A benching wasn’t rock bottom for Andrew Thomas.
So, what will be? And when?
The rookie offensive tackle returned to the Giants’ starting lineup Thursday against the Eagles and quickly looked better suited for resuming his position on the sideline, earned four days earlier as punishment for being late to a team meeting. A frustrated fan base already is drawing dreaded comparisons to Ereck Flowers, the last offensive lineman drafted in the first round by the Giants, and their biggest bust of the 2010s.
Thomas, 21, allowed two sacks and six quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, but the more eye-popping analytical measurement comes from ESPN: He had a 43.8 percent pass-block win rate — about half the league average for offensive tackles.
“Andrew is a good guy to build with,” coach Joe Judge said. “We have a lot of plans long-term with Andrew. He’s the kind of guy we want to work with, both physically and his personality off the field. We have a lot of confidence in Andrew. We’re going to keep working with him and developing him going forward. I fully expect Andrew to have a very productive, long career in this league.”
It doesn’t sound as if NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks buys the vote of confidence. Brooks — a former NFL player and a scout for two organizations — described Thomas as a “10-year starter” before the draft and later as a “safe pick” for the Giants. Now?
“The Giants must be concerned about Andrew Thomas and his struggles,” Brooks wrote on Twitter. “He’s having a tough time holding up in [one-on-ones] on the edge. As the No. 4 overall pick, you expect him to be a ‘plug-and-play’ prospect. He’s only six games into his career, but he’s not playing like it.”
Thomas is rated No. 63 of 76 qualifying offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus, behind fellow first-rounders Tristan Wirfs (No. 28), Mekhi Becton (No. 31) and Jedrick Wills (No. 60). He has allowed a NFL-high 37 pressures in seven games and looks less effective than rookie teammate Matt Peart, which has created the popularity effect commonly seen with backup quarterbacks.
“If you’re going to take a high first-round draft pick, you better not be taking a projection,” a veteran offensive line coach told The Post. “Turn on the tape and [Thomas] was a very flawed player at Georgia, but from a frame standpoint he was good-looking.”
Comparisons to Flowers are unfair in that teammates questioned Flowers’ commitment in addition to his technique, and the early read on Thomas is that his problems are isolated to the field. Nevertheless, plans to ease in both Flowers and Thomas at right tackle were scrapped before their rookie training camps got underway.
Nate Solder’s COVID-19 opt-out did to Thomas what Will Beatty’s offseason injury did to Flowers in 2015. Flowers’ confidence was ruined. Will the same happen to Thomas by season’s end?
“I see him coming to work every day with a good attitude, effort and energy,” Judge said. “When you see guys with confidence issues, normally the urgency goes down. I see this guy work tirelessly every day, so no. Nothing is going to be perfect all the time. We need to keep doing a good job of coaching him and bringing him along.”
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