Welker's success not lost on Thomas

Welker's success not lost on Thomas
June 7, 2014, 10:30 am
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(USA Today Images)

As far as slot receivers go in the NFL, Wes Welker is clearly the benchmark.

Welker was having a pretty successful career in the NFL with the Dolphins, especially for an undrafted receiver out of Texas Tech, but his career didn’t take off until he joined the Patriots in 2007.

That was the same year Bill O’Brien joined the Patriots staff as on offensive assistant before becoming wide receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and eventually offensive coordinator. During O’Brien’s five years in New England, Welker had four seasons with 100-plus receptions and 1,100 yards. He also went to the Pro Bowl four times.

All that isn’t lost on Mike Thomas, the veteran slot receiver who signed with the Texans this offseason to play under O’Brien and in the same offense that made an undrafted player an All-Pro.

“I don’t think you can really look over that,” Thomas said on Thursday. “You have guys … you know, Wes Welker was obviously a big part of that and (Danny) Amendola (who played his first season in New England last year) and some of the other guys. They use pretty much anybody they can find in New England to get the job done. So I definitely have had that thought and have looked at it and imagined.”

Since being a fourth-round pick in 2009 to the Jaguars, Thomas has had some success. His best season came in 2010, when he caught 66 passes for 820 yards and four touchdowns. Good but not Welker-like.

Does he think he can duplicate the success of guys like Welker and Amendola?

“Hey man,” Thomas said, “as an individual, you always want to think highly of yourself but I think all of that will kind of fall in place.”

The slot wide receiver is a very different position than an outside receiver. The slot guy lines up inside and has to be able to read defenses in O’Brien’s scheme. So what exactly does a slot receiver need to have in O’Brien’s system? Well, according to the head coach, the player must be quicker than fast, have good hands, be tough, be able to block, and must be smart and instinctive enough to read a defense and react.

It’s a much different position and it’s a part of an offense Thomas thinks he fits into.

Thomas also has a history as a return man, which is another job he’s interested it winning this offseason. Interestingly, his biggest competition for the slot receiver job is also his biggest competition for the return man job. Keshawn Martin and Alan Bonner are the other two vying for those roles.

Thomas just turned 27 but he’s the oldest of the trio. Martin is 24 and Bonner is 23.

So it Thomas the old guy?

“Unfortunately, it seems that way,” he said laughing. “I like to think I’m the new old guy. So it all kind of works itself out.”

But with that age comes experience, something Thomas clearly has more of than his competitors. But he wouldn’t say if that experience gives him an advantage over the other two.

“Everybody is kind of on somewhat of a same slate, an even slate coming in …” he said. “I wanted to come in and try to seize an opportunity and try to make the most of it.”

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