EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants have remained steadfastly committed to Ereck Flowers as their starting left tackle all spring and summer long. But on Wednesday afternoon, the door opened just a crack for a possible change.
Late in practice, Chad Wheeler, an undrafted rookie from USC, replaced Flowers with the first team offensive line and took the final three reps of full-team drills. The 23-year-old Flowers wasn't hurt, and there had been no previous signs of a regular rotation at tackle during the summer.
Asked why Wheeler suddenly got some starters reps, Giants coach Ben McAdoo said "I wanted to look at him."
So how did he do? The results of the short sample were definitely mixed.
"He jumped in there and got beat like a drum on the first play," McAdoo said. "After that he hung in there nicely."
The first play was ugly. Wheeler was torched by Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon and the 6-7, 306-pounder had to grab him from behind to prevent him from getting in quarterback Eli Manning's face. The officials at practice threw a flag for the obvious holding penalty. But on the next two snaps, Wheeler seemed to do OK.
"I see a young, talented player," McAdoo said. "He's a physical player. He's a young player that can bend well. He's working on the fundamental part of the game. He seems to get football."
Wheeler did get a few more first-team reps during the walkthrough portion of practice, but at that point, Brett Jones was in at center and D.J. Fluker was in at right guard, too. That could simply be preparation for the Giants' preseason opener on Friday night when some of the starters are likely to be pulled from the game quickly and others might not play at all.
But the three first-team reps Wheeler got could be the start of an extended look at that position. The Giants still appear committed to Flowers, their former first-round pick. But unless he improves dramatically over last season, there's an opening to Wheeler to at least earn a shot at winning that job.