knowledge of the game, it gives me the knowledge of every player and every team, and anybody I went against last year. And for the new teams that we’ll play this year, it gives me the knowledge to see things that I went through last year against a team, and if I can compare that to a team that we’re going to play this year, I’ll know what’s going to happen and I’ll have a step ahead.”

“I think that’s something that everybody learns,” Flowers said. “Nobody is perfect, so you just try to minimize them as much as you can. I feel a lot more comfortable. I’m just looking forward to the season and getting some wins.”