METAIRIE, La. — If Michael Thomas is not cautious, he may run out of ammunition soon.
The New Orleans Saints receiver is fueled by doubters. He is propelled by an intense ardour constructed up by means of a lifetime of being a late bloomer in highschool, struggling early to get on the sphere at Ohio State and falling to the second spherical of the 2016 draft.
His teammates and coaches marvel at an virtually maniacal drive that by no means lets up. Quarterback Drew Brees talks about how Thomas treats each rep in follow like a “Tremendous Bowl rep.” Coach Sean Payton just lately informed NFL.com that he felt like he received hit by a automotive when he made the error of standing in because the defensive again throughout from Thomas throughout a stroll-by means of session.
From the wild-card spherical by means of Tremendous Bowl LIII, ESPN.com has you coated.
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But when he retains dwelling up to his nickname, “Cannot Guard Mike” goes to run out of doubters soon.
Thomas was named a primary-workforce All-Professional in his third NFL season after setting franchise information with 125 catches and 1,405 yards to go along with 9 landing grabs. And now he is received one other probability to flex on the most important of phases, because the No. 1-seeded Saints start their playoff run Sunday towards the Philadelphia Eagles (four:40 p.m. ET, Fox) in an NFC divisional-spherical recreation.
“The playoff stage is simply all about profitable,” Thomas stated this week, rejecting the query about what it means for him personally. “No matter it takes to win, be the final workforce standing, play for a championship and in the end win a championship is what the playoffs imply to me.
“[This opportunity] is a blessing. It is what we work for. That is what coaching camp, OTAs, all of the conferences, all the additional work after [practice], the offseason reps — it is a testomony to the place we’re in now. And we simply need to hold it going.”
Thomas, nevertheless, has by no means made any secret about his lofty aspirations to be thought-about “proper there with the perfect of them” when all is claimed and achieved in his profession. And we have already got seen glimpses of how he thrives on the most important phases.
You may keep in mind Thomas catching the sport-clinching, 72-yard landing within the Saints’ most excessive-profile showdown of this season towards the Los Angeles Rams — then pulling a cellphone out from beneath the objective submit as a result of he had ready forward of time for having such an enormous second within the highlight.
Final season’s playoffs have been no completely different.
Thomas caught eight passes for 131 yards within the Saints’ wild-card victory towards Carolina. Then he caught seven passes for 85 yards and two scores within the divisional-spherical loss at Minnesota. Each of Thomas’ touchdowns got here within the second half as New Orleans rallied from a 17-Zero deficit — despite the fact that he was being guarded by All-Professional cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Brees has had some nice go-catchers in his 13 years with the Saints — together with Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. However Thomas has emerged greater than any of them as somebody Brees will goal in these gotta-have-it moments, even when he is being swarmed by No. 1 cornerbacks and double-groups — partially due to the shortage of confirmed depth the Saints have in the remainder of their receiving corps.
“Hear, you make good, smart choices, good choices. [But] if he is one-on-one, I like our odds. Even when he is 2-on-1, it higher be a very good 2-on-1 or else there’s often nonetheless a spot you may throw the ball the place he can get it and so they cannot,” stated Brees, who referred to as Thomas’ astounding whole of 125 catches “fairly superior.”
“That claims rather a lot about him, as a result of clearly he will get lots of consideration. It is not like they only put him on an island each recreation. He is getting lots of double protection. He is getting lots of safeties leaning his approach and various things. So, he is gotta work laborious to get open and he does. He does an amazing job of that.
“He is extremely aggressive. He expects to be the man to get the ball and make the massive play, in order that’s nice. It additionally opens up alternatives for different guys.”
Payton rapidly rejected the notion the Saints would ever goal Thomas regardless of how closely he is being coated: “No, no, no, no, no, no. No. … We do not simply drop again and throw the ball indiscriminately to a participant.”
However, Payton stated, “Our job in the course of the week is to attempt to work out how to take the double-workforce off of him or how to sluggish that down.”
Though he is nonetheless a younger participant within the NFL, the 25-year-previous Thomas stated he takes his accountability significantly as Brees’ go-to goal.
“Being there, being his man, having probably the most expertise with him, I’ve to act like I’ve probably the most expertise with him,” Thomas stated. “I can not depart him on the market.”
Thomas additionally in all probability has to take care of as a lot bodily contact as any receiver within the league, each due to his “go-to man standing” and since he spends lots of time taking part in in site visitors as a bodily 6-foot-three, 212-pounder. And he can not help however vent typically after video games when he feels the officers let defensive backs get away with an excessive amount of grabbing towards him (the Saints’ 13-10 loss at Dallas in Week 13 amongst them).
However he additionally is aware of that is a actuality he has to reside with since opposing defenses definitely do not underestimate him.
“I had to battle — I positively had to battle for it,” was Thomas’ first response when requested concerning the numbers he put up this season. “However that is simply the numbers that I turned in on the finish of this yr.
“I am in the end attempting to flip in higher numbers subsequent yr and take a look at to take that subsequent step in my recreation. I am not attempting to pat myself on the again or say, ‘Good job.’ I am simply attempting to in the end be the final workforce standing and assist my workforce win a championship.”