While he does lack elite athleticism and speed off the edge, Thomas has outstanding pass-rush technique and is a ferocious run defender. After amassing 27.5 sacks during his four years as a starter at Stanford, he went undrafted last April. Playing for the Raiders could be a perfect opportunity to prove the rest of the NFL wrong, though.
In one appearance for the Saints this preseason, Thomas saw only seven snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, he still managed a 0.6 rating during those seven plays while notching a hurry and a hit as a passer rusher.
Not too shabby for an undrafted rookie in limited action, but it’s still concerning that Thomas was waived before the first round of cuts by a pass rush-deficient Saints defense.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have been absolutely miserable in the pass rush department through two preseason games. While the injuries along the defensive line and at linebacker continue to rack up, Oakland has been forced to depend on their second- and third-teamers to pressure opposing passers. Unfortunately, the Raiders are still wondering what happened to the “pressure” part of the equation.
Just ask Drew Brees, who shredded the Oakland secondary last week while enjoying plenty of time in the pocket. On one particular play, he managed to scan the field unpressured for about 11 seconds before finally finding Kenny Stills for a touchdown. Put simply, the pass rush has been pathetic as of late.
Now with the Raiders, Thomas will battle with the rest of the outside linebacker depth chart for a spot on the 53-man roster. While Kevin Burnett and Sio Moore are locks, the Stanford product will have to beat out other outside linebackers such as Kaelin Burnett, Kaluka Maiava, Keenan Clayton and Eric Harper for a chance to stick around in September.
Thomas will remain a longshot with the Raiders, but is in a perfect situation to make himself valuable due to his ability to pressure passers. If he can get on the field for the final two preseason bouts, the undrafted rookie might just prove himself to be a steal.