The Giants have two choices when it comes to Andrew Thomas at this precise moment in his career.
They can stick with him as their left tackle and hope he is able to work through the struggles that have made him the soft spot in the offensive line. Or they can pull the plug on the fourth overall pick – even if it’s for a short time – to allow him to recalibrate himself, look at things from a different perspective perhaps, and wait for him to show improvement in practices before they stick him back in game action.
Entrench him or bench him.
Marc Colombo, the Giants’ offensive line coach, said he is not in favor of the latter more drastic measure.
"I don’t think we’re there yet," he said on Wednesday.
To make that case, Colombo pointed not to what he sees during the glaring and costly mistakes Thomas makes in games, including allowing two sacks against the Eagles in the most recent loss, but rather what he sees after them.
"If he were to get beat on a specific play, he always comes back strong," Colombo said. "Always. Any time he gets beat, the next play, he executes, he understands it, he doesn’t dwell on it. Now, if you had a rookie that dwelled on that type of thing and really got down, put his head down and wasn’t up for the challenge . . . but that’s not the case with him. We don’t have that type of player. Andrew is going to battle back and fight through it."
What makes Thomas’ troubles more frustrating is that they are holding back the entire offensive line. Colombo said he thinks that after seven games most of the unit has begun to jell and understand what is being asked of them. He touted first-year center Nick Gates’ progress and spoke about the progress that has been made from early in the season through the Eagles game.
"We’ve made huge strides as a group," he said.
Thomas, though, has not.
"Early on, it was the consistency of the whole entire group," Colombo said. "Now it’s kind of the consistency of a couple individuals and it’s usually the young guys, and we’ve just got to get a little bit more out of (Thomas) and kind of take it to the game. You can see it in spurts, but we need to start seeing it consistently and he knows that. He’s ready for the challenge and I expect some good games coming up here for Andrew. I think he realizes and we realize exactly where we’re at as a line."
Thomas, when drafted, was considered one of the safest picks in the draft because of his sterling technique in college. That still shows up in NFL games, but there are too many times when it completely disappears. Other first-round tackles such as the Jets’ Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs who the Giants will face this week with the Bucs, have seemed to have fewer stumbles and adjusted much better to the pro level.
Bruce Arians, head coach of the Bucs, seemed thrilled with Wirfs, his rookie left tackle drafted nine spots after Thomas. "He’s had some of the best pass rushers in the league up against him, and (Khalil) Mack got him a couple times but other than that he’s held his own every single week," Arians said on Wednesday. "He’s a physical specimen but he’s a very bright guy. A very intense guy but he doesn’t show it on his face. He’ll help a guy up, but he loves knocking them down."
Colombo said the biggest issue holding Thomas back from being the dominant player the Giants thought they drafted is his timing.
"What Andrew does in practice right now is not really translating to the games," Colombo said. "That’s part of my job to be able to simplify it and make it easy for him so he goes out in these games and he thinks less. You don’t want a young guy thinking too much."
Overall, Colombo said he is pleased with Thomas’ play – the handful of errors that come up in each game aside.
"It’s easy to hone in on those three or four where, maybe it was an inside move here or there," Colombo said. "But there was a lot of good plays on film (against the Eagles)."
The key is to eliminate them altogether.
"It’s your job as the left tackle to block a defensive end in the NFL one-on-one," Colombo said. "That’s why he’s here, that’s why he’s going to hang around for a long time . . . At the end of the day, you’ve got to win more one-on-one reps than you lose. It’s pretty much what it comes down to. We put a lot on him, he knows that, and we’ll help when it’s appropriate."
Right now, that help comes in the form of sticking with him.