The New York Giants have had a revolving cast of characters try and play left tackle in the waning years of the Eli Manning era.
Ereck Flowers, Marshall Newhouse, and Nate Solder all attempted but failed to offer any sort of consistent presence on the offensive line over the last seven seasons.
The Jerry Reese/Dave Gettleman experience has ended though. And it’s apparent through the first year of the Joe Schoen era has looked to resolve the longstanding problems in the trenches.
And it starts with the tackles.
Andrew Thomas and seventh overall pick Evan Neal are the new big men on campus along the Giant’s offensive line. Thomas, the fourth overall pick in 2020 had a slow start to his career before catching fire in the later parts of the 2021 season. Pro Football Focus graded Thomas’ season at an elite 78.9.
PFF also graded Thomas as one of the top players in the game as his position as he continues to develop.
For Thomas entering his third season, it is just another opportunity to show his continued improvements in New York.
“I’m excited. I’ve been working hard and getting better every year.” Thomas said after Tuesday’s practice.
Part of getting better and helping the team means talking with pass rushers that they go against every day. In New York, the Giants have bolstered their pass rush with the draft picks of Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
With the arrival of Thibodeaux, it gives Thomas a chance to get tips and tricks on what pass rushers will look to use against him, while also offering some advice in return.
“Just competing every day. Obviously, when you go against guys a lot of times you start to key on what their rushers and moves are. We’re working every day. We go back and forth and give each other different tips to try and be better.” Thomas added.
Of course, while Thomas works hand-in-hand with defensive linemen on the roster, gelling with his offensive line group is just as important.
The former Georgia standout may have been rivals with a player like Evan Neal from Alabama, but with both players now on the same team, it’s a chance for both players to show that they can help change the culture of the Giant’s offensive line.
“He’s (Evan Neal) doing a great job. He’s young, but he’s very mature. he comes in every day to get better. I try to give him little tidbits so with this being our first week we’re going to study together and different pass rushers and pick his brain on how he’s going to attack pass rushers.” Thomas explained.
Having two young tackles that perform well could alter the course of an entire franchise. Solidifying the edge of an offensive line can help prolong NFL careers for running-backs and quarterbacks.
It’s something the former Giants front office failed to do in the last few years of the Eli Manning era, but are trying to correct in a big year for their current quarterback.
The Giants are in the final year of both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barley’s rookie contracts. Both players have dealt with injury concerns and poor blocking in front of them.
While neither of the top skill positions has been dealt a fair hand to start their careers, times are changing for the Giants. And Andrew Thomas sees the merit of both players stepping up.
“Both of those guys have been doing a great job. Once DJ gets the ball to one of these playmakers we have, it can be exciting. We just got to give him time to make those decisions. Saquon has looked really good. He is hitting the hole really well, it could be a touchdown every play, he’s very talented.” Thomas said.
The Giants have two of the youngest pairs of tackles in the game. Thomas is still just 23, while Neal is 21.
Inexperience certainly hurts in some facets of their game, but the intangibles and skillset of both players could potentially turn the course of not just the Giants this season, but the overall future of the whole franchise.
With a matchup on opening day against the Tennessee Titans looming, the Giant’s offensive line will need their young tackles to begin that change.