- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the New York Giants took the field for their first practice of training camp, the first-team offensive line alignment was the same one they used in organized team activities and minicamp. Rookie Ereck Flowers was the first-team left tackle in place of the injured Will Beatty. Justin Pugh was at left guard, Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.
Now, that doesn't mean that's for-sure the starting offensive line for Week 1 in Dallas. But with Beatty out until at least November while recovering from surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, it seems the Giants want to give this year's first-round draft pick every opportunity to show he's ready to handle the all-important left tackle spot right away.
"What we'd like to see him do is just take off in this circumstance and become the player we know he can be, grasp things as fast as he can and move quickly from all the spring work and the experience he had there and into what we're going to face right now," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Flowers after Friday's practice. "We want him to just take off at that spot."
The Giants drafted Flowers with the No. 9 overall pick in this year's draft because they believed he could play left tackle in the NFL at some point in the future. With Beatty at left tackle, they believed they could ease Flowers in, either at right tackle or in a backup role, while he developed into a franchise left tackle down the road. But once Beatty got hurt in May, Flowers became the Giants' best option as Eli Manning's blindside protector -- whether he's ready or not.
The Giants remain in contact with former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long, a free-agent tackle who's recovering from a second ACL surgery in as many years, and could still add him or another veteran to the tackle mix before the end of camp. Newhouse was signed as a backup and is no sure thing at right tackle, after all. But the Giants are working Flowers at left tackle with the first-team and second-team offensive lines because they want to accelerate his learning curve in the hope he can handle the job starting in Week 1.
"I'm confident in Ereck," said Pugh, the 2013 first-rounder who started at right tackle right away as a rookie and played there last year before being moved to guard this spring. "He's a great player. We drafted him ninth overall for a reason, and I think he's going to show that to people. To come in and play as a rookie right away, it's really just getting an understanding of the plays inside and out. I think that's going to be the biggest obstacle for him. It was for me. So we're just here for him to lean on us, and I think we'll be all right."
In other first-team lineup news, the Giants used Cooper Taylor and rookie Landon Collins as their starting safeties Friday. Collins and Nat Berhe, who's one of several other candidates for a starting role, both said the team isn't playing "free" and "strong" safeties right now but is instead splitting the field and asking each safety to take one half. At some point, they'd like to have a free safety who can fill the role of on-field organizer on the back end. But so far no one has seized that role.
The first-team defensive line with Jason Pierre-Paul still missing had George Selvie and Robert Ayers at defensive end and Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins at the tackle spots. The first-team linebackers were Jon Beason in the middle with J.T. Thomas and Devon Kennard on the outside. Most of the team drills were conducted in a base 4-3 formation, but when they went to 7-on-7s it appeared Trumaine McBride and Chykie Brown were taking turns as the nickel cornerback.
Larry Donnell, who missed minicamp with an Achilles injury, is still the starting tight end. But as was the case with receivers Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr., who are coming back from injuries, he rotated out a few times and gave away some snaps to Jerome Cunningham.
It was worth noting that Schwartz and Beason, who were limited in the spring with injuries, appeared to take all of their respective first-team reps.