Giants quarterback Daniel Jones isn’t the only young veteran who needs to take a significant step forward in the upcoming season.
Jones probably won’t be able to take that step forward in his progress unless his offensive linemen, particularly left tackle Andrew Thomas, the second-year man entrusted with guarding Jones’s blindside, make progress as well.
The good news is that Thomas is more than up to the task, encouraged by a solid finish to a rookie campaign last year that started shakily.
Thomas finished his rookie campaign having allowed 57 quarterback pressures, the most allowed by an offensive tackle in his draft class and the second-most allowed by an NFL tackle overall, behind Jacksonville’s Jawaan Taylor (58).
But once Thomas began to develop a comfort level with what he was doing and adjust to the speed of the pro game, he improved in the back end of the season. In his final eight games, he pitched a pass-blocking shutout three times. The best of those performances came in the Week 17 regular-season finale against Dallas (and on an injured ankle that bothered him all season for which he underwent surgery in January).
“I think last year I learned a lot being a rookie, playing in the NFL the first time,” Thomas said Saturday. “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.”
What Thomas learned about last year is that he had to improve his strength, his pass set, and his footwork—all things he zeroed in on during the off-season in his training.
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While it remains to be seen if that training has paid off—Thomas and the Giants won’t be in pads until Tuesday, which is when live contract drills will be permitted, the former Georgia star says there’s a big difference between where he was this time last year and where he is now.
“I would say to start off, just with my set,” he 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.”
And in what’s no doubt going to be music to Jones’s ears, Thomas believes his pass set has significantly progressed from last year.
“Just understanding the landmarks, 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 said.
“You definitely see some of the growth that he showed last year showing up. But then again, like all other players, it’s early in training camp and there’s a lot of fundamentals that we have to constantly work on with all of our players to building in that muscle memory that we’ve lost over this time away,” head coach Joe Judge said.
“He’s no different from any other player in that regard, although he works extremely hard at it and every day, he flashes several things and you say, ‘Okay, that’s why this guy was such a gifted athlete growing up.’”
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