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Giants rookie OT Andrew Thomas being put to test in practice

Giants first round draft pick, offensive lineman Andrew

Giants first round draft pick, offensive lineman Andrew Thomas (78) walks across the practice field before stretching during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ, on Tuesday, Aug 18, 2020. Credit: Brad Penner

The Giants linebackers and defensive linemen have enough to worry about just getting ready for a season that is fast approaching. They have to approach each snap of each training camp practice with the proper intensity and attention, refining their techniques and preparing their bodies for the rigors of the upcoming games.

But they also have another very important job, one that may be more significant to the future of the franchise than any sacks or tackles they make this upcoming season.

They are the very first NFL players rookie tackle Andrew Thomas is facing. And since the first-round pick won’t have the luxury of any preseason games to acclimate to the speed and skill at this level of play, they’re really the only ones he’ll face before he almost certainly starts on Sept. 14 against the Steelers.

So when third-year linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who has plenty to prove and lots to improve upon, lined up in a one-on-one pass rushing drill against Thomas in Tuesday night’s practice, he recognized that the rep wasn’t all about him. There was something bigger happening when the ball was snapped.

“I know I have to bring it to Andrew,” Carter said, “because I have to make sure he’s ready for Game One.”

Thomas wasn’t ready for what Carter brought on Tuesday. The young vet bull-rushed into the rookie tackle and knocked him on his backside among the hoots and hollers of the defensive teammates who were watching and the cringes of other offensive linemen who have all known that embarrassment.

“It was a great rep by Lorenzo,” Thomas admitted on Wednesday, “but it’s a next-play mentality so I come back and do my best to win the next rep.”

And he did. With varying degrees of success against Carter, Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines, and even Leonard Williams. Thomas, in just his second day of full-contact football at the pro level, had plenty of crushing hits teaming up with guard Will Hernandez in the run game, a few stalemates in pass protection, and a couple of slip-ups when he was beaten (though none as obvious as the one that dumped him on his keister).

It’s what this week, this month, this season will likely be for Thomas, who described the practices as “some good, some bad” and ultimately admitted he has “a lot of work to do.”

That’s what the Giants expected from Thomas entering this season, though. The job changed a bit when veteran left tackle Nate Solder opted out over concerns about Covid-19 and Thomas became the likeliest player to be in charge of protecting Daniel Jones’ blindside and opening holes for Saquon Barkley. The process, however, is exactly what the Giants figured it would be.

“It was only the second day in pads,” Joe Judge said of Tuesday’s practice [Wednesday was a light jog-through]. “You’re looking for improvement from day to day… I saw some improvement. I was pleased with that.”

It should continue. The Giants remain very confident on Thomas. Offensive line coach Marc Colombo said last week that he is “a tremendous football player.”

“He has the right mindset, he’s smart, he knows where some of his deficiencies are right now and he’s working every day to get better,” Colombo said.

Then he added quickly: “There are not a lot of deficiencies.”

As for Carter, he was Thomas’ teammate at the University of Georgia and remembers when Thomas came to the team as a highly touted freshman. Back then he was thrust into the starting lineup too, and the more experienced players made it a point to test him and push him as hard as they could.

It made him such a better player that he wound up being the fourth overall pick in the draft.

“This is nothing new,” Carter said. “It’s the same thing he did as a freshman in college. He’s learned, grown and matured.”

Just a little more of that and he’ll be ready for Sept. 14.

New York Sports