The New York Giants have been in search of a viable answer at left tackle for what feels like forever at this point. General Manager Dave Gettleman swung for the fences during his first offseason at the helm in New York, doling out $35M guaranteed for an aging, digressing Nate Solder. Unsurprisingly, that move has not panned out to this point. Speaking of not panning out, there was the Ereck Flowers era in the mid-2010s, a time Giants fans wish they could forget, yet has been bleached into their brain like a bad dream playing on a loop.
These unpleasant times were believed to be a thing of the past when the G-Men pulled the trigger on rookie Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall selection in this past April’s draft. However, early returns on the former Georgia standout have many ex-players and analysts questioning his ceiling moving forward, while North Jersey Media Group’s By Zack Rosenblatt and Darryl Slater pose the question “Could Thomas be another Flowers?”
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Andrew Thomas is a ‘Mess Right Now’
“One of the five worst tackles in the NFL, period.” That’s Establish the Run analyst Brandon Thorn’s takeaway from Andrew Thomas’ play over the first five weeks of the season, per NJ.com. Certainly not what you’d like to hear just six months after making the 21-year-old your first-round selection and the first player at his position off the draft board.
Unfortunately, for Giants fans, Thorn is far from an outlier in his take of Thomas. In fact, he’s in the majority. NJ.com interviewed numerous analysts, coaches and ex-NFL players, including former Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, all of which had varying degrees of criticism to heap on Thomas’ play thus far.
“When you’re worried that you’re going to be beat around the corner, you jump out very quickly and try to get in the way, but you go too far,” said Schwartz. “There’s a delicate balance between making sure that you don’t get beat outside, but also don’t open up the door to go back inside.”
Thorn followed up Schwartz’s take by adding that the rookie is “kind of a mess right now, technically, just from the ground up, starting with his footwork in his pass sets. He’s being too aggressive. Good rushers — and even not-good rushers — are taking advantage of it.”
The sentiments have seeped into the Giants’ building as the team’s offensive line coach, Marc Colombo, shed light and these exact faults to the media earlier this week.
“Yeah, what he’s doing is snapping out of his stance and he’s kind of overshooting his target,” Colombo said of Thomas. “When you put that on film you’re going to get a heavy dose of it.”
Colombo added, “He’s getting excited, he’s trying to set out there with quickness, you know, handle the speed. He’s got feet to handle the speed. The inside move, it’s a cardinal sin for an offensive lineman to lose inside.”
The Next Ereck Flowers?
If Thomas has anything going for him it’s his age and his work ethic. The latter of which should likely separate his career trajectory from that of the aforementioned Ereck Flowers moving forward.
“I don’t know Andrew Thomas personally, but a lot of Flowers’ struggles were just from his personality, honestly,” Schwartz said of Flowers, his former teammate. “He just thought he knew it all. His hands were bad. He was very top heavy. And he didn’t seem very willing to want to fix a lot of his problems.”
FS1’s Mark Schlereth, a former three-time Super Bowl Champion and ex-12 year NFL vet, added to Schwartz’s take, noting that Thomas and Flowers are “totally different dudes.”
“One guy has smooth movement and quick feet and is aggressive and can really play,” Schlereth said of Thomas. “And the other guy isn’t that. I watch Andrew Thomas, and I’m like: He’s got potential. He just has to learn how to play.”
Time to Worry About Thomas?
While Schwartz and Schlereth preach optimism when it comes to Thomas, Thorn is far more skeptical. “I’d be very surprised if all of a sudden he becomes even an average tackle this year based on what I’ve seen so far,” Thorn claimed. He would also go on to add that “It’s a night-and-day difference” between Thomas and the three next tackles to come off the board after him in the 2020 NFL Draft.
We won’t go as far as to denounce Thomas’ ability to grow as the season continues. With that said, Thorn isn’t wrong about Thomas’ play when compared to the rest of this year’s tackle class.
Jedrick Wills (77.9), Tristan Wirfs (74.6) and Mekhi Becton (69.1) have all posted serviceable to above-average Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grades this season. Then there’s Thomas, who loiters far behind, checking in with a mark of just 47.4. In fact, PFF grades him dead last among all rookie starting offensive tackles in the category.
Furthermore, Thomas’s 28 pressures allowed this year are seven more than any other lineman in the NFL, per NJ.com. He’s also surrendered four sacks, second-most in football.
There is clearly reason to be concerned that Thomas is simply the next in line of a budding list of failed draft picks during GM Dave Gettleman’s infamous run in New York. With that said, Schwartz warns against being too quick to judge the young tackle.
“It’s OK where he is,” Schwartz said. “I know it’s not good in the moment. But generally speaking, it’s fine where he’s at. It’s a growth year for him. You want to see incremental improvements every couple of weeks, to where you head into next season with something that you can work on.”
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