Thomas might be be nickel back

Second-year man Kevin Thomas looked very good as the Bills' No. 3 corner at mini-camp and also the No. 1 nickel back. Free agent pickup Dainon Sidney should have a tough battle this summer if Thomas keeps up his playing level. Mike Doser talked to Thomas about his development, the defensive coaches and the defensive changes. Here's a Q&A.

Mike Doser: Kevin, you're a lot more vocal than I ever remember seeing you last year. You're yelling things out before the snap, talking, all that stuff that veterans do. You must be feeling very comfortable.
Kevin Thomas:
I didn't really know the plays and I felt I hadn't earned the right to say anything – being a rookie. But now I got to step up. Just like Nate (Clements) said, "Everybody's got to step up."

Doser: How much difference is there between this year's strategies in the defensive backfield and last year's?
Thomas:
There aren't a lot of changes, but we got a little more zone. We're still a man-team, though.

Doser: With Jerry Gray the defensive coordinator and Dick LeBeau the assistant head coach, but mainly a defense guy, how do you think that setup will work?
Thomas:
I think it fits in great. Jerry is a great coach and you know he wants to be one of the best coaches – he sure is for (defensive backs). Everybody is open to everybody's opinions so I think it's pretty good for everybody. Personality wise, there are no clashes or anything like that.

Doser: What are you working on in the off-season?
Thomas:
I worked on footwork and technique, and just basically playing the strength of the defense. Last year, I tried to play the strength and the weakness …

Doser: What do mean when you say that?
Thomas:
Like if we were in zone, and the weakness was out and the strength was supposed to be the inside, I would play inside, but I would be thinking about outside routes and try to make that play outside when I'm not supposed to make that play outside. We're supposed to give that up. That's the weakness of the defense. So now I don't worry about the weakness (anymore). That's just the way the defense, the scheme, is designed. We want the offense to have the little short yardage stuff. They can take that all day, as long as we don't give them (anything) deep. If they attack the strength, it's going to be a pick, a pass breakup, or it's a play for us.

Doser: I guess that would be similar to a defensive tackle who has to man only one gap along the line instead of two. It's just one less thing to worry about.
Thomas:
Yeah, it's similar. You got your assignment, you play your assignment. If you got A-gap, you don't go into A-gap and peek into B-gap. You don't do that. You hold A-gap for that linebacker to come in and make that play in B-gap. (The defense is based on) a domino effect: everybody does his job and we'll be unstoppable … You just worry about the strength. I mean you got to know the weakness of the defense, but you want to play your strength and what your assignment is.

Doser: You were known as a gambler coming out of UNLV. Has that changed in your second year?
Thomas:
Oh no, that's just the type of player I am. I gamble when I think the time is right – especially if they're running a route to my strength, if I know a receiver is coming in. The Green Bay game (last December was a prime example). The strength was an inside route and (the receiver) ran an inside route and I jumped him and I got the pick. That's just knowing assignment and alignment. That's all it is.


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