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Lorenzo Isn’t Buying What Devin Is Selling

Posted by Brian Tinsman on September 10, 2011 – 4:30 pm

AP Image

Former Redskins wide receiver, current Giants returner Devin Thomas has been quite the media-darling recently.

And no, I’m not talking about another ‘bittersweet’ music video for Fantasia.

First he referred to his former team as “the Deadskins.”  Creative.

Next he appeared on ESPN 980, and assured the hosts that he would be smiling after the game, “after he put a spanking on y’all.”  Pretty big words for the kick return specialist and fourth-string wide receiver.

But don’t expect the Redskins to get into a war of words, or give Thomas any bulletin board material.  Special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander just doesn’t buy it.

“That’s just Devin talking,” he said.  “That’s the type of guy he is: he’s a receiver, y’know flashy, a prima donna type. I expect that but I don’t take it personal at all. I think it just makes it funner to go out there and lay wood to him and talk trash to him on the field.”

Delivering a crushing tackle on special teams has a way of increasing the likelihood of having the last laugh.

Alexander said he also understood where Thomas was coming from, and didn’t take it too personally. Read more »

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On Being An NFL Wide Receiver, And Other Links

Posted by Matt Terl on January 12, 2011 – 11:30 am

Anthony Armstrong wasn’t the flashiest success story on the 2010 Redskins roster — that would have to be Brandon Banks, who gets attention for being both blazingly fast and exceedingly small — but he might’ve been the most impressive. Armstrong finished the season with 44 catches for 871 yards — that’s nearly 20 yards a catch, third in the NFL in that category for players with more than 40 catches — and three touchdowns. I don’t think anyone expected that kind of production from an undrafted practice squad guy, but Armstrong worked hard, watched extra film, and was rewarded with increased playing time — and, by extension, that impressive stat line.

Former Redskins receiver Devin Thomas’ story in Washington was almost exactly the opposite of Armstrong’s. After being selected in the second round of the 2008 draft, Thomas was expected to provide size and speed at the wide receiver position. Over the course of two seasons, he showed flashes of spectacular ability, but could never seem to make it all come together. Four games into the 2010 season, Thomas was cut.

Talking about the decision to release the young wide receiver, head coach Mike Shanahan said that he offered Thomas some advice to help his NFL future. “You’re a big kid, you’re strong, you’ve got a lot of speed,” Shanahan told Thomas. “You want to get to the next level, you’ve got to get in a heck of an offseason program and be the best you can be. If you want to be good, you’re gonna be good. But you’ve got to make a total commitment. In this league it’s not based on talent, it’s based on people working extremely hard.”

Fan response to Shanahan’s decision was mixed, to say the least. People questioned whether Thomas was released because of his offseason modeling and acting endeavors, or because Banks tweeted a picture allegedly showing Thomas asleep in a meeting. And one question that I kept hearing from people upset by the decision was, essentially, What was he not working extremely hard on? The subtext — and I freely admit that I’m reading in to other people’s thoughts here — seemed to be Hey, just run straight and catch ball, or run ten yards and turn around, or whatever. How tough is that?

Former NFL wide receiver Nate Jackson wrote a piece for Slate yesterday that I think does terrific job of answering that subtextual question. (There’s a little bit of foul language in the link, but it’s a piece that’s really worth reading.)

Here, according to Jackson, are the things that an NFL wide receiver might be required to keep in mind during A SINGLE PLAY:

If he plays man coverage with inside leverage, jab hard with your inside foot to threaten his technique, dip your shoulder, and release into your route. Man coverage, outside leverage: Jab step at him and bring your hands with you, deliver a blow and try to get on top of him so you can push your route vertical before breaking it off. Push up to your proper depth, and sink your hips at your break point. Keep your nose over your toes and don’t drop your arms, keep them pumping. Get out of that break at a sharp angle, don’t fade up the field. Come straight across at a 90 degree angle, otherwise the cornerback will come underneath and pick off our quarterback. But pay attention at the line of scrimmage-if we get a Cover 2 with a zone-dog, you sit in that zone, but you have to break it down a few yards short to account for the blitz. We may not have enough men to block that look, so get your head around. If they don’t bring the zone-dog blitz and they’re still in Cover 2, push your normal depth but understand the triangle between the corner, the safety, and that linebacker, and sit down in that throwing lane for your quarterback. Oh, and the snap count is on two.

