LINK to the article "Thomas may be the best athlete of all the receivers in this draft class, he is raw and needs to understand the finer aspects of the game better after an abbreviated college career.” Devin Thomas Should Get A Shot At Receiver
By Staff Writer
– October 3, 2010 - 12:11 pm
Receiver Devin Thomas deserves a chance to play at receiver
The Washington Redskins 2008 second round draft pick, wide receiver Devin Thomas, has been very patient this season, waiting to get his chance on the field as a receiver. He has proven himself as a kick-returner with 11 returns for 312 yards, a 28.4-yards-per-return average and a long of 42 yards. But the coaching staff still has not started, or even played, the wide receiver during the regular season.
Number one wide receiver Santana Moss needs to have another receiver out on the field to compliment his talents. So far, he has caught 22 of 62 attempted passes in the three regular season games the Redskins have played. McNabb needs another target that can go up in the end zone and get the ball. Why aren’t we seeing Devin Thomas get a shot at that spot?
I’m not the only one wondering why Thomas isn’t playing at wide out. Shanahan has been asked enough times about it that he’s getting tired of it.
“We keep on talking about this each week,” the coach said. “You’ve asked me this the last two weeks and I’ll answer the third week the same way. The thing he has to do is be better than the guys in front of him, and when he is, he’ll get more playing time.”
How about any
The guys in front of him are fine. Galloway, Armstrong, Roydell Williams and now, having been promoted from the practice squad, Brandon Banks; are all good receivers. But they’re not 6’2” and they’re not 223 lbs. They cannot do some of the things Thomas can do.
overall draft pick is doing what he can to get onto the game field. While he’s not ecstatic about the situation, he admits that he can only work hard and hope that it pays off.
“It’s difficult but I’ve just got to be professional and just know that anything can happen,” Thomas said in the locker room this week. “Complaining and moaning about it’s not gonna make any difference so I’ll just keep my head up and stay focused so that when things do happen for me I can take the best approach and make the best out of it.”
Admittedly, media members don’t see everything the coaching staff sees.
In training camp, it did look like Thomas was working hard and caught balls thrown his way. But obviously that’s only a part of the story. Somewhere along the line, Thomas must have done something to indicate that his professionalism was in question. We have to assume that the coaching staff is fair enough to tell the man what exactly he needs to do to get their confidence.
When asked if he had been told what he needed to do to improve, Thomas was candid and refreshingly humble.
“It’s been communicated as far as the professionalism and just doing the small, tedious things that professional receivers should be doing where the coaching staff feels like I’ve been lacking in doing so,” he said.
“You know, I understand that and I’ve been really pushing to do that. You know, staying after, doing what I have to do – watching extra film and so I can eliminate that and hopefully, over time, they can see that I’m trying to be more professional.”
I would hope that Thomas is getting a fair shake. Compared with other players in the NFL, he did have a short college playing career. He attended Coffeyville Community College in 2004 and 2005, played football and earned second-team All-Jayhaw Conference honors while starting in all 11 games. He then transferred to Michigan State where he only played two years of college ball but did make a mark. Not only was he a successful kick returner ranking 11th in the nation with a 29.1-yard-per-kickoff-return average, he set school record with 79 receptions. He led the Big Ten with 1,260 receiving yards in 2007, his junior year.
Thomas also finished sixth in the nation and second in Big Ten history with 199.2 all-purpose-yards-per-game and established a Michigan State record with 2,590 all-purpose yards while playing wide receiver, running back and returning kicks.
These are all impressive statistics. While natural talent goes a long way, it’s unlikely Thomas accomplished what he did in college without working hard.
Just before the 2008 draft, when players were being scrutinized and scouting reports written, Thomas was highly rated by many.
It wasn’t until scouts got their teeth into the fact that the former Spartan had such a short college career (he declared his eligibility for the draft after his junior year) that Thomas slid to the second round. Even then, there were a lot of good things about him being said.
From the NFL.com Scouting Combine Reports
: Overview: “Prototypical West Coast offense receiver with size and speed that will move the chains by getting yards after the catch. His college situation and play-style are reminiscent of former second round Green Bay Packer pick and current Minnesota Viking receiver Robert Ferguson.”
Then under “Positives”
, things like:
“…Adjusts well to the ball in the air, usually snatching it with his hands…
” – ”runs solid routes” -
“will hang onto the ball while taking the hit
” and “Often lines up in the slot to take advantage of smaller nickel backs”
In this report, the number one “negative
” was: “Only one productive year in major college football
Could be worse.
A scouting report from YahooSports showed
: The Good
: “Thomas is a strong athlete who combines top speed with natural ability and football instincts. He is quick off the line and has the strength to fight off the bump-and-run. He shows fine separation speed and also can make tough catches in a crowd. He also possesses the toughness and fire to become an impact player. He’s a physical prospect who can block downfield well
And: The Bad
: “Thomas must improve his footwork and run more disciplined routes. Although Thomas may be the best athlete of all the receivers in this draft class, he is raw and needs to understand the finer aspects of the game better after an abbreviated college career
One of the things I could not find elaboration on was a comment that Charlie Casserly, NFL Network and CBS Sports Analyst at the time but also former GM of the Washington Redskins, made about Thomas back before the draft:
“The thing that would concern you the most would be character…”
Thomas told me the other day – in very general terms – that he could have been more mature during some of his college days (who couldn’t?). But 30 minutes on Google turned up nothing with any merit about bad things happening during Thomas’ days at Michigan State.
