New York Giants: Andrew Thomas vs Khalil Mack A Key Matchup To Watch In Week Two

The New York Giants‘ offensive line struggled mightily in Week One. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants’ offensive line allowed pressure on 52.1% of the team’s pass plays against the Steelers last week. This week, New York has to face one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.

Khalil Mack is coming off of an impressive Week One performance that saw him record 6 total pressures. Mack, the three-time First-Team All-Pro, will be lining up against rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas this weekend. Thomas played well in Week One against a fierce Steelers defense. But this week’s matchup will be a true test for the rookie.

Mack v Thomas

Rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas made his debut in Blue against one of the best defenses in the league last week. Thomas’s primary task was blocking Bud Dupree. This was a challenge, but Thomas held his own and looked like the best offensive lineman on the Giants in Week One.

In Week Two, Thomas has an even more challenging task at hand. The rookie out of Georgia will be blocking one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL this week. Khalil Mack will likely be Thomas’s toughest blocking assignment of the 2020 season.

Granted, Thomas will not be blocking Mack the entire game. Khalil played 60% of his snaps lined up over the right tackle last week. But the Bears like to move their star pass-rusher around and get the best matchups possible. They will undoubtedly face him off with Andrew Thomas to test the rookie.

Opposite of Khalil Mack, the Bears have another talented pass-rusher. Robert Quinn, coming off of an 11.5 sack 2019 season with the Cowboys, is now a member of the Bears’ defense. Quinn did not play in Week One, though, and he is questionable to play this week. If he does, this matchup will be even more challenging for Andrew Thomas.

New York Giants: Rookie Offensive Tackles Cross Training In Practice

The New York Giants drafted two offensive tackles in the first three rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. Big Blue selected Andrew Thomas out of Georgia with the fourth overall pick in the first round. They then followed that up with Matt Peart out of UConn in the third round.

Thomas is a polished prospect who will be prepared to start day one for the Giants. Peart, on the other hand, might need to take some time to develop. The ninety-ninth overall selection in the draft is not likely to be a week one starter on the Giants’ offensive line this season.

Andrew Thomas will be a week one starter, presumably. The question with Thomas now, is, where will he start on the offensive line? Will he be the team’s left tackle or right tackle?

Where Will Andrew Thomas Line Up?

After 2019’s starting offensive tackle Nate Solder opted out of the 2020 season, it seemed likely that Andrew Thomas would step into the starting left tackle position. But there were some fans advocating for Thomas to play right tackle, instead, even before and after Solder opted out.

This line of thinking pencils Thomas in as the team’s left tackle for the foreseeable future, while planning to move ahead with Matt Peart as the team’s right tackle down the road. But after the Giants’ recent practices, this scenario does not seem set in stone.

While the likely scenario sees Thomas at left tackle and Peart at right tackle, there is another scenario where the two players swap positions. The Giants are preparing for this scenario, giving the offensive tackles practice reps on both sides of the line.

According to Ryan Dunleavy, Matt Peart was working at left tackle today:

Versatility on the offensive line is crucial. The Giants recognize this and are training their rookie tackles to be prepared to play on either side of the offensive line.

New York Giants: Lorenzo Carter talks personal improvement, Andrew Thomas

New York Giants, Lorenzo Carter

Lorenzo Carter is entering his third season with the New York Giants. Across the 30 games he has appeared in, 14 of which he has started, the linebacker has totaled eight and a half sacks, 88 combined tackles and 23 quarterback hits.

Carter says he worked on improving his angles in the offseason after the coaching staff pointed it out to him (quotes courtesy of Giants.com).

“It was really just refining my game, like I said, working hands, working power, and working the angles really because a lot of times, it comes down to what types of angles you have. That’s one thing I saw a lot last year and then the coaches pointed it out to me when we got into the lab this year.”

The Giants edge rotation has some new faces this season. The team signed former Green Bay Packers pass rusher Kyler Fackrell to a one-year deal in free agency, selected linebackers Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin on day three of the 2020 NFL Draft and have Markus Golden back in the saddle after he signed his restricted free agent tender. They join Carter and second-year player Oshane Ximines.

Carter likes what he sees from this group.

