[EDITOR'S NOTE - This Was a piece I did for WEEI mid December. They decided not to run it so I'll post it here.]
With an 8-5 record, the Patriots present a ton of questions and things to watch for the rest of the season. There are some that come immediately to mind like whether or not the secondary will hold up for the next three games, or if the offense will finally show up for the second half of a game.
Those are both important and should be addressed. But the major question is: What's up with Adalius Thomas? He's seemingly gotten caught in Bill Belichick's crosshairs, not once, but twice this season. What does that mean for his future in New England? Since it's finals week on college campuses, let's do a quick refresher on Thomas this season.
A quick look at his stats shows that Thomas has been struggling to make an impact this season. Through 12 weeks of the season, Thomas has amassed 28 tackles and three sacks. As a comparison, he played nine games in the 2008 season before getting injured and ended up with 35 tackles and 5 sacks. Not a good look. Perhaps the broken arm that year was the beginning of his troubles.
To be fair, there have been some changes made that may account for the decrease in numbers, namely the fact that the Pats are playing a slightly different type of defense since 2007 and 2008 and the fact that Thomas has moved to a different position within the linebacking scheme. During past seasons, Thomas played the left inside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme, which put him in the middle of the field and therefore, in on more plays to make tackles. This year he is playing right outside linebacker, which means more dropping off the line of scrimmage into pass coverage.
Thomas has always been known as a pass rushing linebacker. Were it not for two passes in Super Bowl XLII it's arguable that Thomas had set himself up for Defensive Player of the Year honors. In 2006, Thomas had 11 sacks with the Baltimore Ravens, second only to defensive end Trevor Pryce. Perhaps the Patriots should put him in a different position, and let him pin his ears back and get after the QB. If he does well, it might not lead to situations that caused his first apparent "strike" in Belichick's eyes.
We all remember the tattooing of the Titans the Pats laid down in the the snow back in October. Everyone remembers Brady's second quarter but another interesting development was the fact that Thomas was a "healthy scratch." It was commonly held that benching Thomas was a motivation technique employed by Belichick. Maybe it had a delayed effect since Thomas only had one tackle in the following game against the Bucs, but four tackles and a sack against Miami, the week after the Bucs. The point remains that for some reason, as yet unexplained to Thomas, he was benched. After seven weeks of relative silence, Thomas, once again, was punished by Belichick.
Don't be Tardy
The most recent transgression was being nine minutes late to a recent 8 a.m. meeting. The penalty, usually, no more than a fine, was a bit more drastic and Thomas was sent home along with Randy Moss, Gary Guyton and Derrick Burgess. At the time, Thomas had nothing to say about the matter, leaving the dismissal to be discussed by the professionals.
Later, Thomas would speak about the incident and generally make light of the situation. The Jetsons reference is a good throwback.
This past Sunday, Thomas was inactive for the game against the Carolina Panthers. It's difficult to not associate the inactive listing with him speaking about being sent home.
The question now becomes how long will Thomas remain a Patriot? There is a large contract that will affect cap space so there are many concerns to be dealt with in terms of letting him go or trading him.
It is unfortunate because the size of his contract will always seem to overshadow his play on the field. What remains to be seen is whether or not Thomas will suit up as a Patriot for the rest of the season and will he be here once the season ends. Dale & Holley hit the nail on the head when they ask if Thomas is done as a Patriot.