Packers' Joe Thomas Playing for a new Contract in Green Bay

Joe Thomas doesn't shy away from contact, and both head coach Mike McCarthy and linebackers coach Winston Moss know that. He likely gets that intrepid quality from his father, Joe Thomas Sr., who at age 55, became the oldest player to participate in a college football game back in November.
 
Coming off of his best, and first full season of his career, the third-year Packers linebacker has seemingly settled into a mold that only he can fit. In a front seven that cycled through injuries and missing pieces through the duration of the 2016 season, Thomas was the one model of stagnancy. 
 
He played in all 16 games and even saw the first starts of his career — seven, to be specific. 
 
Even after being secluded to the team's dime linebacker in passing situations, defensive coordinator Dom Capers found ways to get Thomas involved. However, this came at the cost of a bruised and battered group.
 
While outside linebacker Clay Matthews eventually grew hindered by an acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprain and fellow edge-rusher Nick Perry ventured down the stretch of the season with a clubbed hand, there was little-to-no pass rush put on by the team's stars. With no respect for the Packers run defense (despite beginning the season as one of the top groups in that department), heavy reliance fell upon the inside linebackers.
 
Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez, a second-year player and a rookie maintained as a lead duo, combining for 19 starts between them.
 
They also combined for five missed games.
 
This prompted the Packers to activate Carl Bradford for four games, seeing the first regular-season action of his career in week 11 against the Redskins.
 
Thomas finished three tackles behind Ryan's 56, despite his three fewer starts (7), and led all linebackers in pass deflections with nine. His coverage skills immensely improved as the course of the campaign drew on, however, the lone exception to that would be his first career interception registered in the season-opener in Jacksonville. Even more of a testament to his efficiency and increasing significance as a role player under Capers in the Packers defense — he played the most defensive snaps of any of the team's linebackers.
 
634 was the count, per Football Outsiders, and the next-closest player to him was the 36, now-37-year old Julius Peppers with 587. He also played the second-most special teams snaps (187), behind only rookie and third-round pick Kyler Fackrell (282).
 
Thomas' increasing ability to play the pass doubles well with his innate skill to track and halt the ball-carrier in the run game. Almost like a flashback to his college days where he was praised for his tackling mechanics and fearless prowess in stuffing the run. He's also no stranger to the dime linebacker role, either. As one of the only five players from South Carolina State currently on an NFL roster, the Bulldogs often implemented Thomas in their dime packages as well, keeping him at a spot where he can drop into coverage and secure the middle of the field.
 
He was with the Packers through the 2015 offseason before being waived in early September of the same year — only to be brought back to the team's 53-man roster two weeks later. It was amidst Matthews' inside linebacker transition where he had played the latter half of 2014 and all of 2015.
 
"The opportunity is wide open," said Thomas in 2015 after the yearly Rookie Orientation Camp practice. "There's a lot of guys here, but I'm just going to continue to be me and continue to work hard. If my hard work elevates me to the starting spot, then so be it.
 
"My goal is to make the roster, but you know, earning that starting spot would be excellent."
 
Goal achieved.
 
2016 was a season to remember for Thomas, whose contract expires at the end of March. Whether or not the Packers have seen enough out of him to solidify Thomas as a building block for the future remains to be seen, but in a young linebacking corps, he has definitely made his case. Hey, if he can continue to hit hard enough to knock the logo decals off of his opponents' helmets like he did to Bears running back Ka-Deem Carey in the week 15 trip to Chicago, he very well might have a future in Green Bay.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (28)

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stockholder's picture

January 30, 2017 at 01:57 pm

Give me a BREAK! Plays run poorly! Zero Sacks! 1 Int.! Hyde had more tackles. This is another case of what is wrong with the packers. Soft in the middle, like soft in Moss' head. Don't make any points on why this guy should be Kept. We only have so many roster spots for Bush type players. Their not going to get you to the super-bowl. Their fill ins. No happiness here. This is one area where the packers need better.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:05 pm

Linebackers who play the run and cover the pass in dime don't usually fill their stat sheet with sacks. He's actually very smart against the run.

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stockholder's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:10 pm

You need to read Al's after the game comments.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:16 pm

I do - every single week, and they're great. Difference of opinions doesn't sway mine though.

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JerseyAl's picture

January 30, 2017 at 03:43 pm

How dare you! Capitulate, I say!

Thomas had a horrible game against the Falcons. it happens. He has played well at other times. He's more of a situational guy.

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stockholder's picture

January 30, 2017 at 08:07 pm

Thank you. He did have two good home games. But it just didn't happen during the year. Especially on the road. Led team in missed tackles with 13. I'm after Holds. Pass Rush. And after that first int. Nothing. Situational was a good way to put it.

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al bundy's picture

January 30, 2017 at 06:56 pm

Hes cheap he stays. Justt read where elway will be going all out for top free agents this sprng. He is a gm who wants to actually compete and win another supr bowl. Many nfc teams are doing what the giants did last year to improve vastly, qualty free agents: line bsckers, pass rushers, running backs. Dont expect mch from this team nex year same old same old.
Rollins gunter and randle ant takng you anywhere.

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KenEllis's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:00 pm

Another undrafted free agent success story.

