In many ways, the 2013 season is going to be a pivotal one for nose tackle Cam Thomas. The former fifth round pick of the 2010 NFL Draft is entering the final year of his rookie contract with the San Diego Chargers, and his productivity will dictate just how strongly the Bolts may feel about re-signing him to a long-term deal. There are more reasons than just that behind the upcoming season being big for Thomas, and chief among them is the fact that he can officially call himself a veteran now.
Sometimes it takes a while for guys to realize that they are firmly entrenched as NFL players, but Thomas has a third-year player in Corey Liuget on one side of him and a second-year player in Kendall Reyes on the other. Now entering his fourth season in the league, Thomas is officially the oldest guy on the San Diego defensive line. He talked about when that realization hit him on the team’s website saying:
“I was out there thinking just how much I’ve grown from when I first got here. It seems like I just got here, and now I’m in my fourth year. I listened and observed everything the veterans did, and I’ve grown tremendously. Now it’s my job to give that wisdom out. How to study and watch tape and absorb the knowledge of the game and learn the keys. I’m the old-hand now. It’s my turn to teach the young pups.”
His instruction has been pretty effective thus far as Liuget flashed glimpses of dominance during the 2012 season and Reyes was quite impressive for a rookie with a 3.5 sack game against the New York Jets. There’s no denying the fact that these three guys in the trenches on defense on vital to the overall success of the Chargers defense as a unit.
San Diego decided to purge some of their older players on the defensive front in Aubrayo Franklin and Antonio Garay in the offseason. Both of those guys individually have more NFL seasoning than all three of the current Chargers defensive linemen combined.
As the oldest member of the defensive line now, Thomas has really matured into quite a steady presence in the middle of the Bolts’ 3-4 defense. The nose tackle spot is the foundation of any 3-4 alignment, and he has developed into quite a solid player in that key role. Thomas described his approach to manning the nose saying:
“My role is to do the dirty work. I want to take on the blockers to let the linebackers make the play. And when it’s time for me to make the play, I’ve got to make the play. So if I take on two linemen, the linebackers will make the play. If one of the linemen comes off of me to take on the linebacker, then I’ll make the play and make them pay.”
It isn’t a glamorous position, but Cam Thomas has turned into one of the more solid nose tackles in the league with that philosophy. His presence has helped a defense loaded with youth turn into a top 10 unit a year ago. Hopefully the new regime of power with General Manager Tom Telesco in charge gets him inked to a long-term deal that will keep him in lightning bolts for the foreseeable future.