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Sure, Andrew Thomas built a bond with the three other players who were no-doubt-about-it first-round talents at offensive tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Thomas caught up with Tristan Wirfs when the Giants lost to the Buccaneers. He exchanged pleasantries with Jedrick Wills after the Giants lost to the Browns. Thomas plays in close proximity to Mekhi Becton, an immediate starter with the Jets.
The Giants had their choice of any of the four of these prospects, selecting No. 4 in the draft, and they went with Thomas, believing he was the most NFL-ready left tackle, someone they could count on as a fixture on their offensive line for a decade.
As all four rookies traversed through their seasons, Thomas got off to the rockiest start. He rebounded and showed the sort of improvement the Giants expected and need from him, but he will have to take a leap forward to surpass Wirfs and Becton, who both graded out higher than Thomas in 2020.
“For me, I look at it as running my own race,’’ Thomas said Tuesday. “I want all those guys to be successful, but for me I want to be the best player I can be, the best player I can be for the Giants, for my teammates and that’s what I’m working to be. If I’m focused on what’s going on outside of me, that takes away from being the best player I can be, so I’m just focusing on myself.’’
Running his own race?
“Not paying attention to what’s going on in the other lanes, just focusing on what Andrew has to do, what he has to do to get better and that’s what I’ve been doing,’’ Thomas said.
If this is a race, Wirfs has the early lead. He started every game for the Buccaneers, at right tackle, and graded out at 82.2 as the 11th best tackle in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Becton was No. 32 (grade of 74.3), Thomas was No. 60 (62.4) and Wills was No. 67 (61.5).
Thomas performed much more effectively in the second half of the season. He started 15 games — he played, but did not start in Week 6 against Washington because he was late to a team meeting — and in 13 games played 100 percent of the offensive snaps. He allowed an NFL-high 10 sacks, according to PFF, but assigning blame for sacks is subjective, as assignments vary from team to team.
“Obviously, it didn’t start out the way I wanted it to but being a rookie player, left tackle in the NFL, it’s a tough deal,’’ Thomas said. “So it just took time. Continued to work, just keep my head down, try not to pay too much attention to the media, obviously there’s social media and things like that.’’
Thomas arrived from Georgia as a squeaky-clean prospect, as far as desirable physical traits and an unquestioned work ethic. Still, this was an adjustment that did not come naturally.
“That’s the biggest thing I think, going from college to the NFL is just how much you have to study your craft and your techniques,’’ Thomas said. “Those rushers, they study you, know your stance, they know your hand-placement, all those things, and if you make one small mistake it can tumble into a snowball effect and be a bad game for you. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve learned so far.’’
The Giants admire Thomas’ temperament — calm on the field and off it.
“He’s one of the most even-keeled guys I’ve ever met,’’ center Nick Gates said. “What you get is what you see, he’s gonna stay the same way, no matter if he’s getting yelled at or if he made the game-winning block. He’s gonna be the same person.’’
Thomas and the rest of the young Giants offensive line went through a change at the bye week when offensive line coach Marc Colombo was fired, replaced by Dave DeGuglielmo, initially brought in by head coach Joe Judge as a consultant.
DeGuglielmo called Thomas “a tremendously aware guy — he sees things most rookies don’t see,’’ and he is certain the best is yet to come.
“It always takes time for a rookie, any rookie, to elevate his game to what the others would be,’’ DeGuglielmo said. “He’ll get there. He’ll get there. I promise you, this guy will get there. One way or another, he’ll get there.’’