The only issue that I could find about Thomas’ past was the lack of time on the college football field. There’s hardly anything that can be done about that now. Casserly’s comments are not backed up by anything concrete and other scouting reports on Thomas have “Pros” that outweigh the “Cons”.
Jeff Tefertiller, a fantasy football guru who scouts for Footballguys.com
wrote a report on Thomas in June of 2009. He had an interesting idea that quarterback play can certainly affect young wide receivers. If that is so, Thomas certainly would have had some repercussions from being on the Washington Redskins squad during a couple of years when quarterback Jason Campbell was fighting an uphill battle for decent play calling.
Tefertiller wrote: “Devin Thomas is still a relatively raw prospect for the Redskins. He will be given every opportunity to showcase his ability and vie for a starting spot early in the season. The lack of strong quarterback play could hinder the production of all of the Washington receivers. The team needs Jason Campbell to step up. If so, Thomas could make a huge impact this season if he progresses like the coaching staff expects. It is expected that offseason eye surgery will make a tremendous difference in Thomas’ production. Plus, he seems much more committed to further developing his craft this year. He could be primed for a breakout.”
(I assume Thomas frequently has his eyes checked to make sure all is well in his ocular world)
That was then. This is now. It’s 2010. During off-season activities, mini camps and training camp, the second round pick looked
like he was working hard and hard work is one of Shanahan’s mantras. The coaches, obviously, see him during practice and know more than the media about how he is progressing within this offense but, unless he is absolutely horrendous, why not give him a shot?
It’s clear that the Redskins need a second, taller option beyond Moss. The team did not acquire San Diego’s Vincent Jackson or Tony Gonzales when they were available. This past week the Redskins reportedly tried out St. Louis receiver Keenan Burton
. There were reports that they tried out the 6’2” Demetrius Williams
, formerly a Baltimore Raven. Neither one is suiting up in the burgundy and gold today.
Devin Thomas has indicated that he is willing to do whatever they ask of him and he is trying to use the current opportunity at kick-returner to make a mark. He said recently that he feels that he’ll make it into the end zone here pretty soon.
“It’s close,” he said this week. “We watch film every time and it could be just one cut here or maybe just one block there. So we’re just really close to breaking one and [we’ll] just keep on getting the average higher and higher till we take one to the house.”
Even more, he realizes how important taking a kick-return to the end zone can be to the game.
“It’s a huge change of momentum,” Thomas said animatedly. “As a matter of fact, it gives a chance for the offense to rest. They can sit on the sidelines while we get points on the board without them having to be out there. So it definitely adds a different perspective to the game to make a big play on that and it puts more pressure on the other team. You now, it’s just a game changing moment.”
Being a kick-returner is definitely an unselfish position. The mentality required is one of not caring about anything except getting up the field. Asked what his approach to this aspect of the game was, it was easy to see why he’ll probably take a return to the house at some point.
“Well, pretty much the approach I have for football is like a Conan mentality,” he explained. “I mean, it’s just like a warrior – you go out there, you play hard. Those guys are coming to target you and you have to take that. You have to bite the bullet… just lower your shoulder and get some extra yards. So I just play hard.”
It would be dumb to insist that we know better than the coaches what is best for this team but at this point, why not put Devin Thomas on the field?
It would be nice to know what it is that he is doing – or not doing – that is keeping him off the field. If the coaching staff has issues with Thomas’ off-season activities that had nothing to do with football, i.e., appearing in a music video with 2004 American Idol winner Fantasia and modeling for a couple of magazines; all of which took place between February and June, I say, ‘get over it.’ At 1-2, they don’t have the luxury of being that picky and I am hard-pressed to think that is the case anyway. If they are, there are bigger problems on this team than we knew.
The Redskins need to make progress in the red zone and the only place they can go is up. They’re tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for last place in the league. Washington has scored 29 points in nine trips inside the 20-yard line. Thomas has the physical tools to go into the end zone and beat a cornerback to the ball. He’s fast… he’s strong… he’s young.
During a recent session with reporters in the locker room, Thomas talked about being a fan of wrestling when he was young. He used to watch “The Rock” and “Stone Cold” back in the day. He also mentioned his favorite match was the legendary ‘good guy’ match between the Rock and the Hawk. As a youngster, Thomas would try to imitate these stars’ moves out on the playground with the other kids.
He doesn’t watch wrestling anymore. As a matter of fact, he said he hardly watches TV anymore because he’s busy with playbooks and film study.
The Washington Redskins are playing a very important game today up at Lincoln Field against NFC East division rival Philadelphia Eagles. Washington needs
to win this game. Why not throw a few balls Thomas’ way and find out if the hard work has paid off?