The departures of veteran nose tackles Aubrayo Franklin and Antonio Garay have left the San Diego Chargers’ defensive line very young and inexperienced. Nose tackle Cam Thomas has patiently waited for his turn and will now finally get his chance to shine.
Thomas, entering his fourth year but first as a starter, clearly understands his role with the team. At just 26-years-old, Thomas is the oldest and longest-tenured Charger along the defense line. Upon realizing this, Thomas has already become a leader on defense, using what he’s learned from his three years in the league to lead by example and teach the younger guys how to prepare. He has even taken rookie linebacker Manti Te’o under his wing.
Thomas is also aware that his play in the upcoming season will determine much of the success (or failure) of the entire defense.
“That is the anchor right there,” Thomas said. “It’s like an anchor on a ship. You put it down and the ship doesn’t move. If you don’t have a strong nose tackle you don’t have a strong 3-4. I have to play well for us to do what we want to do.”
The key to any 3-4 defense is a solid nose tackle who does all the dirty work and frees up the linebackers. Playing along a line that features rising stars in Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes should help, but Thomas will still need to take on the brunt of the work.
Though primarily a run stuffer, Thomas has actually been pretty effective as a pass rusher, recording six sacks so far in his three-year career. Thomas has shown glimpses in a reserve role, and the Chargers are counting on him to replicate that in a full-time role.
2013 also happens to be the final year of Thomas’ rookie contract. If Thomas can prove he can get it done as a starter and be a leader in the process, the Bolts will certainly look to lock him up long term in 2014.