Andrew Thomas was widely acknowledged as the most NFL-ready left tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft. His new offensive line coach with the Giants, Marc Colombo, sounds as if he agrees with this assessment.
“Andrew is a tremendous football player,’’ Colombo said Friday.
The compliment came and went and the two are forging a relationship based on a common goal: Getting Thomas, selected No. 4 overall out of Georgia — to be a top-notch offensive tackle, not only for a decade, but also as a rookie asked to play right away.
One of the first conversations between coach and player focused on what Thomas needed to improve on most of all. No patting on the back when there is work to be done.
“One of the first things we talked about was use of hands, hand strike,’’ Colombo said. “Andrew’s aware of where he needs to get better. That was one thing he needs to get better with. That’s something we’ve been working on quite a bit.
“And just the type of pass rusher you’re going to see week in and week out, it’s going to be a premier pass rusher, being able to study that rusher, know how to study him. Know what his moves are, know everything he’s thinking. Love where Andrew’s heading. He’s smart, he knows where some of his deficiencies are right now. And there’s not a lot of deficiencies.’’
With Nate Solder opting out for the season, Thomas likely will embark on his NFL career at left tackle.
Colombo has to find a starting center, with Spencer Pulley, Nick Gates and possibly rookie Shane Lemieux in the mix. Gates, 24, is one of the more intriguing players on the roster. He was signed in 2018 as an undrafted free agent after starting 25 games at left tackle at Nebraska. He started three games last season — two at right tackle, one at right guard. He could fill a valuable role as a swing player up and down the line. Or, if he develops at a brand new position this summer, he could land the starting center job.
“Never played the position before and he’s the alpha male you want at the position, he owns it,’’ Colombo said. “That’s what you love about Nick. He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s versatile. Just love the kid so far.’’
Gates at 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds is a bit taller than most centers. This is not a problem, Colombo said, pointing to a Pro Bowl player he worked with in Dallas. Travis Frederick was 6-4 and 317 pounds.
“We like big centers,’’ Colombo said. “We’re looking for centers that can anchor the middle. One of the biggest things is getting depth right off the bat at center just so he can kind of be the ultimate helper in there. It’s working his sets, working the depth of the sets, working the calls, the line stunts. That type of stuff. He’s just got to see it all. He’s new to the position so he’s seeing stuff for the first time.’’
DT Leonard Williams was removed from the non-football list, as his slight hamstring issue has healed. He participated in Friday’s practice.