That’s a lot of stuff to keep in mind, and there are plenty of variations on it that a receiver would have to keep in mind for other plays. Jackson goes on to explain exactly how closely the coaches pay attention to every step of it (very closely) and how well failure at any portion is received (poorly).

I don’t know for sure, but it seems likely that those sort of details are the kinds of things Mike Shanahan meant when he referred to “a total commitment” — the sort of details that Anthony Armstrong was able to master, and that Devin Thomas (for all his remarkable athleticism) never quite got, at least at this stop in his career. (It seems doubly likely given that Jackson spent five years playing in Denver under — you guessed it — Mike Shanahan. That five years represents the bulk of Jackson’s career, and has to have formed much of his impression of NFL coaching.)

This approach, Jackson argues, sucks all of the fun out of the game for the player (which seems likely) and is, further, a reason that many college players fail to make a successful transition to the NFL. It’s a good piece and worth a read for fans of the NFL in general, but I found especially illuminating in light of those two disparate stories about two wide receivers who started 2010 with the Redskins — and where they each finished up.

Here’s a few other links that are worth your time…. Read more »

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Redskins @ Giants – Fourth Quarter Reactions

Posted by Matt Terl on December 5, 2010 – 3:59 pm

In a game where the Redskins turned the ball over six times, where Fred Davis had the same number of catches as Logan Paulsen, where the Redskins first touchdown was just enough to cut the lead to 21, where the Giants rushed for just short of 200 yards, and where Chris Wilson somehow returned two kickoffs, it’s safe to say that plenty of things went wrong. And declaring any one of those things the “worst” thing about this game would be defensible — they were, in fact, all pretty terrible..

But none of them get my vote; I’ll give that to former Redskins receiver Devin Thomas, now with the Giants. Thomas didn’t have any impact on the game for the Giants offense. He didn’t have any catches or scores, and wasn’t even targeted with a pass. But he managed to have a pretty substantial impact on the game nonetheless, and for a lot of Redskins fans that’s going to be the most painful twist of the knife.

Here, in chronological order, are Thomas’ contributions to the game: Read more »

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Devin Thomas Is Not Embarrassed To Have Gotten Tackled By This Kicker

Posted by Matt Terl on September 13, 2010 – 12:56 pm

Devin Thomas not only said all the right things about his role in Sunday night’s game, he really seemed to sincerely mean them.

“I’m comfortable wherever coach puts me,” he said.

“You know, I just wanna do my part,” he said. Because I feel like we’re all brothers here.”

“I think we’ve got a great camaraderie, better than we had my last two years,” he said, “so I’m just gonna do my part. Whatever it is, I’m gonna do it.”

On Sunday night, “doing his part” meant playing on special teams. “I had a special teams day,” Thomas said, “so kick returns, punt return duty as far as being a jammer, and on kickoffs, you know, I just had to do my job. Those were my assignments today and I pulled it off.”

Pulled it off well, in fact. Thomas had two kickoff return opportunities, which he took for 34 and 42 yards, and in both cases it was Cowboys kicker David Buehler who brought him down — a fact that caused Thomas to chuckle in the locker room.

“They always tell us, ‘Don’t let the kicker bring you down,'” Thomas explained, then added, “But he used to play safety, so I don’t feel too bad.”

Running back Keiland Williams, getting dressed at a nearby locker, burst out laughing, as did much of the assembled media pack, but Thomas wasn’t kidding. Read more »

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The Gold Pants Were A Hit

Posted by Matt Terl on September 13, 2010 – 12:46 am

Hot lines of questioning in the post-game locker room:

  • Hey, a win!
  • A win in the DIVISION!
  • A win via penalty flag!
  • Offense didn’t score.
  • Albert Haynesworth still exists.
  • Gold pants.

