Who is DQ Thomas?
☀️ Good morning!
Happy Friday to one and all, another Friday means we’re one week closer to the NFL season kicking off. Next week the Jets will start mandatory workouts and the hope is that everyone shows up. Coach Saleh recently said he expects everyone to show up, and while we’re all talking about Mekhi Becton (who will be there), we need to keep an eye on George Fant, the starting LT has stayed away from voluntary work and may be looking to extend that contract.
✈️ Adam Schefter reported that Riley Reiff was visiting the Jets, he was later seen watching a portion of the OTA practice with coach Saleh. Reiff is a former first-round offensive tackle out of Iowa. He’s played 144 games since 2012 and spent the 2021 season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Reiff allowed 4 sacks and 21 pressures before ending up on the injured reserve list. Reiff will be 34 in December.
😉 Quincy Williams met with the media and claimed that he was going to be a Pro Bowler this season, which is timely considering the newsletter subject today. He certainly doesn’t lack for confidence, I’ll give him that.
🚨 As I mentioned yesterday I don’t put much stock into reports from OTA performances, but news out of NJ is that Ashtyn Davis is looking pretty good so far. If you’ve read this newsletter for any period of time, you’ll know I’m not a big fan but I’d love him to prove me wrong. In other news Zach had another poor day, but I’m not concerned in the slightest, he’ll be using OTA’s to work through a few things.
✖️ Former Jets defensive coordinator has found his way to the XFL as an assistant. Williams was fired after his Ill advised cover-0 blitz against the Oakland Raiders led to a last minute loss.
This time last year we were all concerned about the cornerbacks, but the coaching staff repeated their confidence in the players that were signed to deals.
Fast-forward a year and the Jets have two new starting cornerbacks on the roster.
This year my concern has been focused on two key areas. One is the defensive tackle position, and the other is linebacker.
Again, this off-season we’ve heard the coaching staff talk about their confidence in the linebackers they have on their roster…is history about to repeat itself?
I’m finding it hard to find confidence with the linebackers, yes the Jets spend a lot of time in sub packages with only two linebackers on the field, but those two linebackers still play a key role.
We need to see a vast improvement from Quincy Williams, and there were flashes last year that he had huge potential…but one injury to either of the starting linebackers and we’re diving into the unknown.
Today I’m going to focus on one of those unknowns, DQ Thomas.
Former high school safety and powerlifter, DQ (real name D'Quarius) elected to play his football at Middle Tennessee State despite receiving an offer to play for the Mississippi State bulldogs.
Early indications were that he’d end up in Starkville thanks to the recruiting of Bulldogs defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, but Sirmon left for Louisville in 2017 and DQ decided that Middle Tennessee was the place for him. He did receive some interest from his local Rebels of Ole Miss, but an offer never materialized.
“As soon as I got there it felt like a home,” Thomas said. “They’d been recruiting me for a long time, so I was familiar with them and some of the coaches. …That was the big decision. I looked at the depth chart and saw I had a chance. They were bringing in only one other linebacker so thought there must be spots to fill in.”
Fast-forward five years and DQ left the Blue Raiders as their all-time leader in tackles for a loss with 53 and tied for third all-time in sacks (20.5).
262 picks were made in the 2022 NFL Draft and Thomas’s name remained uncalled, but he quickly earned a call and invite to the Jets rookie minicamp followed by a contract that paid the joint highest amount of guaranteed salary for Jets UDFA ($130k).
When he signed with the Jets he did so with a familiar face, as high school teammate and former South Alabama cornerback Devin Rockette was also present at Jets minicamp, although I don’t believe he was kept on afterward.
The Jets did have scouts in attendance at the Middle Tennessee pro-day with one Jets scout offering guidance to one of the participants on his form in the broad jump. That scout obviously relayed back to Jets HQ that there was a linebacker worth paying attention to.
Thomas made over 300 tackles in college and his ability to read, diagnose and execute vaulted him to the top of the TFL lists. His college bio may read 216lbs but that weight is an illusion.
