Arizona Cardinals hope Cameron Thomas can become next J.J. Watt
By Jim Koch
Arizona Cardinals rookie Cameron Thomas is learning from the best in his quest to become the NFL’s next great pass rusher.
It’s difficult to measure just how valuable the great J.J. Watt has been to the Arizona Cardinals over the past two seasons. The 33-year old veteran’s performance on the playing field speaks for itself, but the positive influence that Watt has had on a few of the Cards’ younger defenders has also benefited the squad.
One individual in particular who’s been learning from Watt is Cameron Thomas, a third-round draft pick out of San Diego State University. The 22-year old was brought in to help replace Chandler Jones, Arizona’s sack specialist who inked a free-agent deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. The impact Thomas has made has been gradual, but the youngster now appears to be coming into his own as a professional player.
This week’s episode of “Hard Knocks” includes an outstanding segment featuring Thomas and Watt. The pair are sitting alone in a room while the elder statesman passes on his vast amount of knowledge to his attentive protege. How many up and coming edge-rushers would jump at an opportunity to pick the brain of a future Hall of Famer like Watt?
Cameron Thomas is earning more playing time with the Arizona Cardinals
Whatever tips Watt is passing onto the 6 foot 5, 270 pound Thomas seem to be having an effect. During last Monday’s loss to the New England Patriots, the San Diego native burst into the Pats backfield and hit the throwing arm of quarterback Mac Jones. The result of the effort by Thomas was a wounded duck-looking pass that was intercepted by Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
Early on in the current campaign, Cards defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was reluctant to use the wet-behind-the-ears Thomas. But from week 7 on, the defensive end’s playing time has increased. In his 13 appearances this fall, Thomas has been credited with 11 tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hits for the struggling Redbirds.
The Arizona coaching staff has to be encouraged by the promise that Thomas has shown in his first year with the franchise. Having Watt around to help with the rookie’s development has been a huge help. The Cardinals would love nothing more than for Thomas to emulate the five-time Pro Bowler both on and off the field for many years to come.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)
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