Some say the Pack's D lacks talent, but with Joe Thomas, Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan, and Carl Bradford roaming the middle of the defense, inside linebacker is set for years, right?

(I know Bradford finished the year with SF, but as with Joe Thomas after he went to Dallas, I sure hop TT gets Carl back to GB for another wonderful season).

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:03 pm

Lol.

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:07 pm

I really like Thomas. That being said I don't believe he is a 3 down LB, but he can fill in that role if needed. He is a really good coverage LB who can blitz. And he hits hard!

Ideally Ryan would play base and Thomas would play Nickel and Dime LB roles. Problem with that they rarely play base defense anymore.

The one thing that I would like to see Thomas improve in is his ability to catch the ball. He had at least 3 passes this year hit him in the hands that he flat out dropped.

I would like to see Thomas continue to trend upward for the Packers.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:09 pm

Definitely not a 3-down guy. Unfortunately, he had to play in those situations this season due to injuries. A less-than-ideal scenario for a guy like that to be in. Thanks for reading RC!

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al bundy's picture

January 30, 2017 at 06:59 pm

And we need guys who are undrateds why? What arw we saving the money for. The vikes linbackers dominated in the pro bowl. We had none there.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 30, 2017 at 03:39 pm

IDK, seeing him stand there with Stone Feet while Matt Ryan plodded his way for a 20 yards TD run just about gave me a aneurysm. If he is the fourth or fifth ILB on the depth chart I guess that's fine.

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cuervo's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:18 pm

Whether you think Thomas is decent against the pass or not (he is in my opinion), if you cut him...then who are you going to have be the "coverage" linbacker?

I'd sign Thomas in a minute...1. because he won't cost a ton, and 2. because he's insurance and depth for a group that desperately needs it.

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Bert's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:31 pm

I'm kinda like Ted. I'm not much of an evaluator of defensive talent. Therefore, I'm not sure if Thomas is any good or just another part time player on a crappy defense?

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zoellner25's picture

January 30, 2017 at 02:31 pm

He's a JAG

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Handsback's picture

January 30, 2017 at 03:11 pm

I think Thomas is more than JAG, since he's very good in coverage. The issue I have with Green Bay's ILBs is that I don't see runners stop in their tracks or move backwards once they are hit. One of the few that can cause that type of hit is Brice...I love to see him hit.
Green Bay has to learn to stop the run and make offenses one dimensional. Thomas is needed to stop those TE/RBs passing lanes for those short quick drops.

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marpag1's picture

January 30, 2017 at 03:27 pm

He's Brad Jones.

In other words, he doesn't suck royally, he just isn't particularly good. He's fairly decent backup material. He'll bounce around in the league for a while and look tolerable on coverage downs (if and when he's on the field). He'll be ordinary at best vs. the run. He'll play a lot of special teams, and generally be pedestrian.

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KenEllis's picture

January 30, 2017 at 03:44 pm

So does that mean TT is about to make Joe Thomas one of the top 5 paid inside linebackers in the NFL like he did with Brad Jones?

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marpag1's picture

January 30, 2017 at 04:20 pm

In hindsight, Jones was horribly overpaid, but he was never close to top 5 for inside linebackers. When he signed the deal in 2013, his average salary ranked 20th for ILBs. Top 5 would have been more than double what he actually got.

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al bundy's picture

January 30, 2017 at 07:01 pm

Mathews is the highst paid lb in footballand isnt even a pro bowler this year. Nice job ted. One year wonder?

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Mags's picture

January 30, 2017 at 03:21 pm

Not a difference maker that the Packers need desperately on defense.

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croatpackfan's picture

January 31, 2017 at 03:02 am

Oh, I see. You think team needs to have 53 difference makers on the roster. Good luck with that!

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Mags's picture

January 31, 2017 at 09:17 am

Did I say the 53 man roster like you seem to think I did? I said the defensive side, or do you interpret things read differently than others?

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Since'61's picture

January 30, 2017 at 04:39 pm

We didn't make it to the SB with Thomas, we can continue not making it to the SB without him. He was unable to stop Matt Ryan on his 14 yard TD run and we all know what a great runner Matt Ryan is. Chuck him and make an effort to find some actual NFL defensive players. Thanks, Since '61

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al bundy's picture

January 30, 2017 at 07:06 pm

You are so correct but sadly there are a lot of jt's on this team. Ryan is the best ilb was a late 4th round pick, 31 teams passed on him at least three times. Now he must anchor a sb bound team?

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Bearmeat's picture

January 30, 2017 at 07:33 pm

Reading these comments makes me wish this was one of those times when I had control of a situation that I don't.

I wish I could thank Ted for the superbowl. Thank him for ARod. And wish him a happy retirement.

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MITM's picture

January 31, 2017 at 04:12 pm

You cannot run a 3-4 defense without at least one stud ILB. Its irresponsible. When you think of 3-4 defenses you immediately think of the Steelers and Ravens. Now run through the names of the ILBs off the top of your head that have roamed the middle of the field for those 2 teams since the Packers have switched to a 3-4 which i believe was 2009. Any Pro Bowlers come to mind? Any guys drafted BEFORE round 4? Catch my drift? Joe Thomas is a special teamer and Blake Martinez or Jake Ryan would be way better next to real ILB than they are next to eachother.

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