Andrew Thomas was the first offensive tackle off the board in the 2020 NFL draft, going fourth overall to the New York Giants.
At the time, many considered Thomas to be the most pro-ready tackle in the draft which was precisely what the Giants needed. However, after Nate Solder opted out, Thomas was thrust into the starting left tackle role and things did not go well. At least not at first.
Hampered by an ankle injury that required offseason surgery, Thomas struggled through the first half of the season before finishing his rookie year strong.
Comparatively however, Thomas didn’t quite match up to several of his positional draft mates. Jedrick Wills Jr. and Mekhi Becton each flashed at times, while Tristan Wirfs played out of his mind and went on to win a Super Bowl title with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But Thomas isn’t sweating it. He’s not worried about what those guys are doing or how well they’re playing. Rather, his concern rests with himself and how he’ll respond after a less-than-stellar debut season.
“You have to run your own race. You can’t really focus on what everyone else is doing. That takes away from your process and figuring out what you have to do to be a better player,” Thomas told reporters on Saturday. “I think last year I learned a lot being a rookie, playing in the NFL the first time. I had a lot of experiences that I think will help my game. As a progression through the season, I definitely think I got better as the season went along and I’m happy for the things that I learned.”
In addition to building strength this offseason, Thomas also focused heavily on improving his pass sets, footwork and hand placement. That, at times, was a determent in 2020 and it’s something he aims to correct quick, fast and in a hurry.
“On the field, it’s working consistently on my sets and my hands,” Thomas said. “Just being more confident in my set, understanding my landmarks, where I have to get to, understanding who I’m going against, and understanding the different protects. Knowing where I have to be, and I put myself at a position. . . like how many kicks I take, depending on whether he’s a five-technique or a nine-technique, if it’s a quick protection, the type of set I used, stuff like that.”
Thomas also spent time studying film of some of the NFL’s top tackles.
“I like watching (49ers Offensive Tackle) Trent Williams. I love watching (Ravens Offensive Tackle) Ronnie Stanley. Those are two of the guys I watch a lot and definitely pick up some things from them,” Thomas said.
To his credit, Thomas has done a great job blocking out the noise and focusing on his own mental and physical improvement. It’s something head coach Joe Judge has taken note of and appreciates.
“I think one thing about Andrew is he’s always the same person. That’s one thing, he’s very, very steady,” Judge said. “Obviously, last year as a rookie, like all rookies, there’s definitely a learning curve and that learning curve includes having to manage the external expectations and noise, but I’ll say for Andrew one thing he’s done a really good job of is really buying into just focusing one day at a time and having a narrow focus, and understanding what the goal on hand is for that day. He’s a very conscientious person, he’s a really good teammate, he’s a very hard worker. You definitely see some of the growth that he showed last year showing up.
“He works extremely hard . . . and every day he flashes several things and you say, ‘Okay, that’s why this guy was such a gifted athlete growing up.’”
Entering his second season, there will be even more pressure on Thomas to perform. The Giants have revamped their entire offense, loading up on skill position players, and now the onus falls on the offensive line to not only improve, but become the anchor that helps quarterback Daniel Jones reach his full potential.