On Wednesday, the Jets announced that they had replaced veteran running back Jordan Todman with rookie Jahad Thomas. Today, we're taking an in-depth look at Thomas' strengths and weaknesses.
The 22-year old Thomas is 5'10" and 190 pounds and is an undrafted rookie out of Temple. He was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys but they released him during training camp.
Thomas opened up his Temple career as the team's kick returner during his true freshman season although he didn't play on offense. As a sophomore, they started to use him on offense and he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 26 yards per catch on 14 receptions.
In 2015 and 2016, Thomas became the lead back and earned all-AAC honors. He rushed for over 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior and also had his first kick return for a score. In his senior year, he also took on punt return duties and, while he fell short of 1,000 yards rushing due to having missed a few games, he set career highs as a receiver with 33 catches, 418 yards and six scores.
After going unselected in the 2017 draft, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys, but a hamstring injury in preseason eventually led to his release.
Let's look in more detail at what Thomas brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
In his senior year, Thomas was used quite regularly out of the slot and occasionally out wide. Prior to 2016, he was almost exclusively just used as a conventional half back. He would occasionally be required to run block on a designed quarterback keeper.
As you can see, Thomas didn't post particularly good numbers at the scouting combine:
He failed to improve upon his 40-yard dash time at his pro day workout, and also posted below average agility numbers. However, on film he looks fast and athletic.
Thomas uses good footwork to make sharp cuts and has good patience and balance. He's dynamic in the open field and will fall forwards to get extra yards but doesn't run with power and will elude rather than breaking tackles.
Here's an example of him skipping through the hole and then getting low to drive himself to the goal line:
Here's where Thomas is at his best; in the open field. He displays good vision and uses excellent footwork to set up the defenders so he can elude their tackle attempts with sharp cuts:
As a smaller back, Thomas isn't really a short yardage weapon, but his quickness into the hole and nose for the end zone helped him to rack up 30 rushing touchdowns over the past couple of years.
Thomas, like most backs, will generate most of his production on dump-off passes out of the backfield. These are ideal for his running style as they enable him to get the ball in space:
However, he's also shown some ability to catch the ball further down the field, as he did on this play:
As noted, Thomas had a career high six touchdowns in his senior year. Prior to that, he had just two in his first three seasons:
Thomas is a good pass catcher, whose production as a receiver improved in each of his last three seasons. He never had more than a few drops in any one season, but is not immune to dropping the ball:
Ball security is a minor concern though, as he had five fumbles as a runner over the past two years:
Thomas has plenty of experience in staying in as a pass blocker, but doesn't always look particularly comfortable in doing so. He will whiff on a cut block from time to time and also occasionally reacts late when picking up the blitz:
With that said, that above sack was the only one he surrendered in college and he surrendered pressure at an acceptable rate.
A return role is suited to Thomas' skill-set and he had some good success as a return man in college, averaging over 25 yards per kick-off return and 12.6 yards per return in limited work on punts.
Here's one example of him making the most of limited room to get decent yardage on a return:
Thomas may also be able to contribute in kick coverage. He had five tackles in that role as a true freshman.
Thomas' vision is regarded as one of his best attributes. He makes quick decisions before hitting the hole and is excellent in the open field.
He seems less comfortable when required to pass block, reacting late on a couple of occasions and not getting himself anchored in time.
Thomas wore a single-digit number at Temple, which means he was voted as one of the toughest players on the team. He also showed some good leadership and maturity over his last two seasons and is a hard worker.
Thomas missed the first two games of the 2016 season with a sprained hand. As noted, he had a hamstring injury in camp with the Cowboys. They initially put him on injured reserve but then released him off it later.
Temple uses what's regarded as a pro-style running game, so that should prepare Thomas for the NFL. The experience he had in Dallas should also prepare him for a system that employs both power and zone blocking concepts.
Thomas is a dynamic back, but more of a scatback type due to his lack of size. He might factor into the mix for a return role and then if he makes it onto the roster at some point, would probably just be a change of pace.
As with anyone being signed at this point of the offseason, Thomas is a long-shot to make it through final cuts. However, if the Jets are looking to identify players with a promising future that they can carry on their practice squad, then Thomas would seem to fit the bill.