After the Giants made the fourth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, general manager Dave Gettleman said they wanted "to fix this offensive line once and for all."
That pick was Andrew Thomas, the highest-drafted offensive lineman by the organization since 1974.
The offensive line has been a rebuild inside of a rebuild for Gettleman, who invested resources in free agency and the draft on the unit before – but not like what he did in late April.
"First of all, it's an honor to play for the New York Football Giants, a great organization with a lot of good history," Thomas said on the Giants Huddle podcast. "I'm an offensive lineman, so I take pride in being able to run the ball, being able to protect the quarterback, and obviously, that's something that they take a lot of interest in, too."
With quarterback Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, bolstering the offensive line was a no-brainer. The Giants used three of their first five picks on the unit, and while it has been an auspicious start to their rookie years, they are preparing to be the tone-setters for the team.
"It's a huge adjustment," Thomas said about the current circumstances with the coronavirus pandemic. "Nobody will be prepared for it, but I've just been trying to play the cards that I've been dealt. We're having our meetings online. I've been fortunate enough to be able to work out because I'm in Georgia, so some of the gyms are open, so I've been able to stay in shape and things like that. I'm just trying to make the best of my time that I have."
The Giants' virtual offseason program wrapped up last month, but Thomas has been working in person with former Falcons offensive lineman Kynan Forney in Georgia. The longtime starter made it a point of emphasis to cross-train Thomas at both left and right tackle as the Giants want him to be ready to play both sides.
Thomas started all 41 games in which he played in college – 15 at right tackle as a true freshman in 2017 and 13 at left tackle in both 2018 and 2019. He missed only one game in three seasons. Thomas entered the NFL Draft after his junior year.
"For me, it's kind of like a switch in my head that kind of goes off, because the plays and everything are the same, the technique is the same, but everything is flipped to the other side," Thomas said. "You might be using your right leg for something that would maybe be different on the left side. It's just getting used to that. But once I get a few repetitions at it, it's just natural."
Forney has been an asset for Thomas, whose interaction with Giants offensive line coach Marc Colombo has been limited to video conferences to this point. That is set to end at the end of this month when the Giants report for training camp.
"He's a teacher," Thomas said of Colombo, who was a first-round draft choice in 2002 and played tackle for Chicago (2002-05), Dallas (2005-10) and Miami (2011). "He wants us to know everything that's going on. We're learning the formations, everything that's going on, so we can understand the game on another level. I like that. It's kind of similar to what I had at Georgia with Coach [Sam] Pittman. He wanted us to know everything that's going on. I feel like as an offensive lineman, understanding the big picture allows us to play faster. He's a great coach so I'm excited to be on the field with him."
Colombo began his coaching career with the Cowboys in 2015. The head coach was Jason Garrett, who is now the Giants' offensive coordinator. Under them, tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick were among the very best players at their positions in the NFL.
Now they are teaching Thomas how to be a pro.
"It's different from college. There's nobody checking on you, making sure you're going to class," Thomas said. "It's 'you're a man, this is your job, treat it like that.' That's what I've been trying to do."
Thomas added, "It's just the details. In college, there are a few things that you can get away with. Like you understand where the play is going and you have a general technique that you use for that play. But in the pros, there are changes based on linebackers' rotation, alignment, what the motions are. I talk about the big picture of understanding what's going on, what the formation is, things like that, makes a big difference in the plays."
When he isn't learning plays, Thomas is getting to know his teammates and coaches. Throughout the offseason, Judge quizzed players on names and faces around the organization.
"For the rookies, the big thing for us is knowing everybody on the team, knowing the staff," Thomas said. "They test us all the time because they want us to know. The NFL is a people's league, and we have to know our teammates and the people that we'll see in the building every day. So, we're trying to do that. I've also been building a relationship with [veteran offensive tackle] Nate Solder actually. He reached out to me. Obviously, he's a man of faith, so that's something that's big for me, just him inviting me to be part of bible studies, something that I want to do and stuff like that. Just trying to get to know the guys.
"There are so many people, but it just takes repetition. How they set it up is, a lot of times the person that is speaking to us that day during the rookie development program, that would be the person that we had to say or the person we had to call out. It's kind of like putting a face with a name. Obviously, being in the building, it'll be a lot easier."