Press rewind on the eight explosive plays made by the Giants last week and a common theme develops at the start of each.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas is dominating his one-on-one matchup. and the rest of the makeshift offensive line — four different alignments in as many games — is giving time to Daniel Jones to chuck the ball down the field or holding blocks long enough for playmakers to cut across the field.
“If these quarterbacks get hit early — I don’t care who they are — they are giving the ball up because they just want to get it out of their hands,” NFL Network film guru Brian Baldinger told The Post. “But Daniel didn’t play like that. He hung in there, stayed in the pocket, made his reads, made a number of great throws, got the ball down the field — and a big part of that is knowing that he is going to be protected on the back side.”
The growing confidence leaving the win over the Saints hit a speed bump Wednesday when Thomas (foot) limped onto the practice field and did not participate in a walk-through, forcing Nate Solder to shift to left tackle and Matt Peart off the bench at right tackle. The injury is unrelated to Thomas’ offseason ankle surgery and will be monitored throughout the week, but there is no indication yet that Thomas will not play Sunday.
“We realize our role and responsibility is huge on this team,” Solder said. “We’ve got another really tough group coming up against Dallas. Controlling the line of scrimmage is really what the game comes down to a lot of the time, so if we can do that it’s going to give us an advantage.”
Losing season after losing season over a decade, the Giants offensive line carried the bulk of the blame. During an 0-3 start, the alarms sounded on Jason Garett’s offense as too vanilla, Saquon Barkley as lacking his pre-injury explosiveness and Jones as not a franchise quarterback. None of this looked to be the case during a 485-yard explosion against the Saints, and it doesn’t take a detective to trace it back to the offensive line.
Asked to describe the identity of the Giants offense right now, coach Joe Judge’s first thought was, “We’re doing a good job protecting up front.”
Look no further than Thomas, who has transformed from rookie liability to Pro Bowl-caliber.
Jones’ time to throw has increased in each of the first four games, from 2.58 seconds in Week 1 to 2.87 seconds last week. The offensive line practiced 20 minutes longer than any other group one day last week under the watch of coaching consultant Pat Flaherty.
“Some of the throws that Jones made he needed an extra tick, and Thomas gave it to him,” Baldinger said. “Two things: He is not getting overextended and lunging at guys — so he is much more patient when he shoots his hands — and he is not dropping his inside foot. He has his cleats in the ground. You can see it in his consistent sets.”
Thomas has not allowed a sack (one quarterback hit) on 182 pass-blocking snaps, and his Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade ranks eighth among all offensive tackles and first among second-year players.
“It has a huge impact on me, on everyone,” Jones said. “He’s played great. No secret. I think when you turn on the tape, he’s shut down pass rushers. Whoever he’s gone up against, he’s played really well It’s the ultimate team game, and that’s an important position.”“Their stunts are complex,” Solder said. “You can run a two-man stunt, but they are running three- or four-man stunts with a blitzer here or there, so you have to be ready for that.”
Especially with Thomas on the injury report. Especially in this matchup.
The Cowboys’ defensive line has tormented the Giants over the previous four seasons — 20 sacks and 56 quarterback hits with a 7-1 record in eight games — and leads the NFL in percentage of pressures created off stunts, according to Judge.
“Dallas is quicker but smaller up front than New Orleans,” Baldinger said. “I’m waiting for somebody to stay with the run game against them and use play-action. If you are just dropping back, you are playing right into their hands. With what they have right now, the Giants have everything at their disposal to go up and down the field with Dallas.”