EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants benched first-round pick Andrew Thomas for the start of Sunday's game against the Washington Football Team after he was late to a team meeting on Saturday. Fellow rookie Matt Peart took Thomas' spot at left tackle in the starting lineup.
Thomas, the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft, was expected to face off against Chase Young, the No. 2 overall selection out of Ohio State. Instead it was Peart, the Giants' third-round pick this year, who started.
Thomas entered the game in the second quarter for the Giants' third offensive series. After the Giants' 20-19 victory, Thomas said in a statement that his benching was for disciplinary reasons.
"I was late for our meeting [Saturday] night," Thomas said in the statement. "Coach [Joe] Judge always talks about: Actions have consequences. And I take responsibility for my actions and the consequences. It won't happen again."
Thomas has struggled early in his career after being thrust into the starting spot at left tackle with Nate Solder having opted out before the season. Thomas entered Sunday 61st out of 68 offensive tackles with a 79.4% pass rush win rate. He allowed a sack/fumble caused by DeMarcus Lawrence that was returned for a touchdown last week against the Dallas Cowboys.
Judge was adamant his struggles were not the reason for the benching.
"This was not performance-based at all," Judge said. "I'm not going to go too far into detail. What I will say is Andrew violated team policy. There was nothing disobedient, disrespect or malicious in what he did. But he made a mistake and there are consequences for mistakes. We have to make sure we handle that the right way."
Thomas and Peart split time throughout Sunday's game, with Peart outsnapping the first-round pick, 25-21. Neither Peart nor Thomas allowed a sack in the contest.
Young finished with two tackles -- one for a loss -- and no quarterback hits. He was, for the most part, a non-factor.
The Giants offense had its only touchdown drive in the first quarter with Peart at left tackle.
"He did a great job for us," Giants quarterback Daniel Jones said of his late-minute starting left tackle. "Matt is a guy who has come in and improved every day. He's a guy that has a great approach to the game and to his work. And certainly has a lot of talent too. He played big for us today and we all certainly have a lot of confidence in him."
Both Peart and Thomas received praise from their head coach after the contest for how they performed against Washington. Judge would not commit publicly to Thomas being the starter Thursday night when the Giants play on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"In terms of how we play everybody going forward, I say it all the time, it's not just something I say but we plan on playing everybody we take to the game every week," Judge said.
The Giants had their choice of offensive tackles in this year's draft. They went with Thomas, who was an All-American at the University of Georgia, over Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills and Tristan Wirfs, all of whom were selected among the top 13 picks.
Thomas' early struggles do come with a caveat: He has had no acclimation period and faced some of the league's best pass-rushers (Khalil Mack, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith and Lawrence) over the first five weeks of the season.