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Giants’ Andrew Thomas faces big test vs. Bears’ dynamic duo

Andrew Thomas aced a huge test in his first NFL game, and it only gets easier now.

Wait a second. The Bears’ tandem of Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn is up next? Never mind then.

Thomas more than held his own at left tackle for the Giants against the Steelers’ Bud Dupree — 11.5 sacks last season and a $15.8 million salary this season — in the season opener, but Week 2 brings another steep challenge. Quinn, a former All-Pro, and Mack, a former defensive player of the year, have 141.5 combined career sacks, but this will be their first game as teammates, so they could throw the kitchen sink at a rookie.

“When you are going against talented pass-rushers, a lot of times teams will just allow them to do what they do best,” Thomas said. “Sometimes they don’t have to come up with different schemes. They will just go one-on-one to see if you can hold up.”

The Giants made it clear in Week 1 that Thomas isn’t the first option for help when sliding a double-team or sending a chip-blocking tight end or running back into a pass route. That frequently went to right tackle Cam Fleming, while Thomas pushed Dupree out wide to allow Daniel Jones to step up in the pocket and deliver a 41-yard touchdown strike to Darius Slayton.

Andrew Thomas
Andrew ThomasN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“He showed he has a lot of ability in this league, and there’s a reason he’s here,” coach Joe Judge said. “He learned a lot of valuable lessons going against a top opponent like Bud Dupree. That’s something you can’t simulate.

“I don’t care who you have on your defensive front, [Dupree] is just different. He plays with a distinct motor. He’s a tough competitor. For Andrew to have his first NFL competition in a game against a guy like that, that says a lot for how he was able to hold up throughout the game.”

So, it should be another episode of Thomas Island, playing mano-a-mano on the edge against veteran experience. Quinn prefers playing on the defense’s right side and thus is Thomas’ most likely matchup, but Mack rotates between sides and could take a turn on the rookie.

Thomas was the Giants’ highest-graded offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus. On the whole, the line allowed a NFL-high 22 pass pressures and couldn’t open lanes for Saquon Barkley, who is under fire after rushing for 6 yards on 15 attempts.

“We have a standard that we set ourselves,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t up to par. Everyone that blocks on the offense, we have pride in being able to run the ball. We’ve been practicing hard to make sure that things like that don’t happen again.”

Don’t be too fooled by Judge’s high praise.

“Our coaches are always brutally honest with us,” Thomas said. “If you are not doing something up to your level, they are going to call you out. If you do something well, they will praise you. We didn’t run the ball like we wanted to, and they called us out about it.”

No time to be in awe of opponents making Pro Bowls since you were in high school.

Asked about Mack specifically, Thomas said, “I understand what type of numbers he has put up and how good of a player he has been for a while, but when I step on the field, there is not going to be time to think about what he’s done in the past. All I can do is focus on doing my best job.”

If Thomas succeeds again, there’s still no opportunity to exhale. The 49ers bring the league’s deepest defensive front, anchored by Joey Bosa and Arik Armstead, to Week 3, and DeMarcus Lawrence, Chase Young and Brandon Graham are waiting once the division games start.

“That’s the beauty of the NFL: There are no games off,” Thomas said. “Especially being a rookie, you have to get better each week.”

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