I spoke to Coach Dustin J. Royston of Middle Tennessee and asked if we should have any concerns about that size:
Not with the way the game is changing… he’s what many teams are starting to look for, I think DQ was around 220 the past two seasons but went through pro day close to 230 and ran very well- if he needs to add weight he can easily do it. He was a former power lifter in high school with a great lower body frame- for the position he played we didn’t want him too heavy. He’s one of the few LBs that can play in the box and out of the box.
That position was all over the field. Coach Royston confirmed that DQ played all three linebacker positions in an aggressive 4-3 quarters defense. It wasn’t just his play on the field, he was a multi-year captain on that defense as well and a leader for the younger players.
Team captains are favorites for Joe Douglas and if you can add outstanding athleticism to that captaincy, even better. In terms of his relative athletic score DQ put up a good performance scoring 8.46/10, he also weighed in at 226lbs which speaks to what coach Royston said.
Thomas was productive as a rookie, but his career really took off during his Sophomore year when he posted 14.5 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, and 70 total tackles. Even as he cemented his place as a team leader and star player, his appetite for improvement continued to drive him forward:
"As a young guy, he learned from his teammates and carries himself like a pro," former Middle Tennessee linebacker coach Siriki Diabate said. "Everyone respects him. He works his tail off and helps everyone understand what it takes to be successful. He approaches the game the same way that he does since he was a freshman and he's always hungry to continue getting better."
"DQ leads by example," Diabate continued said. "He wants guys to look at him so that he can show them the right way to do things. He's very good at guiding the young guys and pointing them in the right direction. He's not afraid to put an arm around them and give them advice that he got from his teammates when he was a young guy."
We all know the Jets struggled in coverage from their linebacker position last season, with RBs and TEs feasting in the flats and over the middle of the field. It’s an area where Quincy Williams will really need to improve. That may be an area where DQ could come in handy.
Not only was Thomas credited with creating the most pressure from the LB group (20), he was also given the best PFF coverage grade (72.1) having picked off more passes (2) than touchdowns allowed (1). He also left a lasting impression by being named Defensive MVP following Middle Tennessee’s Bahamas Bowl victory over Toledo, leading the team with 8 tackles (1.5 TFL).
I asked Coach Royston about his ability in coverage and how they used him at Middle Tennessee and the response was exactly what I wanted to hear:
Great for his size, DQ runs extremely well and understands angles and coverage- we didn’t ask him to play man on WRs much even though he can if needed…mostly RBs and TE- he has great ball skills- multiple ints this past year. He’s a former safety in high school with a tremendous vertical jump
If you combine that with the fact he had a 4.8% missed tackle percentage last year on 88 tackles last season and you start to understand why there is a lot of excitement about DQ in this defense.
Athletic and leadership traits are important for a team trying to build a winning culture, but personality is also key. I’ve spoken to a few people about DQ and they all say the same thing, he’s a mild-mannered and funny guy with an easy and approachable personality, coach Royston said “people gravitated to him and enjoy his presence”.
DQ will have a good opportunity to compete for a place this off-season. The Jets currently have 8 linebackers signed to deals for 2022. CJ Mosley, Quincy Williams, Marcell Harris, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Del'Shawn Phillips, Jamien Sherwood, Javin White, and DQ.
Last year the Jets carried 5 linebackers on their initial roster. CJ and Quincy have their spaces locked in. The Jets are high on Sherwood and want to see if he’s the replacement for Mosley at MLB, so I’d say he’s pretty much a lock. People presume Harris is a lock but there is only $350,000 worth of guarantees on his contract, so he’s in the battle with everyone else. Del’Shawn Phillips is a special teams standout, so that will give him an edge and I think Hamsah is in that open competition as well.
"At the end of the day, though, football will only take you so far. What means most to me is the relationships I've been able to build and the people I've met along the way. I hope that when people look back at me they say 'He was a well-rounded young man.' At the end of the day, I just really want to make my mama proud and do my best to love everybody." - DQ
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