EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Lorenzo Carter and Andrew Thomas have led reasonably parallel lives.
They were standout football players at the University of Georgia – their home state university – where Carter played outside linebacker and Thomas both left and right tackle. They each played all 15 games for the Bulldogs in 2017, when Carter was a senior and Thomas a freshman who started every game. Each was an all-state football player in high school who also distinguished himself musically: Carter played the tuba and cello in the Norcross High School band and orchestra, while Thomas, a drummer and pianist, was a member of the concert band at Pace Academy in Atlanta.
The similarities have extended to their professional careers, where each is being counted on to contribute significantly to a Giants revival under coach Joe Judge. A third-year pro, Carter is one of several players the team expects to consistently pressure quarterbacks. Thomas, the fourth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, is expected to hold down one of the starting tackle jobs.
They collided yesterday in practice, when Carter got the best of Thomas in a one-on-one pass rush drill. But the rookie didn't let it bother him and held his own for the remainder of the challenging and physical drill.
"That's just the mentality," Thomas said. "It was a great rep by Lorenzo. Honestly, it's the next play mentality. I have to come back and do my best to win the next rep."
Carter remains a charter member of the Andrew Thomas fan club.
"I knew from day one when he stepped on campus at Athens that he was going to be a top first round pick," Carter said. "It's nothing new. It's the same thing he did as a freshman in college. He's learned, grown and matured. As a rookie, he came in that far advanced, too. I know I have to bring it to Andrew because like I said, he's ready. I have to make sure he's ready for game one."
Carter had 4.5 sacks last season and finished with 4.0 as a rookie. He was credited with 13 quarterback hits, three more than he had in his debut season. Carter's goal is to increase both of those numbers this season, but the key is finding the way to do it.
"I think it's always just refining your game, trying to become a more powerful player for me," Carter said. "Just making sure I do everything and put myself in the position to be successful with whatever the coaches ask me to do. It was really just refining my game (in the offseason), working hands, working power, and working the angles really because a lot of times, it comes down to what types of angles you have. That's one thing I saw a lot last year and then the coaches pointed it out to me when we got into the lab this year."
Thomas has become a sponge for the teachings of line coach Marc Colombo and his veteran teammates. His lofty draft position doesn't mask the fact that he has much room for improvement.
"For me, the biggest thing right now, especially in pass pro, is my hands," Thomas said. "In college, I had a bad habit of having my hands outside my frame. I'm working on keeping my hands inside and getting a good strike. In the run, game just keep a good base. Sometimes I get a little too excited trying to get to the block. Just make sure I keep a good base each time."
That quote reveals that Thomas has been paying close attention to his position coach.
"Andrew is a tremendous football player," Colombo said last week. "At this level, it's about fine-tuning some of those details. One of the first things we talked about was use of hands, hand strike. Andrew's aware of where he needs to get better. That was one thing he needed to get better with, so that's something we've been working on quite a bit. Then 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 that he's thinking. Those are some of the things that we've been working on and some of the things we've been talking about.
"I love where Andrew is heading. We have a long way to go. But he has the right mindset, he's smart, he knows where some of his deficiencies are right now and he's working every day to get better. There are not a lot of deficiencies. It's about cleaning up those little details and keep pushing every day."
Thomas has already passed his first major pro test and it was fittingly in a musical realm. Following an ancient NFL rookie tradition, he was forced to sing in front of his teammates. His selection was, "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone."
"I think," Thomas said, "I held my own."
*Except for new kicker Graham Gano, who did not play last season, wide receiver Golden Tate and backup quarterback Colt McCoy are the Giants players with the most service time in the NFL. Both players are beginning their 11th seasons. But Tate's 148 regular-season games are easily the highest total among players on the team's current roster. Tate has played for six playoff teams, including a Super Bowl winner in Seattle in 2013.
Tate knows successful teams share many characteristics and he sees many of them on this Giants team.
"Every one of the guys is showing up every day trying to get better," Tate said. "We're hungry to win. We're taking it day by day. The attention to detail that we are going over as we install. (Offensive coordinator) Jason Garrett shows up every day and he is abundantly clear in what he expects from us. Our standard is very high that we are chasing every single day. The detail, no matter if it's a walk-through or in the meeting room, we are paying attention to detail. Speaking as a receiver, no matter where it is, we are in the correct stance. We are getting our steps down correctly in our routes. Things like that I think are going to make a huge difference come September when we start playing. The attention to detail is what's going to really help us out this year."