New York Giants offensive tackle Andrew Thomas  against the Washington...

New York Giants offensive tackle Andrew Thomas  against the Washington Football Team on Sept. 16, 2021, in Landover, Md.  Credit: AP/Terrance Williams

Brian Baldinger visited the Giants in training camp and was shocked by what he heard regarding Andrew Thomas.

"They told me if they had a re-draft with Jedrick Wills and Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton, they would still take Andrew," the NFL Network analyst and former offensive lineman told Newsday. "I was shaking my head at the time. I thought it was just hyperbole."

After seeing Thomas play on Sunday against the Saints, though, Baldinger found himself thinking back to those conversations. Thomas allowed zero sacks — he hasn’t allowed one all season — and played primarily by himself in a raucous Superdome without the help of tight ends or chipping running backs.

"He played like a franchise left tackle," Baldinger said. "They left him out there on the island. It was impressive to see him handle all of it. Technically he was really, really sound. A really clean game against a really tough defense, run and pass."

The numbers bare out Thomas’ evolution. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas has been involved in 167 pass-blocking plays this season and has allowed zero sacks, one quarterback hit and just six pressures. His 79.0 pass-block grade for the season is the ninth-highest among all tackles in the NFL and, perhaps more significant to the perception of him, first among all second-year offensive linemen.

It even has Baldinger coming around and agreeing with the Giants’ assessment of Thomas, both from when they selected him fourth overall out of Georgia as the top offensive lineman in the 2020 draft and when they retained their conviction in him this summer despite a rookie season that was arguably the worst of the four top prospects.

Wirfs is playing at a high level with the Bucs, but because he is at right tackle Baldinger said he took him out of the do-over equation. Wills has missed games with the Browns due to injuries. Baldinger was especially down on Becton, who was taken by the Jets. "I love Mekhi," he said, "but you can’t rely on him right now."

So who would Baldinger pick?

"If you had to redraft right now, give me the guy who is available, who has shown the ability to improve, to get better," he said.

That guy is Thomas.

At least it has been. Thomas, who played through a left ankle injury last year that required offseason surgery but never sidelined him from a game, was limping noticeably at Wednesday’s practice and was listed as a non-participant in the hourlong walk-through with a foot injury. That doesn’t mean he will miss the upcoming game in Dallas, but it does leave the Giants preparing for what could be their fifth different starting offensive line configuration in five games. If Thomas can’t play, the Giants would likely move Nate Solder from right tackle to the left side and insert Matt Peart at right tackle.

If Thomas does play, he’ll be physically limited against speedy rushers such as Randy Gregory and Micah Parsons. That type of player generally gives Thomas more trouble than the big, physical ones he already has shut down like Montez Sweat of Washington and Cam Jordan of New Orleans. More important, if Thomas can’t play, it would have the Giants facing Dallas without — and who would have ever imagined this as recently as a month ago? — their most consistent offensive player this season.

"It has a huge impact on me, on everyone, I think," Daniel Jones said of Thomas’ play. "When you turn on the tape, he’s shut down pass rushers and whoever he’s gone up against. He’s played very well. Big credit to him. It’s a team game but that’s an important position."

One where the Giants seem to have found a long-term answer . . . even if the short term is a little fuzzy due to the injury.

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