The New York Giants needed to spruce up their line backing corps heading into free agency, and they did just that rather quickly by signing Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas on the first day of free agency. The latter, J.T. Thomas, was signed to a $10 million deal over three years. Thomas was unknown by most Giants fans, but that does not necessarily mean it was a bad signing.
Thomas first appeared with the Chicago Bears in 2012 after missing the 2011 season with an injury. He then joined Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars where he spent the next two seasons.
After putting up just 28 tackles in his first two years in the league, he then broke out in 2014 with the Jags. After starting MLB and Pro Bowler, Paul Posluzsny, went on IR, the Jaguars struggled to find a replacement. J.T. Thomas earned his chance, and shined from the start.
He racked up 84 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions in 10 games started. He had an early audition for the Giants last season when his Jags team played them in week 13. He was key in the Jaguars second half comeback, which I’m sure every Giants fan reading this unfortunately remembers vividly, putting up 12 tackles in that game. He also had an impressive game in week 9 against the Cincinnati Bengals, picking up 8 tackles and 2 interceptions against Andy Dalton and the high-powered Bengals offense.
Head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars Gus Bradley had high praise for the linebacker, which say a lot about Thomas as a player. Bradley is known for his outstanding defensive eye for talent, helping build and coach the elite defense of the Seattle Seahawks, and continuing to improve and build up the Jags defense.
“I really like J.T. Thomas,” said Bradley, a head coach with a strong defensive background. “Really, the good thing about J.T. is flexibility. He played at all three positions for us. He can go in at all three positions at any time and play extremely fast, as far as knowing what he’s supposed to do.
“He took really good command of the defense. When [Paul Posluszny] got hurt for us, we were scrambling a little bit. When J.T. came in he settled things down. It’s very important to him. I can’t say enough good things about J.T.”
Former defense man, head coach, and now ESPN analyst Herm Edwards also had praise for Thomas.
So, what makes Thomas so appealing for the Giants? His versatility.
He can play all three linebacking positions (as well as special teams) equally well. He will most likely start out competing for an outside line backing job, but also as the backup middle linebacker behind Jon Beason. It seems like a given at this point that Beason will get hurt during the course of the season, and Thomas will be an excellent plug-in during his absence. He has the speed and intelligence to play all three positions well.
Here are two examples of him making plays against our beloved Giants. He was able to watch and recognize JD Walton’s first step and blast through for a tackle, and in the second play he was one of the first to realize the Giants were actually faking the throw to Odell Beckham Jr., and use his speed to blast across the field for a tackle.
Thomas also was noted for his leadership in Jacksonville. He picked up right where Posluszny left off in the locker room, and also is an excellent man off the field. He has a foundation meant to raise money and awareness, and he gave away two super bowl tickets to an epileptic child in 2014. While his on the field performance is more important, it is good to know you have a good character guy on the team that will not get in any off the field trouble.
Now will Thomas be a Pro Bowler? Probably not, but he is going into a better defense around him in New York though compared to Jacksonville, with more guys around him to help him. He should end up being a solid signing for the Giants and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.