Giants gifting Andrew Thomas left tackle job would be mistake
Make him earn it.
By all means, provide Andrew Thomas immediate access to compete for a starting job as a rookie. Anything short of Thomas lining up with the first team for the Giants on opening day will be a disappointment for the first-round pick.
Get Thomas ready to play, the sooner, the better, preferably Week 1 against the Steelers on “Monday Night Football’’ — if the NFL starts up as scheduled. Just make sure he embarks on his NFL career at right tackle, even though he was selected to be the left tackle of the future.
Something earned is always more meaningful than something given. If the Giants did not already have an incumbent left tackle, putting Thomas as the marquee spot on the offensive line makes some sense. After all, he spent the past two seasons at Georgia at left tackle after playing right tackle in his freshman year. His body type, long arms and wonderfully developed technique all scream “natural left tackle.’’ This ascension, though, can wait.
“Very solid kid, hungry kid, he doesn’t even feel like he’s arrived,’’ Shaun O’Hara, former Giants center and currently an NFL Network analyst, told The Post. “It’s good for a guy like him to come in and, ‘No, you’re not going to left tackle, you’re playing right tackle.’ You got to earn left tackle.’’
Nate Solder enters his 10th NFL season, and third with the Giants. He spent the past eight years starting at left tackle. It makes no sense to take a 32-year old veteran entrenched on the left side and move him to the right in order to accommodate a 21-year old. Solder needs to pick up the pace in order to resuscitate a career that took a large step backward in 2019 — when he again started all 16 games but in 1,011 snaps allowed 11 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking as the No. 45 offensive tackle in the league.
Solder late last season said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to be successful on this team’’ in response to making a move to right tackle. “If they ask me to spin a hula hoop around my head, I’ll do that.’’
Attitude and compliance is never an issue with Solder; performance is what the Giants need from him now.
Will Hernandez is entering his third NFL season, and what he gained playing alongside Solder for 32 games should continue, not be interrupted by moving Solder away. At least some of Solder’s struggles the past two years can be traced to helping Hernandez learn the ropes. The more they line up next to each other, the better, for both of them.
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Putting Thomas at right tackle allows him to break in next to Kevin Zeitler — a 30-year old, 330-pound block of granite. Zeitler is as steady as they come, and Thomas will benefit from all the veteran has to offer.
Ereck Flowers — despite severe deficiencies with his technique, especially the way he positioned and used his hands — started from Day 1 as a rookie in 2015, at left tackle. Flowers won the job in training camp, but in actuality there was no real competition. Flowers was in by default, ready or not.
“I hate bringing up his name because it brings back bad memories, but the worst thing to happen to Ereck Flowers is he started as a rookie at left tackle,’’ O’Hara said. “Once you start as a rookie, that first year you couldn’t tell him anything, because he had already played. That’s it. He wasn’t listening to anybody. It’s good you got a guy in Andrew Thomas that’s still hungry.’’
It is not where you start, it is where you finish. Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, the No. 4-overall draft pick in 1996, actually began his NFL career with the Ravens at left guard before moving to left tackle in his second season. Tyron Smith, the No. 9 pick in 2011, started at right tackle as a rookie — Jason Garrett, the Giants offensive coordinator, was Smith’s head coach with the Cowboys — before becoming a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle.
First-year Giants coach Joe Judge said Thomas, and all the tackles, will compete on both sides.
“This is not the finish line, this is a starting point,’’ Judge said.
Former Giants guard Chris Snee, a member of the team’s Ring of Honor, scouted and studied Thomas in a former role as an offensive line analyst for the Jaguars.
“I like Thomas a lot,’’ Snee said. “The safest pick. Technically sound player, power, will fit in any scheme, he played in the toughest league. As far as technique goes, he is what you are looking for from the left tackle position.’’
Thomas will eventually make his way over to the left side. Good things come to those who wait.
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