clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Film study: How did Andrew Thomas perform in his first game back?

Thomas showed glimpses of what the Giants missed with him sidelined

New York Giants vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Not that we needed a reminder, but Andrew Thomas is good at football. The New York Giants star left tackle returned on Sunday from a hamstring injury that he suffered on the first drive in Week 1. In a befuddling manner, he played 53 total snaps in that 40-0 blowout against Dallas.

Nevertheless, Thomas returned in Week 9 against the Las Vegas Raiders and played all 63 offensive snaps at left tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed five pressures and two sacks in the Giants' 30-6 loss.

Both sacks credited to Thomas weren’t his fault, per se. One was a Cover-0 blitz where two free rushers converged on quarterback Tommy DeVito.

Thomas (78) didn’t locate the correct depth on his set against Tyree Wilson (9), but Tommy DeVito (15) had two defenders in the pocket and nowhere to step up to offset Thomas’ less-than-ideal path to Tyree. Raiders’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham pulled a Wink Martindale with the zero look versus wide rushers outside to open up the B-Gaps for blitzing defenders. As we see above, the three interior offensive linemen are occupied with two Raiders defenders.

On the second sack, the Giants half-slide toward Maxx Crosby (98), and the pressure, while both linebackers sugaring the A-Gap drop into coverage. In five-man protection with that defensive alignment, no one could assume Trevon Moehrig (25), who comes off Thomas’ side unblocked; that is, of course, if Lawrence Cager (83) was told not to chip or help and to get into his route with hast. The sack goes down, on paper, as Thomas’ responsibility, but it’s more nuanced than that.

Thomas was knocking off the rust, but he looked fine in this game. Not perfect, but better than five pressures and two sacks would suggest. After studying Evan Neal, Josh Ezeudu, Justin Pugh, and Tyre Phillips at tackle all season, a cursory look at the tape shows how Thomas is a different type of tackle. I attempt to show why below.

Pass blocking

Rookie seventh-overall pick Tyree Wilson frequently found himself opposite of Thomas. Wilson was controlled the entire game by Thomas, other than the quick jump he got on Thomas in the Cover-0 sack above.

Thomas sets at a 45-degree angle. His hips and chest are square to his target as he patiently waits to strike. Like a Burmese python baiting his prey, Thomas latches onto the rookie and tosses him out of the proverbial club.

Wilson attempted to get through the outside shoulder and then work back inside. Thomas, with his elite anchor and framing, does a great job matching Wilson’s movement and dictating the rep by driving through Wilson as the rookie tried to work a secondary move.

Off the Giants’ play-action, Thomas uses a jump set to attack Wilson. A jump set is a much more aggressive way for offensive linemen to be on the attack against defenders. It’s typically combined with play action since it can appear like a run block with the forward nature of movement.

Let’s appreciate Thomas’ feet and how he kept his chest square to Wilson the entire time; the numbers 78 and 8 were kissing the entire game. It’s the reactive quickness, adjustment, and positioning of Thomas that is so impressive.

Wilson must respect the play action and the run, which forces him to start slowly with his pass rush moves, but the vice grips attached to Andrew Thomas’ arms are too strong. Thomas’ ability to open and close his hips upon reacting to Wilson’s movement is very smooth and effortless.

You may be thinking...Nick, he’s doing this against a rookie; what about Maxx Crosby? Well, they didn’t see each other a ton in the game, but Thomas did well against the uber-talented pass rusher. Crosby attempted to crash inside the B-Gap for interior penetration, but Thomas quickly shoved him into the guard and reacted promptly to the subsequent outside spin. Again, the feet and the ability to quickly open and close his hips are astounding.

Crosby used the bull rush to work through Thomas’ outside shoulder on a more vertical set from Thomas. With disciplined hips, Thomas met Crosby on the third step of his set. Thomas absorbed the contact and sat back on his hips as Crosby’s center of gravity rose. Look at Thomas’ knees and ankles; his knees are so low to the ground, and his ankle flexion on contact is remarkable as he bowed his back and influenced Crosby toward the top of the pass-rushing arc. Once Crosby got hip-to-hip on the high side of the arc, Thomas shoved him away from Daniel Jones (8) and eliminated him from the play.

Although the game was a wild disappointment - the story of the Giants’ 2023 season - it was fun to see consistent competence from the left side of the Giants’ line.

Run blocking

I missed Thomas as the play-side tackle on Giants’ counter runs. This is a GH-counter run with the backside guard and the sniffer pulling to the front side of the play. Thomas blocked down on the 3-technique Bilal Nichols (91) with Justin Pugh (67). The goal for Thomas is to create an alley in the five-hole inside of the backside guard’s kick-out block for Saquon Barkley (26) to follow the sniffer.

Once Thomas helps to wash Nichols down the line of scrimmage, it’s his job to find Jaylon Smith (15), who is tasked to scrape and fill behind Robert Spillane (41). Not only does Thomas get Nichols on the deck, but he quickly transitions to Smith and latches on like a vampiric leech.

Here’s a similar GH-counter run with Malik Reed (52) executing a wrong-arm technique to successfully spill the run outside to rally defenders. Still, Thomas and Pugh toss Jerry Tillery (90) aside, and Thomas, again, quickly latched onto Smith, and sent him stumbling.

Thomas executed a combo block with Daniel Bellinger (82) on this double-Y (two tight ends on the same side) outside zone run. Bellinger does a great job contacting Wilson and locating the second-level defender, but watch how Thomas assumes Wilson on the transition with Bellinger; Thomas contacts Wilson and turns his hips inward to create the seal. By the time Barkley passes Thomas, the tackle’s backside is completely toward the running back. Beautiful execution.

Another I-formation outside zone run; only this time, Thomas is to the open side of the formation (no tight ends to his side). Wilson attempted to set the edge, but Thomas was far too strong for the rookie.

Final thoughts

It’s a shame that Thomas missed most of the season. He’s one of the better left tackles in the league. He was, though, knocking off some rust in this game.

As we witnessed on the Cover-0 sack and in the play directly above, his sets weren’t as consistently crisp as we’ve become accustomed to expect. Still, seeing everything from Thomas’ strength, technique, feet, hips, hands, and positioning gave me an unnecessary reminder of how good Andrew Thomas is at football. He’s one of the core building blocks for the Giants and will help protect whoever the quarterback is moving forward.