This is my response to LaVar Arrington’s take on Shanahan’s dealing with Devin Thomas…
Mr. Arrington says that Devin Thomas was not given an adequate chance to perform… so I’ll take it upon myself to set Mr. Arrington straight on a few things that he seems to be forgetting (one too many knocks to the head, there?).
Devin Thomas had a breakout year with his Michigan State Spartans and raised his draft stock considerably. Coaches however, questioned if Thomas was pro-ready based on his level of competition in college, along with his ability to play the mental side of the game of football. Vinny Cerrato and the Washington Redskins took a chance on him anyways, along with TE Fred Davis and oft-injured Malcolm Kelly.
Thomas struggled greatly in his rookie season, he wasn’t a solid route-runner, and wasn’t outstanding anywhere else on the field. Needless to say, Thomas had a very “disappointing” rookie season. Coming into his second year, Thomas again failed to impress coaches, falling to fourth on the depth chart in the preseason and regular season behind Moss, Kelly, and Randle El. Following several horrible performances by Kelly, Thomas was bumped up on the depth chart to 2 (but only because they wanted to keep ARE in the slot). Thomas struggled all season, but managed a 7-catch, 100-yard, 2 TD performance against the Saints in an overtime loss.
Mr. Arrington suggests that Thomas was the lone star on the offense at the end of the year. Untrue. Fred Davis emerged as a starting-caliber tight end… Kelly even had a strong outing to finish the season (but failed to find the endzone). Thomas didn’t emerge as trustworthy to Campbell even after his performance against the Saints.
When Shanahan took over, he eliminated the depth chart and let guys know they would earn their position on this team. Thomas ended up being buried on the depth chart at receiver, but found his way returning kicks in order to prove his worth and dedication.
Thomas ended up having a pretty solid kick-return average, but his decision making even there was still questionable. On a kick return he should have downed in the endzone vs. the Texans, Chris Cooley was flagged for an illegal block (a desperate block by Cooley who figured Thomas would follow the spotter’s rule to down it).
Let’s also look a little more closely at Thomas’ kick returns… aside from Buehller being a former safety, Thomas had no excuse for being tackled by kickers in every single one of his games. The inability to make a kicker miss is a very strong indication that you’re not really doing your job. And yes, it IS a rule of special teams that you “never let a kicker tackle you”… Thomas failed to accomplish that.
It’s also worth noting that Thomas has this attitude that he’s a playmaker; one would believe that in 12 kick returns, a playmaker would make kickers miss and take at least one to the house… he didn’t make kickers miss and didn’t take any to the house… no cutback ability… he was impatient in finding lanes.
If Thomas was everything his potential makes him out to be, we’d be talking about another Anquan Boldin or Andre Johnson… Thomas had chances… everyone has chances… Thomas never stood out above the rest and proved he deserved it. All throughout training camp, reports all suggested that Anthony Armstrong and Moss looked the best, and we didn’t hear anything about Devin Thomas looking impressive or anything.
Devin Thomas could have all the potential in the world, but draft status means nothing. There have been plenty to go undrafted that went on to brilliant careers… then there’s Devin Thomas who fits the bill of a Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Taylor Jacobs… he’s just not cut out to be a star in this league… not yet at least. Once he learns how to make decisions, he’ll be able to apply his talents positively to be a playmaker… but until then, he’s just another bust.