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Robert Thomas fighting for spot in Giants’ defensive line rotation

With several new faces on the line, could Thomas be the odd man out?

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Robert Thomas makes a tackle in a 2016 game.
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman has been adamant about wanting to build a defensive line with quality depth, enabling defensive coordinator James Bettcher to rotate players and not wear anyone out.

Asked after the 2018 NFL Draft about all of the defensive linemen he had collected, Gettleman said:

“You cannot have too many good players at a position. Whether it’s defensive tackle, quarterback, o-line, I don’t care. And the other thing you’ve got to understand is, the problem you get into, and I’ve seen it a number of times, you have a really good 11 or 12 guys and you don’t have quality depth behind them. What happens is the coaches, and rightly so, don’t want to put in the backups that aren’t very good. Okay? So, what happens is, guys end up playing 95-98 percent. In the fourth quarter, their tongues are hanging out. They are gassed. Let me tell you something right now, you see teams that consistently blow fourth quarter leads. Obviously that’s on the defense. I promise you they’ve got no depth. They’ve got no depth. You have to have quality depth.”

Will one of the players the Giants count on to provide that depth be Robert Thomas, a backup defensive tackle the past two seasons? Let’s look closer at Thomas as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man training camp roster.

The basics

Age: 27
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 331
Position: Defensive tackle
Experience: 4

2017 season in review

Thomas played in a career-high 15 games, making 16 tackles (5 solo). He played 235 defensive snaps, up from only 68 in 2016. Thomas earned a 56.8 Pro Football Focus grade, in the “poor” category. Via Pat Traina and PFF, Thomas finished with four quarterback pressures and 16 tackles (five solo). with two missed tackles.

2018 outlook

During spring practices, the Giants somewhat surprisingly moved third-round pick B.J. Hill to defensive end, where it looks like the rookie could become a starter in the team’s base 3-4 defense.

That left Thomas to take the majority of the first-team snaps at nose tackle with Damon Harrison skipping most of the OTAs. Thomas figures to compete with veteran A.J. Francis to back up Harrison. With Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson, the apparent starting ends, both being capable of playing the nose you wonder if there will be room for both Thomas and Francis on the 53-man roster.