Sometimes, goofy lines of questioning like that last one are met with eye-rolling by the players, but they were all pretty happy to talk about this one.

For example, this dialogue between Chris Wilson and London Fletcher:

“I loved ’em,” Wilson said. “It was ugly and beautiful. Old-school, intimidating, like, GRRRRRRRR.”

“Throwbacks,” Fletcher observed.

Wilson agreed. “Throwbacks,” he said. “They’re lucky we didn’t come out with the arrow on our helmets.”

“This was George Allen style,” Fletcher said.

“Yeah, tell ’em, London,” Wilson said. “They thought John Riggins was back. They was like, ‘Man, 44?!?'”

And so on. I believe Dan Steinberg is working on some sort of magazine-length gold pants blog post, so I’ll just focus on one gold-pants-related subplot that relates to this blog: Devin Thomas‘s reaction.

Read more »

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Devin Thomas Is A Big Arnold Schwarzenegger Fan

Posted by Matt Terl on August 25, 2010 – 12:24 pm

Photos of (often-shirtless) Devin Thomas and his tattoos were nearly unavoidable this offseason, from his bizarre photo shoot to his Twitter background to his other marginally-less-bizarre photo shoot. So when I was working on a (still upcoming) post that deals with tattoos, Thomas was an obvious guy to talk to.

His tattoo of the Predator has already generated a fair bit of press, but he’s added a couple of new pieces this offseason to complement it. He’s got a Spartan from the graphic novel that inspired the movie 300 on his chest, a nod to his Michigan State roots, which is understandable and actually pretty cool.

But the real pièce de résistance stretches down the right side of his ribcage, opposite the Predator. “That’s Conan,” Thomas says, before launching into the Crush your enemies! bit of dialogue from the movie. (A movie, it should be noted, that is four years older than Thomas himself.)

It’s very clearly Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie Conan, not — unlike the Spartan — the comic book version. “Yeah,” Thomas says. “And I got the Predator” — another Schwarzenegger movie — “on the other side. I got my favorite movies: Conan, Predator, and 300.”

So essentially, the Redskins’ third-year wide receiver has the governor of the state of California tattooed on his ribcage.

“I mean, basically, yeah,” Thomas says, laughing, when I point this out to him. “But it’s him in his portrayal from the movie. It’s not, you know, a political endorsement.”

Yes, there’s a picture of the tattoo after the jump.

Read more »

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Is Devin Thomas Growing On Coach Shanahan?

Posted by Matt Terl on August 17, 2010 – 1:06 pm

Practice today was largely a ragged affair, ragged enough that head coach Mike Shanahan paused it about ninety minutes in to get the guys properly focused and motivated after a series of false starts. Malcolm Kelly didn’t practice again (as promised), nor did Curtis Gatewood (recovering from heat exhaustion) or Mike Furrey (still dealing with a concussion). Albert Haynesworth started practice but wasn’t feeling well and didn’t finish; London Fletcher and Vonnie Holliday were given the day off, having played — Shanahan joked — 25 and 28 years in the league.

I found myself focusing on Devin Thomas, who had another up and down day to match what he’s been doing for most of this camp. If you saw Friday’s game, you get the general idea: a rough play early (the muffed kickoff return), followed by a terrific play just minutes later (the 44-yard touchdown catch). It’s the down part of the performance that has Thomas buried on the depth chart, and the terrific parts that give people hope that he can still be a productive receiver in this league.

But that depth chart position has generated some debate among the people who watch the team: is Thomas a third teamer because he deserves to be, or because Shanahan is trying to motivate him.

It’s pretty clear what Thomas believes.

Read more »

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Carlos Rogers Keeps Practice Fight-Free

Posted by Matt Terl on August 5, 2010 – 2:30 pm

Carlos Rogers and Devin Thomas didn’t fight today. In itself, that’s not particularly significant: they don’t fight most days, after all. Today, though, they came close. I didn’t see exactly how it went down, but here’s the impressionistic version: Thomas was blocking downfield; he hit Rogers, who went down; Rogers came up talking; they walked away.

