How Chase Thomas wasn't already part of this Raiders team before this week is apparently beyond me. He was considered by many to be a mid-late round pick in the draft and yet fell out of the draft entirely. At that time one would have thought re-uniting with his former defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, would have been of interest to both the Thomas and the Raiders.
That didn't happen and Thomas ended up signing as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints. Then early this week, he found out he was being waived more than a week prior to the first mandatory cutdown date. Another crushing blow for this former Stanford standout linebacker.
"I just felt like I didn't get a great opportunity to really showcase what I can do," Thomas said of his time with the Saints. "The first preseason game, I got a couple reps and I did really well in those I thought, and then never really heard about it, and never got any real feedback from anybody while I was there. So, it was kinda just a lack of communication, really. Just didn't work out, I guess, but that's the NFL and I'm just blessed having another opportunity."
Coming back to play near the school you spent the past four years, playing for a coach you played under, and with some family in the area makes this a great environment for Thomas. It is likely the best place he could possibly have gone in an attempt to have an NFL career.
Communication was recurring theme in our conversation. The Saints' defense was the absolute worst in the NFL last season and a lack of communication would certainly do it. It's something Thomas says Tarver is extremely good with.
"Just great communication between the two of us," said Thomas. "He knows what I'm best at, he knows what situations to put me in to be most successful. That's what coaches do, they put their players in positions to succeed. He knows what I can do on the field, he knows how to line me up. So, just to have that connection with him already from Stanford is great."
Tarver spent just one season as Stanford's co-defensive coordinator. During that season, Thomas had his highest totals in tackles for loss and sacks. The hope from Tarver's standpoint is that he can bring that level of play out of him once again.
"He knew where to put me," said Thomas of Tarver. "He knew where to attack the offense. He came up with a lot of great blitzes and schemes that moved me around a bunch and kept the offense on their heels. It allowed me to make plays in the backfield and be more disruptive. It was a great year when Tarver was there."
Another asset Thomas brings is familiarity. Dennis Allen said that was one of the primary reasons the team claimed him.
"Obviously, with J.T. having some experience with him from Stanford, that was an obvious plus," said Allen. "I think he's got some power, some strength, does a pretty good job as an on-the-line, line of scrimmage linebacker setting edges and doing stuff like that. He was a guy that we felt like could come in, learn the system pretty quickly and really be thrown into the fire fairly quickly."
"There's definitely a lot of similar terminology and calls," Thomas echoed. "We ran 3-4 at Stanford and this is a 4-3 but there a lot of under fronts here so I'm locked up on the ball just like I would be in a 3-4. You hear the calls, little tidbits, little checks here and there that are all the same. A lot of the nickel stuff, the sub-packages, all that's the same or similar so the learning curve is not as big as it would be if I went somewhere else, so it's definitely beneficial towards me."
This won't happen overnight, of course. But the expectation is we see Thomas in the final preseason game and then the team will evaluate where to go with him from there. I would expect his ultimate destination for the time being would be the practice squad.