With the team’s third-round pick, No. 67 overall, in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected edge rusher Chad Thomas of Miami (FL). The pick was sort of a curveball for me and as I have said, my least favorite pick. I thought there were better edge rushers and interior defensive lineman still on the board at the time the Browns selected Thomas. Sam Hubbard and Maurice Hurst come to mind. Nevertheless, after watching further film on Thomas, I understand what the Browns like about him.
In this week’s Browns film room, I will take a look at the bright spots of Chad Thomas’ game. These are the areas that have caught the eye of the Browns front office. They are the biggest reasons Thomas is a Cleveland Brown. So without further ado, let’s examine the film to draw out Browns edge rusher Chad Thomas’ strengths.
Browns 2018 NFL Draft Film Room Series
Standing at 6-foot-5, 281 pounds, Thomas is the prototypical edge rusher in terms of measurable. He has the size and athleticism that teams covet in their edge setters. He moves so well with the ability to play sideline to sideline and chase plays down from behind. He is a long strider who can make up ground very quickly. One of the more impressive parts of his athleticism is his ability to change directions. Here are some examples of Thomas’ athleticism on the field.
In the first play versus Wisconsin, Thomas lines up over the right guard. When the ball is snapped, he comes off the line and after a couple of steps, he goes underneath his teammate to the outside to rush around the edge. He is so quick and explosive after he turns to the outside that he gets the edge on the offensive tackle. One of his weaknesses sprouts up, causing him to not get to the quarterback, but his athleticism to quickly change directions and burst upfield helped him get past the tackle to be in a position to get a possible sack.
The second play versus Clemson shows off multiple areas of Thomas’ athleticism. When the ball is snapped, he burst upfield from the right edge to take care of his assignment, watching the quarterback. But, when he sees the handoff and then the double reverse happening, his change of direction and ability to play sideline to sideline show up. When the receiver gets right above him, Thomas is able to get away from the quarterback to head back to the left sideline. A fellow defender, who is able to force the receiver out farther toward the sideline, helps Thomas to get to the sideline in time to meet the ball carrier. However, Thomas stumbled a little but was still able to make it to the sideline in time to make the stop. He showed his ability to move all over the field in this play.
The last play comes against Notre Dame where Thomas once again shows off multiple facets of his athleticism. First, Thomas gets off the ball on the right edge and immediately runs under his inside rusher to attack the interior of the line. He is so quick that he is able to slip through the line before any offensive lineman can get in front of him to stop him. The quarterback is able to flee the pocket before Thomas can get to him, but he does not give up. He quickly changes direction and goes after the quarterback who is running up the middle of the field. He is able to follow the quarterback and clean up the play by finishing off the tackle. This play showed his burst, change of direction and sideline to sideline running ability.
Thomas is a really experienced edge setter. He is so disciplined to keep his spot on the edge and to not abandon the edge. He does not get faked out by zone reads because he stays to his assignment and does not try to overreact to the handoff. It is not often that you see the edge rusher out of position. Thomas can be strong on the edge and at least affect the play so that his teammates can get to the play and make a stop. Here are some examples of this ability.
In the first play versus Clemson, Thomas is in charge of the quarterback and keeping the edge on the right side of the line. The quarterback gets the snap and begins the mesh action. The quarterback decides to keep the ball, but Thomas is right there to shut down the edge. Thomas is able to funnel the quarterback inside where he is able to trip the quarterback up with the help of a teammate. He does not get aggressive and lose his position on the edge.
The second play versus Clemson is a play where Clemson could hand it off to the receiver, toss it out to the running back, pass the ball or have the quarterback keep it. Thomas is in charge of the quarterback and keeping the right edge. The Clemson quarterback takes the ball and decides to keep the ball and run to the right. Thomas is able to see a blocker coming from the left and be able to take on the blocker, blowing up the block attempt to remain free to set the edge. When the quarterback tries to head to the right, Thomas is now free to get upfield and get the tackle for the loss on the quarterback. He was strong and disciplined on setting the edge.
The final play comes against Notre Dame where Notre Dame is running a read play with the quarterback and running back. Thomas is on the right edge in charge of setting that edge. The ball is snapped and the quarterback reads the play and decides to handoff to the running back, who is designed to hit the right edge. But, Thomas is right there waiting for the running back. He is able to burst upfield and get his hands on the back. Thomas is able to force the running back to the sideline, where his teammates help him clean up the play for a loss.
Thomas has a good burst and is quick off the line of the scrimmage, both in a stand-up and a hand-in-the-dirt stance. He is a long strider with the ability to pick up yards quickly with these long strides. He can really get a quick advantage against the opposing blocker because of this burst and long strides. Here are some examples of this burst and his long strides off the snap.
The first play is a pass rush situation against Duke, with Thomas lined up in the three-technique position on the right side of the line. Thomas comes off the line and immediately bursts to the inside of the guard. He uses his burst and long strides to get past the guard and get his hands on the quarterback to help bring him down for a sack. He was too fast for the offensive guard.
In the second play, Thomas in lined up on the right edge of the line versus Wisconsin. Thomas pops off the line and goes immediately inside across the face of both the right tackle and right guard. He is so quick and takes big strides, allowing him to seep through the crack between the guard and center. If the pass was not thrown so quickly, Thomas was just about to get into the face of the quarterback.
The final play is against Clemson where Thomas is lined up on the right edge of the line. He comes off the snap and cuts inside underneath his teammate to his inside. He uses his long strides again, along with his burst, to get through the gap between the guard and center. The center was free to catch him, but Thomas was too quick for him to get a hold of. Once again the quarterback gets the ball away fast, but Thomas is able to get a hit on the quarterback.
Thomas has shown some very advanced hand usage in his game. He can be active in fighting with the opposing blocker to get free and to get past the blocker. He shows some violence in his hands with the ability to stun the offensive lineman. He uses an array of hand moves to get an advantage versus the blocker. I would like to see more consistency here, but his hands are a strength if he uses them on a consistent basis. Here are some examples of this strength.
The first play comes against Duke where Thomas is lined up on the right side of the line in the wide-nine technique position. He comes off the line in this pass rush situation almost sizing up the tight end he is about to engage. When he gets to the tight end, Thomas lays a heavy and violent swat to the inside shoulder of the tight end. This swat gets the tight end completely off balance and moves him out of the way. Thomas then has a free path for the sack, however, he is unable to wrap up the quarterback for the sack as the quarterback moves just out of the way of the closing Thomas.
The second play versus Wisconsin is pass rush situation where Thomas is lined up on the right edge of the line. Thomas bursts up the field and is faced with the right tackle trying to extend his hands out to catch him. But, Thomas pushes the tackle’s hands away, causing the tackle to get off balance. The edge rusher is then able to get around the edge and bring the quarterback down for a sack.
The last play comes against Wisconsin also. Thomas is lined up on the right edge of the line. He comes off the line and once again uses a violent hand move. He gets to the right tackle and swats the inside shoulder of the blocker. Thomas then gets his outside arm underneath the blocker’s arms to get underneath the blockers reach and to penetrate into the backfield. Thomas is pretty much held by the tackle so that he does not get the sack.