The safe choice. A plug-and-play starter. Not going to bust.
Those descriptions were the most commonly attached to Giants rookie Andrew Thomas before the 2020 draft, when personnel evaluators across the NFL couldn’t reach a consensus ranking on the four premier offensive tackles. But Thomas was said to have the highest floor for his future — a draw for a general manager under win-now pressure and a franchise scarred by recent whiffs in the top 10.
So, it’s cruel that the Giants are in a position they acted to avoid: Thomas leading the league in quarterback pressures allowed. Requiring weekly votes of confidence from coach Joe Judge as it appears a better rookie option in Matt Peart is on the bench. Critics asking if the No. 4 pick is a flop like Ereck Flowers and Eli Apple instead of a blue-chip building block.
Who could’ve seen this coming?
“Andrew Thomas was the most risky,” future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas told The Post. “With an offensive lineman’s eye, you look at him right away and say, ‘He has a lot of room to grow, and he needs a ton of work and reps.’ [Others] were basing it on accolades not game film, playing in the SEC and tons of starts. He checked a lot of the boxes that typically have not failed for offensive tackles, but then you watch the tape and clearly see biomechanically he doesn’t match up to those other guys.”
Joe Thomas is an analyst for NFL Network who made the Pro Bowl in the first 10 of his 11 seasons with the Browns and set a NFL record with 10,363 consecutive snaps played. He studied college tape on Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs — all of whom were top-15 draft picks.
“When I watched Andrew, I saw a guy with a lot of potential — great athlete, big, strong, fast, moves extremely well, all the things that get you to be a top-15 draft pick as an offensive tackle,” Joe said. “But he was the least natural from a technique standpoint. If you watch offensive linemen, when they get in a bad position — because they eventually will — can they recover? That was the big thing that concerned me with Andrew.”
Technique is an offensive line buzzword. More specifics, please.
“He gets his shoulder pads way out over his toes a lot,” Joe Thomas said. “You see him bending at his waist. He’s got to learn to be an ankle- and a knee-bender, which takes time. He leaned on guys a lot. You could see the quickness in his feet, but he wasn’t natural in reacting to the defense. You get away with a lot of that playing in college when you are a bigger, stronger, more athletic version of the guy you are going against.”
Expectations around the league were that young offensive linemen would be most adversely affected by the COVID-19-canceled spring workouts. Andrew — a two-time All-American with 37 starts at Georgia — is the embodiment of that.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman liked that Andrew Thomas had a “hell of a pedigree” and a personality, but also singled out length, open-field athleticism and, yes, ability to bend from studying tape.
“It’s the position that takes the most drill and practice with contact,” Joe Thomas said. “As a rookie, I learned so much in that OTAs and minicamp period. They lost all of that. The number of good reps Andrew has had up until this point is probably equivalent to where I was about the 10th OTA or minicamp after I got drafted.”
The red flag is other rookies are responding better under the same difficult circumstances. Andrew Thomas has allowed 37 quarterback pressures and six sacks, whereas Wirfs, Wills and Becton entered Sunday with 27 pressures and five sacks allowed combined.
“I can see significant improvement from where he was in college,” Joe Thomas said. “I can see the foundation being built. But I still see him getting into that position where his pass set looks really good, he’s at the point of contact where I think things are going to go really well, and then all of a sudden he reverts to the bad habits and the guy is around you before you even realize it. I think he is going to figure it out with those reps, but he hasn’t proven it yet.”
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