Where will Andrew Thomas — the New York Giants’ first-round selection — play during his inaugural season in the NFL?
The inconsistencies and struggles in and around the New York Giants offensive line have been overly existent for a number of years. Over the last pair of seasons, this front allowed a combined 90 sacks, a total that most certainly contributed to the team winning just nine games across that span.
The Giants thus kept the notion in mind this offseason that the group of “hog mollies” needed to be fixed once and for all, an idea that led them to select their left tackle for the future in Andrew Thomas at No. 4 overall. A unanimous All-American during his final season at the University of Georgia, Thomas was arguably the most NFL-ready tackle in the draft and will play a significant role in the overall enhancement of this unit.
But despite the aforementioned statement that he’ll be the “left tackle for the future,” will Thomas ultimately see any playing time at that position throughout the 2020 campaign?
You can expect the young player to start out at right tackle, considering the organization, in all likelihood, will be reluctant to give a rookie the responsibility of playing on Daniel Jones‘ blindside right out of the gate. But from there, there are two separate arguments.
For one, you can evaluate the recent struggles from veteran left tackle Nate Solder and suggest that at some point by the middle of the season, the Giants will make that switch. The team’s opponents through the first eight weeks and their respective pass-rushing units won’t precisely aid in Solder’s attempt to bounce back either — Steelers, Bears, 49ers, Rams, Cowboys, Redskins, Eagles, and Buccaneers.
Therefore, it’s easy to assume Solder will struggle heavily just like he did last year, a campaign in which he allowed a total of 12.5 sacks for 107 yards. Him not getting any younger (entering his age-32 season) could additionally lead to him regressing or remaining stagnant as a below-average left tackle.
If that happens to be the case, there’s a chance Thomas could find the blindside duties by the middle of his first year. Swift development and progression from the rookie will also help make that possibility come to fruition.
Or, the other argument you could provide is that you won’t see Thomas at left tackle until the 2021 season. This is actually the side I’m going with, and there are a number of reasons why.
Solder is a pure left tackle. He’s someone who’s played the position exclusively for the majority of his career. So switching him to the complete other side in the midst of a season, regardless of how that season is going, may be a riskier idea than some believe. A successful offensive line is built off chemistry and consistency, and if the team swaps its bookend tackles in the middle of the year, the line could end up out of sorts and the offense as a whole may not become accustomed to the adjustment right away.
It’s also probably correct to assume this will be Solder’s final year with the team. He’s signed through the 2021 season but hasn’t lived up to his expectations and could be out of the organization as early as next February. With that said, the Giants will probably want to get the most out of him considering the amount they’re paying him ($9.9 million base salary in 2020), and that may only be the case at the left tackle position.
Plus, an entire year at right tackle may be the superior move in regards to Thomas’ overall development. He’s experienced an unusual offseason, considering there wasn’t an in-person rookie camp, minicamp, or OTAs. The Giants will need to take it slow with him amid the underlying circumstances, and if that means him spending more time at right tackle, then so be it.
All in all, Thomas will assist in this offensive line’s improvement for both the short and long terms. Hold your horses on him playing left tackle in 2020 though. Due to Solder’s experience, salary, and this offseason’s alterations, an entire year at right tackle may be the more beneficial move for the rookie and his growth.