Andrew Thomas ‘curse’ is behind his concerning Giants start
Andrew Thomas was drafted first but is performing worst.
Scouts, executives and analysts couldn’t reach a consensus when ranking the four premier offensive tackles in the 2020 NFL Draft class. Against that risky backdrop, the Giants made Thomas the first off the board, leaving Jedrick Wills for the Browns, Mekhi Becton for the Jets and Tristan Wirfs for the Buccaneers within the top 15 picks.
Early returns are cause for concern.
Thomas allowed six pressures — second-most among all NFL offensive linemen in Week 4 — and two sacks Sunday against the Rams, according to Pro Football Focus. With five sacks allowed, he is graded No. 66 among 72 tackles, while Wirfs (No. 24), Becton (No. 26) and Wills (No. 46) are faring better.
“Obviously he’s a guy who has a tremendous amount of potential, and that’s why we brought him in here,” coach Joe Judge said. “He’s been baptized by fire this first part of the season. He’s seen a lot of elite edge-rushers. He’s seen a lot of multiples come at him. They’re trying to attack him as a rookie and see what he can handle.”
“Technique” is a buzz word frequently thrown around by the Giants to explain offensive line struggles. More to the point with the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Thomas?
“His biggest flaw is he doesn’t play with his feet in the ground,” NFL Network film analyst Brian Baldinger told The Post. “He’s always hopping, and he’s always on one foot. It’s the same way he played [in college] at Georgia. So it doesn’t matter how big he is or how athletic. It’s actually a curse because he constantly is off-balance.”
The Giants pre-planned to insert rookie third-round pick Matt Peart at right tackle for a series against the Rams. That required taking their highest-graded offensive lineman through four games (Cam Fleming) off the field.
“We didn’t pull Cam Fleming,” Judge said. “We didn’t take him out for something that happened within the game.”
If it was a performance-based benching, it would be difficult to justify pulling Fleming instead of Thomas. Except for the bad optics associated with benching the No. 4-overall pick.
“I couldn’t care less how you got here,” Judge said. “I don’t care if you’re a first-round pick or if you just walked in off the street yesterday. I’m never going to make a decision based on optics. Matt’s worked a lot on the right side in practice, so that’s just simply where we put him.”
If Nate Solder had not opted out of the season due to COVID-19, Thomas would be starting at right tackle, Fleming would be on the bench and Peart would be buried. The Giants want to continue sprinkling in Peart as a way of development, which could put Thomas in the crosshairs as the odd man out for short spurts if he doesn’t improve.
“The one place you can’t get beat is inside,” Baldinger said. “He is oversetting, so he is trying to compensate. You want to keep your feet in the ground and slide in front of your man. If you drop a big step and open the gate, you can’t stop the inside charge.”
The Rams also exposed the Giants’ issues handling defensive line stunts. Thomas and left guard Will Hernandez were on different levels rather than side-to-side — Thomas too deep and Hernandez too shallow — leaving Daniel Jones susceptible to big hits like the one delivered by Michael Brockers.
Thomas is far from the only problem with the offensive line. And the offensive line is far from the only reason the Giants have allowed 14 sacks: Jones is holding the ball too long and receivers are not gaining enough separation.
But Thomas is supposed to be an answer — and still can be.
“Four games is just four games,” Baldinger said, and plenty of good tackles have endured rough rookie moments that proved to be an overreaction as their movements become more fluid.
“He’s done a lot of things very, very positively,” Judge said. “There are some other things that, like with any rookie, he has to learn from and correct. We’re not going to write him a pass for being a young guy or being a rookie or not having a preseason. That’s not the way we operate here. But I’m very pleased with the way he’s working.”
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