The beating Ereck Flowers has taken on the field during the first two games of this season is nothing compared to the beating he's taken from the media and the fans.
Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said Tuesday that Flowers is "absolutely" still the starting left tackle.
And his teammate, Justin Pugh, thinks it's time for everyone to get off the young Flowers' back.
Pugh, the Giants' longest tenured offensive linemen, offered a passionate defense of his 23-year-old teammate after he struggled again in the Giants' 24-10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday night. Pugh is clearly tired of seeing everyone blame Flowers for all of the offensive line's issues. He thinks it's unfair, and wants the world to spread criticism around.
"The NFL is tough to play tackle, I can tell you that first hand," said Pugh, who has played both guard and tackle in his four-plus seasons in the league. "And playing left tackle in the NFL is very, very hard. So everyone wants to come and take shots at Ereck and that's trying to kick someone when they're down. He knows he didn't do what he was supposed to do tonight. He's 23 years old going out there trying to do everything he can.
"It hurts me to see one of my teammates, someone I try to help out, to see him get beat up like that. Because it's tough to go out there and play that position. I didn't play great. Go put my film on. It's five guys. We can help him out. We can do a better job. When it comes to offensive line play it's all five of us, it's not one person. So if you're going to come bash us, don't bash one guy."
Pugh is right that he didn't play great, and neither did the Giants' offensive line in general. Giants coach Ben McAdoo admitted quarterback Eli Manning was "under duress all night" and the Giants never figured out how to fix that.
Part of the problem, McAdoo said, was that right tackle Bobby Hart reinjured his ankle two plays into the game, which made him move Pugh from left guard to right tackle and put Brett Jones in at left guard. McAdoo said he tried to put blocking help on Pugh's side since he was the one switching positions. But that, in turn, left Flowers alone and exposed.
And the result was predictable: Constant pressure from the left side, including three sacks by Ziggy Ansah right over Flowers.
Flowers not only was getting beat, he looked beaten when he was sitting on the sideline. But if his confidence had taken a hit, his teammates said they couldn't tell.
"No, I think he's out there competing like everybody," Manning said. "This isn't one person. This is a team. This is an offense that all of us have to perform at a higher level."
And that was Pugh's point, too - It's everybody, not just Flowers.
"You guys (in the media) beat him up and put that out there, that makes every single fan come right at him, when not everyone knows what's really going on," Pugh said. "You guys got to do your job and he's obviously got to do his job and I've got to do my job. That's the tough part about it. The mental side of it is they keep beating you down and beating you down, you want to go out there and play well. And he will. He's got to get that confidence.
"You can go put the film on and look at their left tackle (Detroit's Greg Robinson). OV (Olivier Vernon) was having a good time against him. If we get up and they get down, everyone's pointing at that kid instead of our left tackle.
"He's a human being. We're all human beings. I'm looking forward to picking my brother up."