EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Ereck Flowers definitely looks a little learner, and everyone has indicated that his work ethic and techiques are also much-improved.
But when the pads finally come on and the games start to matter, will any of that mean that Flowers is any better?
That's the big question for the former first-round pick, and it's an absolutely enormous question for a Giants team that will head into the summer with Super Bowl dreams. Their offense sputtered last season behind an offensive line that struggled, especially at left tackle where Flowers was supposed to be their anchor. Then they spent the offseason not upgrading their line at all.
They are counting on improvement, and they especially seem to be banking on a breakout season from the 23-year-old Flowers. But even he knows all the praise he's gotten this offseason is just background noise until the hitting begins.
"I've gotten better," Flowers said as the Giants wrapped up minicamp on Thursday. "Then again we're not in pads."
No they are not, and won't be until sometime after the Giants report for training camp on July 27. But at least Flowers made a strong impression on everyone this offseason, following his generally poor play last season. He stayed in New Jersey to work out with the Giants' starting right tackle Bobby Hart, and by all accounts is in better shape than he was in his first two seasons.
Flowers said he "dropped a few pounds" but he didn't know how many, nor did he know if his body percentage had lowered. He did say that "this has probably been the smartest I've worked in the offseason, just from diet to specific things I targeted in the weight room."
The result, he said, was that "I feel good. Feel better. Feel a little quicker."
And hopefully all that will help.
"I think a big part of that is the ability to have the initial quickness," Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "When we talk about leaner, we certainly don't want a guy walking around at a buck-eighty (180 pounds). We know that he's going to have that size. Just being able to change direction, to redirect, to react to the defender's second move, those types of things, that type of quickness. But he has also added some strength and some of those things which should help him."
There's a lot of hope in what Sullivan said, and in how the Giants feel about Flowers. Some of that is because he was the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft and another poor season will make him quite the bust. And some of that is because there's nothing else the Giants can do but hope. The only veteran lineman they signed during the offseason was D.J. Fluker, who is slated to play guard. And they didn't draft another tackle until Adam Bisnowaty in the sixth round, and he's currently working at right tackle.
Indeed, when Flowers got "sore" on Wednesday and missed the last half of practice, he was replaced on the first team by Chad Wheeler, an undrafted rookie from USC.
So yes, Flowers is their best hope. The Giants are stuck trying to fix their offense while riding Flowers and the 22-year-old Hart as the tackles entrusted with protecting their 36-year-old quarterback, Eli Manning. And despite the fact that they didn't do a very good job of that last season, the Giants believe that the two young players will be much better in the future.
Flowers, who didn't say much during his first interview with the media since before last season ended, did indicate that he agreed.
"What makes me believe that?" Flowers said. "I mean what's the point of being out there if you don't believe in yourself?"