The Giants are undefeated when rookie Matt Peart starts at left tackle.
That’s not really a fair statement, nor does it capture the full spectrum of the situation at a position that is one of the most worrisome in the Giants’ lineup at this point of the season and at this point of their rebuild. But it is accurate.
Peart, a third-round pick considered a developmental project who might be NFL-ready in a year or two, stepped into that starting job last Sunday against Washington when Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick and the first offensive lineman selected in the same 2020 draft, was briefly benched for tardiness to a team meeting. The two rookies wound up splitting game snaps just about evenly and the Giants beat Washington for their first and only win of the year.
When the Giants faced the Eagles on Thursday night, though, Thomas was back playing every snap at left tackle. The result was exactly the same as it had been in the five previous games when that happened. The Giants lost.
Without any games, without any practices, the Giants used the last few days to look deep into their own issues.
"Our focus with this long weekend is just reviewing what we’ve done the first half of the season, coaching and playing, and making sure when the players come back that we’ve made some adjustments going forward," coach Joe Judge said before he dismissed the team late last week. "That can be something in terms of how we practice, how we prepare, techniques we’re using with certain players, whatever that may be. We’re kind of treating this a little bit right now like we would in a bye week."
Undoubtedly, one of the main areas of that inspection has been left tackle.
Judge reiterated several times — sometimes unprompted and once the reason had been publicly established — that Thomas’ benching against Washington was due to discipline and not "performance-based," leaving a sense that the coach doth protest too much. Judge would not have had to clarify that as often or with as much sincerity as he mustered if Thomas were playing well.
Thomas has struggled, and not the way young players sometimes take their lumps while showing glimpses of their promise. He’s been flat-out bad. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas has allowed six sacks this season, tied for the most in the NFL. Two of those sacks came on Thursday in one of the most discouraging performances of his young career. According to ESPN’s metrics, Thomas won on 43.8% of his pass blocks. The league average is close to 90%.
It’s been enough for even those who touted Thomas during the draft process to reconsider their appraisal. NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks called Thomas a "safe pick" for the Giants when they made it in April, considering him a "10-year starter." After Thursday, he was far less complimentary.
"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."
The Giants see the same thing every week, and they took a closer look at it this weekend. Will it facilitate a change?
Before the short break, Judge touted Thomas’ attitude in practices as well as his future with the team.
"Andrew’s a good guy to build with," 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."
He also said the coaches are pushing Thomas to fix his flaws.
"Look, he’s a young player who’s still learning to develop in this league," Judge said. "Nothing is going to be perfect all the time. We need to keep doing a good job of coaching him and bringing him along . . . I think with any young player, it always comes down to just fundamentals, that you can execute your technique at the right time against the speed of the game."
Judge had plenty of praise for Peart after the Washington win, too, and he continued to put Peart on the field on a series-by-series basis against the Eagles . . . but back at right tackle where he is platooning with starter Cam Fleming.
As for who starts at left tackle on Monday night against the Bucs, though, Judge will have a choice to make. The organization has a choice to make. Do they go with the developmental player in Peart who has shown he can be a capable starter? Or do they stick with the first-round pick in Thomas who is playing more like a developmental player?
If they look at the team’s win-loss record for each, the answer should be clear.