Cam Thomas taking ‘best of both worlds’ from Cardinals past and present

May 23, 2023, 11:50 AM | Updated: May 24, 2023, 9:09 am

TEMPE — It’s been two years of change for Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Cam Thomas.

Two head coaches, two general managers, two NFL seasons.

For some, the organizational changes can make their heads spin having to relearn the coaching staff and front office in addition to picking up the nuances of a new playbook.

Thomas, however, doesn’t fall into that line of thinking. Instead, he’s focusing on the positives that come with Arizona hitting that big, red reset button.

“Going from college to the NFL is a big jump. And when you get in there with a new staff, they’re obviously going to have their philosophies,” Thomas said Monday. “To be able to go through a whole year and learn a whole staff’s philosophies and then going into Year 2 and learning a whole new staff’s philosophy is just a whole bunch of extra knowledge right there. Kind of take the best of both worlds from both and make it my own.”

Among the players looking noticeably different as Day 1 of organized team activities kicked off Monday, Thomas was at the top of the list.

Getting back to his original playing weight of around 270 pounds — up for where the previous regime wanted him at 255 — Thomas has clearly added more bulk to his frame. His evolution physically is reminiscent to that of Zach Allen’s, who turned heads with his transformation early into his career.

It’s a credit to the work and determination Thomas put in this offseason.

“I think with this year and the time we had off, I took advantage of it,” Thomas said. “I got my weight up, my body fat down. I think I got faster and I think I got stronger. I’m really excited to see what I can do this year and just key into the playbook, work with (head coach Jonathan Gannon) and the rest of the staff.”

And a lot like Allen, the Cardinals are hoping Thomas can take that similar step forward for an organization in desperate need of a pass rusher to establish himself within the defense.

It’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility, either.

Despite playing just 21% of the team’s available defensive snaps (236) as a rookie last season, Thomas still walked away with three sacks, a pass defensed and six QB hits across 17 games played.

“He’s a big, powerful guy, he really is,” Gannon said Monday. “He’s doing some good things on the grass with movement skills and different things like that.

“He’s definitely bigger than the first time I met him — I had him for a top-30 (visit) in Philadelphia — but he looks good and he’s doing good.”

This season, though, Thomas won’t have mentor and childhood idol J.J. Watt to bounce things off of.

That’s not to say the future Hall of Famer’s influence and words of wisdom will be lost on the young pass rusher.

“Something that he taught me was just to be myself,” Thomas said. “When you get into the league, you kind of have all these different people trying to put expectations on you. They’re trying to mold you into the player they think you are.

“But at the end of the day, it’s you out there playing football. I learned to be myself from him and that’s something that I’ll definitely keep.”

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