Afterward, they both minimized the incident. Here’s Rogers, minimizing: “Devin hit me in my back and I was like, ‘Come on, man!’ I was about to get serious, but it’s practice. It happens. That’s all it was. He says he just hit me from the side, so I’m gonna let him pass on that. It was within the play. It ain’t serious.”

And here’s Thomas, minimizing while still getting in a little jab: “I tried to come down and get him, he stopped, kinda caught his shoulder. You know, he thought I got big on him. I’m about 239 230, now, so I kinda ran him over. And he was mad. You know, he was upset that he hit the ground, you know big DB’s –they’re pretty boys, they don’t like to touch the ground.”

But the whole incident reminded me that this has been a largely fight-free training camp, and some people believe that’s a bad thing.

Fights show SPIRIT, the thinking goes, guys with FIRE fight! If accurate, that would be a bad sign for these Redskins. So I asked around a bit to see where guys weighed in.

“I’ve been a part of both,” DeAngelo Hall said. “I’ve been part of fight training camps and non-fight training camps, and, I mean, we’ve won both ways and lost both ways. I don’t really bother with it, I don’t think.”

“I gotta be honest with you,” defensive lineman Adam Carriker told me, “if you’re fighting in practice, you’re probably more likely to fight in a game. I think it’s more about self-control and discipline, so I would side more on that.”

Rookie tackle Trent Williams sounded like he could’ve gone either way, despite how unequivocal this appears in black-and-white: “It brings out everybody’s competitive juices,” Williams said, “but then again, you know, health is important and we’re gonna need each other. We don’t need to be beating up on each other.”

Basically, there was tremendous uniformity among all the players that fighting is just a dumb, pointless exercise … and, it turned out, there was a reason for that uniformity: head coach Mike Shanahan. Read more »

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Devin Thomas Learns Balance From Chad Ochocinco

Posted by Matt Terl on August 2, 2010 – 7:55 am

It was kind of a weird offseason for Devin Thomas, if your definition of “weird” includes appearing in a Fantasia video and/or modeling a set of Elmo pajamas in a bathroom. (Then again, Thomas is also the guy who occasionally answers fan letters in person, so maybe this is just a normal few weeks for him. Who knows.)

But Thomas’s offseason concluded at Donovan McNabb‘s Hell Week in Arizona (which Thomas says allowed them to “really build that trust, that friendship”), an event that’s as team-centric as it gets, and he’s coming off two straight impressive days in practice, including a long touchdown catch in heavy coverage during yesterday’s morning session.

And don’t just take my word for it — here’s head coach Mike Shanahan yesterday: “He’s had a couple good days in a row, and he’s made some big plays, and that is what we are trying to see.” Training camp is still young, and — as far as anyone knows — Thomas remains behind veterans Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams on the depth chart, but so far it’s looking promising for the third-year wideout.

So I’m starting to believe Thomas when he says that all of his offseason extracurriculars were secondary to football.

“My mentality’s been football 24/7 anyway,” Thomas told me, when I asked if his offseason had distracted him. “I mean, I had opportunities to do a little modeling stuff aside from football or aside from working out and that’s what I did. And then when it was time to focus up and really just be all football, I did that by being in Miami training with Ochocinco and coming to Arizona and training with McNabb for a week. So, you know, it was not a problem at all.”

Yep. Nothing like training with Chad Ochocinco — noted reality TV star, founder of his own OCNN news network, and ANOTHER guy who has been known to answer fan letters in person — to make an offseason sound less weird.
Read more »

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The Devin Thomas-Fantasia Thing Continues

Posted by Matt Terl on July 1, 2010 – 2:18 pm

The latest entry in today’s unplanned theme day of Embedded Video Thursday is the latest update in the ongoing saga of Devin Thomas appearing in a Fantasia video. On last night’s 106 & Park on BET, Fantasia appeared to promote her new video — the one in which Thomas is a co-star — and host Terrence J had a surprise for her. (Fast forward to the 3:00 minute mark.)


For those of you without any patience for this video, the scintillating transcription is after the jump. Read more »

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