“I think it’s great that we have a lot of talent and that we’re a little deeper in that room. Like you said, we have MG, we have X-Man, we have Fack, and even with Cam Brown, we have a lot of guys in the room that have a lot of different skill sets. It comes down to us making sure that we maximize our abilities and trusting the coaches in making sure they put us in the right positions.”

Carter thinks if they individually do their jobs, the Giants have a great chance at being a “successful” defense.

“It’s just doing our job. It’s a lot of do your job. Right now, the focus is on fundamentals and making sure that you do your job to the best of your ability. I think if we do that and I do my job setting edges, letting the linebackers do their job filling gaps, and just play together as a team, we’re going to have a great chance to be successful.”

Carter was teammates with the Giants’ 2020 first-round draft pick, tackle Andrew Thomas, at Georgia in 2017. The rookie will presumably start at one of the team’s two tackle positions this season.

The outside linebacker knew Thomas was going to be a “top first round pick” in college.

“I knew from day one when he stepped on campus at Athens that he was going to be a top first round pick. It’s nothing new. It’s the same thing he did as a freshman in college. He’s learned, grown and matured. As a rookie, he came in that far advanced too. I know I have to bring it to Andrew because like I said, he’s ready. I have to make sure he’s ready for game one.”

New York Giants: Andrew Thomas discusses what he needs to improve

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

New York Giants rookie offensive tackle Andrew Thomas will presumably be one of the team’s starting tackles this season, especially with veteran Nate Solder opting out of the 2020 NFL season.

Other candidates to start on both sides are Nick Gates, third-round draft pick Matt Peart and free-agent signee Cam Fleming.

Thomas harps on technique being among the crucial adjustments from college football to the NFL (quotes courtesy of Giants.com).

“In college, if you are faster and stronger and you know your assignment, you usually do well. At this level, there is so much technique that you have to learn. There are so many things before the snap, before the ball even hikes. I think that’s the biggest adjustment.”

Thomas started three seasons at Georgia, playing both tackle positions (26 games at left tackle and 15 games at right tackle).

Among the new faces on the Giants sideline is offensive line coach Marc Colombo, who previously held the same position with the Dallas Cowboys. Colombo was also a starting tackle in the NFL.

Thomas has found Colombo to be a transparent voice.

“It plays a big role. He can actually, like you said, show us exactly what he wants. What’s the steps, what’s the hand placement, and it relays the message a little bit better for us than just having somebody saying what they want. As far as building a relationship, we are starting to grow closer, during this time. Over zoom, it was a little bit harder to build a relationship, it’s starting to get better now.”

Thomas is working on “keeping his hands inside.”

“For me, the biggest thing right now, especially in pass pro, is my hands. In college, I had a bad habit of having my hands outside my frame. I’m working on keeping my hands inside and getting a good strike. In the run, game just keep a good base. Sometimes I get a little too excited trying to get to the block. Just make sure I keep a good base each time.”

New York Giants: How Nate Solder’s Opt-Out Affects The Rest Of The Linemen

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Jon Halapio, Mike Remmers

Major news broke out for the New York Giants yesterday as starting offensive tackle Nate Solder announced that he was opting out of the 2020 NFL season. Solder is a high-risk opt-out as he has a son fighting an ongoing battle with cancer. Nate Solder is doing the right thing opting out to protect his family and their health.

For the Giants, this news has major implications. Nate Solder’s absence in the 2020 season will create a huge shift along the offensive line. How exactly does Nate Solder’s opt-out affect the rest of the offensive linemen?

New York Giants: Andrew Thomas entering training camp with a big question mark over his head

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants signed all of their draft picks on Monday afternoon, finalizing a major accomplishment ahead of the start of training camp. First-round pick, Andrew Thomas, agreed to a fully guaranteed four-year deal worth $32.345 million. The contract includes a $21.1 million signing bonus.

With the Giants adding Thomas, who was a three-year starter with Georgia and played 1075 pass-blocking snaps, according to Anthony Rivardo of Empire Sports Media, they are looking to cement him at one of the tackle spots.

Reports have indicated that the Giants are considering him at right tackle to start his NFL career. This isn’t abnormal considering Nate Solder followed the same path back in 2011 with the New England Patriots. It can oftentimes be an excellent developmental move, allowing players with upside to have a transitional effect if need be. That was a primary issue with Ereck Flowers, who was confined to the left tackle spot and severely underwhelmed with talent.

