The perception of Thomas has changed drastically since his rookie season. He struggled mightily in 2020 at the beginning of his rookie season; there was no confidence in his pass sets, his punch timing/effectiveness was erratic, and he was susceptible to counter moves.
Thomas finished the season strong, but questions still lingered about his development and potential as a starting left tackle in the NFL. These concerns were exacerbated during the 2021 preseason when Thomas lost a few reps to Patriots EDGE rusher Josh Uche. The disquietude about Thomas’ selection as the top tackle in a loaded 2020 tackle class was palpable.
These worries are now quelled after Thomas was the clear-cut best offensive player on the Giants; that may not be saying much, but the difference in play from year one to two was stark.
According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas allowed 57 pressures and 10 sacks in his rookie year; he ranked second in pressures and sacks allowed, behind Jacksonville’s Jawaan Taylor and Houston’s Zach Fulton, respectively. In 2021, Thomas only allowed 18 pressures and 2 sacks. His technique improved by every metric: he was much more balanced, his punches had more purpose with better, more deliberate, placement, and he was disciplined with his positioning.
According to PFF’s grades, he was the 37th ranked offensive lineman in offense, the 116th as a run blocker, and the 20th best pass protecting offensive linemen. I don’t believe the run-blocking grade was necessarily indicative of Thomas’ ability and proficiency as a run blocker.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that Thomas was the fifth-ranked receiving threat in the NFL. One target, one catch, 2 yards, and a touchdown - put some respect on his name!
Thomas was the 14th-ranked tackle on the list. Here are the rankings for the tackles ahead of Thomas:
1: Trent Williams, SF
22: Jordan Mailata, PHI
28: Tyron Smith, DAL
39: Rashawn Slater, LAC
44: Tristan Wirfs, TB
46: Kolton Miller, LV
48: Ryan Ramczyk, NO
51: La’El Collins, DAL
52: Lane Johnson, PHI
53: Rob Havenstein, LAR
62: Donovan Smith, TB
66: Penei Sewell, DET
74: Dion Dawkins, BUF
Thomas was also the last-ranked tackle on the list. The list acts under all positions are equal philosophy, so quarterbacks aren’t disproportionally rated due to their importance. The top five included Williams, Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Zach Martin, and Davante Adams. Joe Burrow was the first quarterback ranked at six.
Thomas’ improvement in just one season was one of the lone bright spots for an unwatchable Giants offense. Unfortunately, the Giants may need to find four starters next to Thomas, albeit three may be the actual number with a hope that Shane Lemieux or Ben Bredeson can hold down, at least, one guard position.
The ineptitude on the Giants offensive line must be corrected. The issue has subsisted two general managers and several coaching staffs. It’s an obvious concern that Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll will address in the 2022 NFL Draft. At least they have the left tackle position figured out.