What's the use of having a nice car if the tires don't work?
That's the fundamentals-first approach Kynan Forney took as a longtime starter in the NFL, and that's the approach he has taken to coaching young offensive linemen, including Giants first-round pick Andrew Thomas.
Forney, who spent the vast majority of his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons from 2001-07, started training the Georgia product leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. He recently joined Paul Dottino and John Schmeelk on "Big Blue Kickoff Live" on Giants.com to discuss the continued development of the fourth overall pick.
"I see tremendous improvement in him," Forney said on the show. "Let's be clear about this, Andrew is a very smart football player. One thing that I've noticed with him is that when I show him something on film ... I correct it right there on the field and he'll see it and he'll make the correction right then. There's been some times when he's blown me away when I say, 'Hey, look here maybe you not want to flare your elbows back as much because it's taking too much time, let's keep them nice and tight.' Whatever the situation is, as soon as we do the next rep, he corrects it and fixes it. He's very smart and will correct it. He's a coach's dream. He's a coach's pleasure. I know the Giants will be very happy with him when they get him coming up this fall. I'm trying to get him ready for Sunday, and he's very coachable, very smart, and he's trying to work it."
At the Dash Performance Center in Georgia, Forney has been working with Thomas on his technique, including hand placement and footwork.
"I believe it will be effective for him because you can't come out and show guys the same thing," Forney said. "You've got to give them some different looks. ... Sort of like when you watch and see prize fighters get in the ring. They'll come out one way, and then the next round, they're showing something else just to keep you off balance. You've got to give those guys different looks like hands high or inside hand up a little bit higher or setting a guy and punching his outside shoulder and coming back with that inside hand, kind of a one-two combo."
Forney has been an asset to Thomas as players around the NFL participated virtually in their offseason programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think it's good and bad," Forney said of the format. "The good part is that that was what he was going to do anyway. They were going to be in a meeting room watching tape on the dry-erase board anyway. He'd have to go home and study on his own at night before he goes to sleep. And I think the other good part about it is that if he was at the facility, then they'd be out on the field trying to work it. So at least he can kind of save his body a little bit.
"Going into the season, he'll be fresher but also too he's coming to Dash and working on the field and we're looking at his [tablet] and we're going through some of the drills that [Giants offensive line coach Marc] Colombo and [assistant offensive line coach Ben] Wilkerson want them to work on and we're doing those. And also too I'm adding some things in because there's a lot of stuff that I watch and can see up close that I'll be like, 'Hey, you know what, we need to work this a little bit more' because he might be sliding back into this old habit or, 'Hey, let's do this drill' just because he's gotten better and we can add something to it. He's far past that point of where I have to do a whole lot of fundamentals, but I still want to stay on his fundamentals."
Music to Joe Judge's ears.
Meanwhile, Forney is cross-training Thomas at both left and right tackle. He believes Thomas can excel wherever the Giants put him - perhaps both if the situation arises during the course of the season.
"Honestly, in my honest opinion from working with him, he can go left to right easy," Forney said. "He can be playing left tackle Week 1, injury happens, 'Hey, Andrew, we need you to play right tackle this week.' He can make that transition real easy because I have him working both sides. I have him cross-training both sides. ... He's just as good at both of them. He knows how to hold his hands on either side. He can from either side. I don't see him not playing either side."
So what makes Thomas different from other offensive linemen he has come across?
"I'll give you a quick story when I first met the kid," Forney said. "We had a couple sessions where we were working together, and anytime I'm talking with someone, I like to ask them what are their goals, what are they trying to get out of this. Some guys will get drafted high and go to their teams and they shut it down. They made their money, and they're good. They hit that button - 'Hey, I've got my money, I'm good.' Well, Drew is laid back, quiet, says only enough, he's not overly talkative, but I asked him, 'Hey, what are your goals? What are you trying to get out of this career? What do you want?' First thing he told me was he would love to get a Super Bowl, play 15-some-odd years, and get him a gold jacket. To me, that says a lot because it wasn't about, 'Man, I want to make a whole lot of money' or nothing like that. He named he wants a Super Bowl, to play a long time, and a gold jacket. For those three to be your goals, there's got to be some detail in your process to achieve all that. First off, that told me he's very interested in being the best player he can be."