Andrew Thomas knows about it because he has family and friends who alert him to such things. He does not seek it out himself. And so, Thomas is aware that there is an analytics claim out there that he is playing better than every other NFL offensive tackle.
That’s fine with him.
“But I try to have the same approach as if I was the worst tackle graded,” Thomas told The Post. “You got to take it with a grain of salt. They don’t know our scheme and stuff like that. Obviously, I want to be one of the best in the league and I’m working every day to get better, regardless of what ratings may say. For me, it’s the approval from my teammates, coaches and opponents, probably, that mean the most to me.’’
Through two games, Thomas is playing at a level commensurate with his lofty NFL Draft status — No. 4 overall in 2020. Thomas was on his way to living up to expectations last season, despite a lingering ankle issue that required surgery. Now, Thomas is fully healthy, and it shows. He is the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus, just ahead of Rashawn Slater of the Chargers and well-ahead of his first-round draft classmates, Tristin Wirfs (11) and Jedrick Wills (58). Mekhi Becton (not ranked) has not played at all for the Jets.
Thomas has not allowed a sack in 61 pass block snaps and has also not allowed a quarterback hit. His run-blocking grade (90.8) against the Panthers was through the roof.
Thomas certainly does not mind this praise. Who does not like to hear how well he is doing? He is an extremely level-headed 23-year old — he is the youngest Giants team captain, as voted on by his teammates — and is not going to sit there and say he is not playing well when he is. He is also not going to sit there and say he has arrived.
“Some things to be cleaned up,” Thomas said. “I think I’m doing OK for the first time with a new offensive line, new scheme but definitely some things in the first two games, things I wish I had back. I could be better in pass pro and some of my combinations in the run game. Always room for improvement.”
It was not long ago that many in the league were quick to label Thomas as a major disappointment after he struggled in the first half of his rookie year. It was also a popular take that the Giants, selecting first, got the worst of the four coveted first round tackles in 2020.
That is no longer a popular take.
“I’d say experience helps,” said head coach Brian Daboll, who inherited a more NFL battle-tested Thomas in his third year. “You’re gonna go through some growing pains, I’m certain that he did, we all do. His mindset is, he’s a very consistent, dependable person and that kinda translates to the field.”
The challenges are never-ending. Up next, Thomas knows he has to deal with two elite pass-rushers when the Giants face the Cowboys on Monday night at MetLife Stadium. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had 25 sacks in a two-year span (2017-18) before injuries set him back, and he always delights in abusing Giants quarterbacks. Linebacker Micah Parsons is a phenom, with 17 sacks in his first 18 NFL games. Last season, when the Cowboys swept the two-game series, Thomas did not go against Parsons much. Parsons mostly lined up on the left side or on the interior of the Dallas defense. Perhaps Parsons will choose to test rookie Evan Neal over at right tackle.
“We’re not sure exactly where he’ll be,” Thomas said. “Just have to prepare for everybody, all the rushers that they have, all the different packages that they have. They move around, try to get good matchups so we’ll see where he plays.”
There are always edge rushers to deal with. There are always holes and creases that need to be created in the run game. It is the job description of an offensive tackle and, through two games, Thomas is executing it at a high level. Maybe even the highest level.
“You want to be one of the best in the game but that’s not the end all, be all,” Thomas said. “We’re in Week 3, so much more ball left to be played, so many other defenses I’ve got to go against, I’m just focused on getting better regardless of what the ratings say.”