Thomas is a bit undersized at left tackle, which makes him a better option on the right side. However, you don’t spend the fourth overall pick on your quarterback’s vision side. Supplementing the deficiencies of Solder was the entire premise behind drafting Thomas in the first place.

Throughout his collegiate career, Thomas only allowed 37 pressures, attesting to his incredible strength and abilities in the trenches.

What are the New York Giants getting in Andrew Thomas?

His strengths range from elite physical traits to a high football IQ, and a gritty, mean mentality. He’s not the most flexible player, which can hurt his mobility and agility when recovering. His initial moves are fantastic. He has the lower body strength to anchor down in pass protection and deliver devastating blocks in the run game.

The Giants are looking for a player to solidify Daniel Jones’s blindside and open up running lanes for Saquon Barkley. Barkley is far better at running outside of the tackles, as he struggled to get anything going between the guards in the A and B gap last season.

Barkley simply isn’t a power runner, so giving him space and time to make a decision is a more efficient move. Having strong tackles allows him to bounce the ball outside with confidence.

Entering training camp, though, new head coach Joe Judge will not pencil in any starters just yet. He wants to see his players earn the right to a starting job, so Thomas will likely be competing on both sides of the offensive line. While we know he will be a starter in 2020, it’s just a matter of where.

New York Giants And 4th Overall Pick Andrew Thomas Agree To Terms

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants have agreed to terms with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. The Giants and Thomas are in agreement on a four-year, fully guaranteed $32.345M contract with a $21.1M signing bonus, according to Ian Rapoport.

Andrew Thomas, the three-year starter out of Georgia, is the fourth top-five pick to get his deal done. Thomas will take a physical today then sign the contract.

The New York Giants desperately needed an upgrade at offensive tackle this offseason. Last season, the Giants’ starting offensive tackles allowed a combined 96 pressures. Nate Solder accounted for 56 of those pressures and also allowed 11 sacks on the season. Andrew Thomas is now in a contractual agreement to be the Giants’ left tackle of the future.

Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle).

The Giants report to training camp tomorrow. New York is working to get its entire rookie draft class under contract. Sixth-round pick Cam Brown signed his rookie contract earlier today. Seventh-round pick Tae Crowder has also signed. TJ Brunson, Matt Peart, and Darnay Holmes have also agreed to terms with the Giants. There are only a few rookies left for the Giants to sign, including second-round pick Xavier McKinney. Expect to see the Giants complete these deals with their rookies very soon.

New York Giants: What Will The Starting Offensive Line Look Like In 2020?

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL over the past few years. The team has struggled to find consistent offensive tackle play since investing a top-ten pick in Ereck Flowers in 2015. From Flowers to Solder, the Giants have been disappointed by their recent expensive offensive line investments.

New York is hoping that that trend of disappointing offensive line investments ends after this season. This offseason, the Giants invested heavily in their offensive line, drafting three linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants also signed an offensive tackle in free agency and significantly upgraded their offensive line coach.

Giants fans are hopeful about their offensive line for the first time in a while. Andrew Thomas was drafted fourth overall, signaling a cultural shift by the Giants towards a more traditional team-building philosophy. The Giants are prioritizing the offensive line and finally, for the first time in years, have depth in the positional group.

Projecting the 2020 Offensive Line

 

  • LT – Andrew Thomas
  • LG – Will Hernandez
  • C – Nick Gates
  • RG – Kevin Zeitler
  • RT – Nate Solder
  • Depth – Spencer Pulley, Shane Lemieux, Cameron Fleming, and Matt Peart
  • OL Coach – Marc Colombo

The Starting Five

The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas to be the team’s left tackle of the future. Some have suggested that Thomas should start his career at right tackle, but in my opinion, Thomas should start at left tackle right away.

Nate Solder allowed 11 sacks in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus, the third most out of any offensive tackle in the NFL. To make matters even worse, Solder allowed 57 pressures in 2019. This was the most of any offensive lineman in the NFL. Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle). It is highly possible that Andrew Thomas is the best left tackle on the Giants’ roster despite never playing a snap in the NFL.

