The Cleveland Browns used their third round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on edge rusher Chad Thomas of Miami. The selection was a bit of a surprise, in that there were more highly thought of edge rushers and defensive lineman still on the board at that time of the draft. But, the Browns chose the Hurricane rusher to add depth to their edge rusher room. As I highlighted last week, there is a lot to like with Thomas, including his athleticism. He has a lot of potential.
But, there are a few spots in his game that are in need of improvement. These were the areas that I and many other draft analysts were worried about. They are why I was not enthused with the pick and why I said it was my least favorite pick of the Browns draft. So, what are these areas? Let’s take a look at the weaknesses in the game of edge rusher Chad Thomas.
Browns 2018 NFL Draft Film Room Series
Edge Rusher Chad Thomas: Strengths
Thomas has impressive burst off the line and hands to get an advantage against offensive tackles in pass rush situations. But, he struggles to finish consistently. He does not have a slew of moves to counter a blocker when he is stuffed on his initial action. Thomas is also often too slow to try something different. His athleticism is an asset in his game, but he can be too reliant on it and try to just win with athleticism. His urgency on these plays can also be too slow. He can take inefficient angles and weak pass rush attempts, lacking the needed urgency. In the NFL, he can’t do that. Here are some examples of these finishing problems.
In the first play versus Notre Dame, Thomas comes off the right side of the line and goes into the tackle with a violent hand slap to the tackle’s outside shoulder. However, that slap does not stun the tackle. Thomas tries another hand slap, this time to inside shoulder, but once again it does not work. He does not try any other move before the quarterback gets rid of the ball. Thomas tried the same move twice without trying an alternative move. He thought he push the tackle off balance with his strong hands.
The second play is against Clemson and once again Thomas does not show a counter move. Thomas pops off the right end of the line and goes into the tackle, laying a heavy swat to the inside shoulder of the tackle. The tackle withstood the hit and managed to shut down Thomas for the rest of the play. Thomas was unable to finish the rush after a strong initial swat. The rusher did not try another move. He ended the play pretty much hand fighting with the tackle, allowing the quarterback to get out of the pocket and get rid of the ball.
The final play comes against Duke. Thomas gets off the line and takes a wide angle to get into the tackle. That route caused him to lose time in getting to the quarterback. When he gets to the tackle, Thomas tries to just push his way to the quarterback. But, the offensive tackle is able to handle his multiple attempts, allowing his quarterback to throw the ball. Thomas was too slow to get to the tackle and then put together a weak attempt to try and beat the tackle.
Chad Thomas has really good hands and can carry some power in them. But, he just does not use them on a consistent basis. On many occasions, Thomas will go into the line head first without using his arms to create the contact. He tries to just slip his way through the line, negating one of his strongest assets, his hands. When he does this, he can get bullied by blockers and pushed in a direction he does not want to go. He is easier to control. Here are some examples of this problem.
In the first play versus Duke, Thomas is lined up between the right guard and right tackle. Thomas fires off the line and immediately shoots inside. But, he goes in with his shoulder in front. The tackle is able to get in front of Thomas and stop the rusher’s power rush. Without his hands, Thomas gains little ground against the tackle, allowing the quarterback to get rid of the ball. The edge rusher had no real counter because his hands were not used in the play.
The second play comes against Wisconsin, where Thomas is once again lined up between the right tackle and right guard. The Badgers are running a handoff to the right side of the line, right at Thomas. But, Thomas comes off the line and shoots to the outside with his shoulders leading the way. He is easily taken out of the play because he has not hand usage at all throughout the play. I simply have no idea what he was doing in this play.
In the final play versus Wisconsin, Thomas is lined up on the right edge versus this play action pass play. Thomas comes off the line and once again drives into the tackle with his shoulder. He turns into the blocker and leads with his shoulder. The tackle is easily able to engage the rusher and keep under control for the entirety of the play. His hands were nowhere in sight in this play.
Chad Thomas has a lot of potential due to his athleticism, but he is just not consistent enough on the field. He has good assets in his hands and athleticism, but he can just be lost in plays. As I have illustrated earlier, he does not consistently use his hands, which are strengths in his game. His college production is a big concern. With all of his talent, in four seasons with the Hurricanes, he posted just 103 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and 11 sacks in 49 games. In his senior season last year, he notched 41 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks in 13 starts. He was just not as productive as his talent would indicate. His production can be tied to his consistency. Can he be a consistent producer for the Browns given his high potential and skill set? That is a big question.