When the New York Giants drafted Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, most felt optimistic they secured their left tackle for the future.
After experiencing the Ereck Flowers debacle and a lackluster performance from Nate Solder in 2019, Giants fans and management were clearly ready to allocate a high draft pick toward a staple left tackle. However, Thomas’s rookie season was tumultuous, oftentimes failing miserably in pass blocking during the first half of the 2020 season.
Overall, Thomas allowed 10 sacks, 8 quarterback hits, 39 hurries, and 57 pressures. He was also hit with three penalties. From a general standpoint, that is a terrible season for a tackle and ranks poorly when compared to the other first-round tackles from the draft class.
There are multiple factors that suggest a big leap in 2021, and the Giants could use it with Daniel Jones going into a make or break year.
Three reasons the New York Giants should expect a big second-year jump from Andrew Thomas:
1.) He’s already an affective run-blocker
One of Thomasâ€™ major strengths coming out of Georgia was his run-blocking ability, displaying fantastic aggression and the desire for work in the trenches. That didnâ€™t change in the NFL, as he experienced several high-profile run blocking performances in his rookie season. Despite the Giants losing Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL in week 2, they still managed to produce an average running attack, which was far above expectations given the youth in the trenches.
Thomas earned grades of 73 or above on five different occasions, with his best performance coming against the Seattle Seahawks in week 13. He earned an 84.3 overall grade, per PFF. In that specific contest, the Giants ran for 190 yards, with back up Wayne Gallman averaging 8.4 yards per carry and totaling 135. They were routinely running to the weak side of the formation, as Thomas was dominating his assignments and opening up gaping holes for the running backs to exploit.
This is a major strength for the Giants, who are vocally committed to establishing the run. With Barkley expected to return in 2021, Thomas will be an integral part and leading the attack on the ground.
2.) He played through injury
Just this past week, we discovered that Andrew Thomas required off-season surgery on his left ankle. This was a major surprise, considering the injury was something that occurred during training camp, indicating that Thomas played an entire 16 game season with a bum left ankle.
Itâ€™s important to note that tackles utilize the lower half of their bodies predominantly when anchoring and resetting, so fighting through pain routinely shows how tough Thomas is. At just 21 years old, heâ€™s barely able to buy himself a legal alcoholic beverage, and after surgery, I imagine he will need a few whiskeys.
3.) His pass blocking improved in second-half of rookie season
The major con for Thomas in 2020 was his pass blocking. He finished with a 54.7 overall pass-blocking grade, but the second half of his campaign saw dramatic improvements.
To be exact, during the first eight weeks of the 2020 season, he earned a 52 overall grade in the category, but in the second half, he landed at 62.7. That is a major difference, especially since he was baptized by fire with multiple elite pass rushers in the first four games. Right off the bat, he was forced to take on Bud Dupree, Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and Aaron Donald and Co.
He gradually improved as the season went on, despite the New York Giants moving on from offensive line coach Marc Colombo. The changes didnâ€™t seem to affect Thomas too much, as he battled injury and new protection styles. At such a young age, Thomas has the potential to be a fantastic left tackle, and I think we will see him take a jump forward in 2021.