Will Hernandez is entering his third NFL season after taking a small step back in 2019. Big Will looked promising as a rookie but struggled to develop as a sophomore. This could have been for a couple of reasons: Hernandez was playing between two bad players, and the Giants’ coaching staff was one of the league’s worst. Luckily for Hernandez, both of these problems seem to have been fixed. This could be his breakout season.

The center position is by far the biggest question mark on the Giants’ roster in 2020. There will be a positional battle at center during training camp and preseason. In my opinion, Nick Gates is the top candidate for the position. Gates finished the 2019 season with a 77.0 overall grade and only 1 sack allowed in 290 snaps (Pro Football Focus). However, Spencer Pulley could win the job based on seniority and past experience. Gates has never played center before but has been impressive in limited snaps at offensive guard and offensive tackle.

Despite never making the Pro Bowl in his career, Kevin Zeitler has been one of the best pass-blocking offensive guards in the NFL. Also according to Pro Football Focus, Zeitler finished with the sixth-best grade among guards and posted a strong 75.0 pass-blocking grade — the sixth-straight year he’s achieved that mark. Zeitler is a lock for the Giants’ right guard position and should get a contract extension after his contract expires next offseason.

Solid Depth

Nate Solder is likely to move over to right tackle, but if that does not go well, the Giants have solid depth pieces behind him. New York signed Cam Fleming this offseason to be a swing tackle or backup offensive tackle. They also drafted Matt Peart out of UConn in the third round. Peart is not likely to be ready for NFL action in his first season, but he has a lot of potential down the road as a starting offensive tackle.

An Improved Coaching Staff

The hiring of Marc Colombo was huge for the Giants. Colombo has helped maintain the Dallas Cowboy’s offensive line’s status as one of the best in the NFL. Cowboys players have stated that Colombo’s relatability in his youth helped the offensive line grow and gravitate towards its coach.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being around a lot of people in this game. But Marc is in the front of the class. That’s the ultimate compliment I can give him. You get inspired by Marc every day you’re around him.” – Jason Garrett on Mar Colombo via ESPN

 

What Should The New York Giants Do With Nate Solder In 2020?

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants made it an emphasis this offseason to improve their offensive line this offseason. The Giants spent three draft picks on offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. One of those picks was an offensive guard but their other two were both offensive tackles (Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart). In addition to those they drafted, the Giants also signed offensive tackle Cameron Fleming in free agency.

Now, with three more offensive tackles on the roster, the Giants have plenty of depth and options heading into the new season. But what will the team do with its starting left tackle from 2019? Nate Solder is due to make $19.5M this season. He was recently named the “most overrated player” in the NFL by CBS Sports. With all of these options at offensive tackle, what should the Giants do with Nate Solder and his huge contract in 2020?

Start Him At Left Tackle?

Of course, the Giants could keep Nate Solder around as their starting left tackle. This would provide continuity for Daniel Jones and continues to pay Solder for what he was signed to play. However, in my opinion, this would be a mistake.

The Giants should start Andrew Thomas at left tackle as soon as possible. Why should they move him to the right side of the offensive line for his rookie season if they plan to start him at left tackle for the rest of his career? This could stunt his development, but more importantly, it could stunt Daniel Jones’s development.

Nate Solder was one of the worst offensive tackles in the NFL in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, Solder “allowed a league-high 56 pressures while ranking just 70th out of 89 qualifiers with a 52.9 run-blocking grade.” This could be compared to Andrew Thomas’s prolific collegiate career in which he surrendered a total of 37 total pressures on 1,075 pass-block snaps and “only nine total pressures during his third and final season with the Bulldogs.”

Andrew Thomas should play left tackle right away because he is arguably the best left tackle on the roster already, despite never playing a snap in the NFL. Protecting Daniel Jones is the most important task for the Giants’ offensive line. The Giants are not protecting Daniel Jones to the best of their abilities if Nate Solder is starting at left tackle in 2020.

Start Him At Right Tackle?

So if Nate Solder is a liability at left tackle, could they start him at right tackle instead? Would that be an improvement? Currently, the Giants’ group of left tackles if full of unknowns; Matt Peart and Nick Gates are young and unproven players. Cameron Fleming was signed during free agency, presumably to be the team’s right tackle this season. That was before the Giants drafted both Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart.

