We have entered the quiet parts of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until next week and late July, respectively. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
After all, until the late-August's roster cuts, players need to have secured their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with one of the Patriots' undrafted defensive backs
Name: Dwayne Thomas
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 27b
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’0, 200 lbs.
2016 review: After establishing himself as a starter for LSU in 2015, Dwayne Thomas returned in the same role in 2016; as a versatile and productive member on one of the nation's premier defenses. Playing not only at safety but both slot and perimeter cornerback as well, Thomas' senior year was the most productive of his five-year collegiate career.
Overall, he appeared in 12 games and finished the season with 42 tackles – seven of which for loss of yardage –, one interception and seven pass breakups. Thomas, being an able and physical blitzer from the slot, also registered a sack and was tied for second on the team with five quarterback hurries.
2017 preview: While two of his defensive teammates at LSU – safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Tre'Davious White – were picked on the first day of the 2017 NFL draft, Thomas was not selected. Coincidentally, he will now join both Adams (New York Jets) and White (Buffalo Bills) in the AFC East. Unlike the two first rounders, though, Thomas is far from a roster lock.
In order for him to make the Patriots’ roster as a backup defensive back, he will have to beat out his competition at either cornerback or safety – at least nine players, six of which undrafted rookies – on both defense and special teams. He certainly has the experience to win this battle, but the question is if his upside especially as a pass defender is enough to do it.
Once the non-contact phase of offseason workouts is over, the coaching staff will get a clearer picture of it and Thomas as a whole. Until then, he remains a question mark – one that could surprise given his versatility; and although a long-shot at this point in time might earn a roster or, more likely, practice squad spot.