Now there seems to be a bit of a positional battle at right tackle. Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming are both strong candidates for the position as they both provide veteran experience. Nate Solder starting at right tackle would be better than him starting at left tackle because he would be in the quarterback’s field of vision. Having Solder on the blindside led to a number of Daniel Jones fumbles. Jones is a pretty mobile quarterback, so maybe he could get away from some of those sacks and pressures if he sees them before they get there.

Trade Or Cut?

The Giants should see how Nate Solder plays at right tackle in training camp and preseason. If his performance improves and he looks like the best right tackle on the roster, then the Giants should allow him to start the regular season at that position. However, if he is unable to win the starting right tackle job before the season begins, the Giant should consider moving on from the 9-year NFL veteran.

As previously stated, Solder has a cap hit of $19.5M this season. He also had a dead cap hit of $16M, however, that was his pre-June 1st dead cap hit. Post-June 1st, Solder’s dead cap hit is only $9.5M. So if the Giants cut or trade Nate Solder before the start of the 2020 NFL season, they will free up $10M in salary cap space. That money could then be reinvested to sign a new right tackle or a new cornerback, or the Giants could save the money.

Trading Nate Solder might prove to be a difficult task. Not a lot of teams are looking for a $19M left tackle who let up 56 pressures last season. The Giants will likely not have a market for Solder if they choose to trade him, but cutting him would be a cap-friendly decision. The move would also free up $14M in cap space in 2021.

The Giants’ offensive line should be much improved in 2020; especially if Nate Solder’s performance improves. But the most exciting thing about the Giants’ new offensive line is the depth that they possess. Even if Solder doesn’t improve this year, the Giants have options- and they have not had options in a long time.

New York Giants: Andrew Thomas developing a relationship with the very man he might be replacing

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants drafted Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Their expectation was that he would develop into a starting tackle, preferably on the left side. Replacing Nate Solder became essential after he allowed 11 sacks and put rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in peril far too often.

Thomas is a mean player who stands his ground and can move well in the run game. While he undoubtedly has weaknesses to refine, he has the highest floor of any tackle prospect coming out of the 2020 draft class. He has Pro Bowl potential and is a year one starter given his frame and fundamental approach to the game.

Despite his advantages, new head coach Joe Judge has made it apparent that every player will be fighting for their position, even ones who are expected to start. Nobody is guaranteed a spot on the team, and Thomas has plenty of competition to conquer. He inevitably hast to dethrone Solder at left tackle or solidify the right tackle spot over Cameron Fleming and Nick Gates.

However, Thomas is developing a relationship with the very man he might displace after the 2020 season. The expectation is that the Giants will release Solder from his four-year, $62 million deal. After this upcoming season, he will count just $6.5 million in dead-cap, but if retained will count $20.5 million. Releasing him seems like the best move, considering the monetary allocations and repercussions.

That hasn’t stopped Thomas and Solder from developing a relationship and connecting on one significant thing.

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Andrew Thomas spoke on the Giants Huddle podcast, stating:

“For the rookies, the big thing for us is knowing everybody on the team, knowing the staff,” Thomas said. “They test us all the time because they want us to know. The NFL is a people’s league, and we have to know our teammates and the people that we’ll see in the building every day. So, we’re trying to do that. I’ve also been building a relationship with [veteran offensive tackle] Nate Solder actually. He reached out to me. Obviously, he’s a man of faith, so that’s something that’s big for me, just him inviting me to be part of bible studies, something that I want to do and stuff like that. Just trying to get to know the guys.”

The fact that Nate reached out to Thomas is a positive sign, as healthy competition can be great for every party. With the competitiveness in the NFL, sometimes bad blood can be spilled, but this seems to be a different circumstance.

Thomas can undoubtedly learn from the veteran tackle who has struggled in his personal life the past few years. His son has dealt with cancer, surely distracting him from his responsibilities in the NFL, justifiably.

The fact that he is willing to reach out and help Thomas connect with the team is a positive sign. That’s a reason the Giants still have faith in the former New England tackle.

Hopefully, Joe Judge and his coaching staff can find a way to incorporate both players on offense, whether it be Solder at right tackle and Thomas at left or vice-versa. Continuity on the offensive line is a necessity moving forward.