Mike Thomas is looking forward to the offseason to truly learn the offense

Posted Dec 21, 2012

Thomas is eager to get to the offseason training program and OTA’s, when he says the real learning begins.

Mike Thomas is looking forward to the offseason.

Not because the Lions are 4-10 and the fourth-year receiver simply wants to put a disappointing season behind him, but because he’s eager to get to the offseason training program and OTA’s, when he says the real learning begins.

The Lions traded and undisclosed draft pick for Thomas back in November before the trade deadline. They liked that he’d caught a combined 158 passes for 1,688 yards in his first three seasons in the league with the Jaguars, and they needed depth at receiver position losing Nate Burleson to a broken leg two weeks prior.

Who knew at the time that just a few weeks later, the Lions would be relying on Thomas for much more.

Unfortunately, the production he had at Jacksonville hasn’t traveled north with him thus far. Thomas has just three catches for 16 yards and a touchdown since joining the Lions. He's also chipped in 50 rushing yards on five attempts.

It’s left some fans to wonder if the Lions made a good move by trading for Thomas.

“It’s a process,” Thomas said of trying to learn an offense on the fly during the middle of the season. “It’s going to take time, just for your own personal comfort level.”

When Thomas first got here he was being asked to learn the outside and play away from his more natural position in the slot because of the injury issues with Nate Burleson and Titus Young and the fact that Ryan Broyles had started to come on in the slot.

“It’s a tough position to come in really not playing that much in the slot,” Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of Thomas. “Playing outside is really probably not the most natural position to play outside early. That’s where we needed due to injury.

“There’s a lot of things that go into playing in there in the offense. So, it’s just kind of – we’re not so much experimenting, but finding, you know, what’s the true position for him while some other guys probably have a little head start on him as far as knowing the offense.”

Thomas admitted his head was spinning a bit when he first got here.
“You come in and you’re kind of thrown into the fire and suited to fit in. Now I’m probably getting back to my more natural position inside,” Thomas said of being back in the slot now that Broyles is on injured reserve with a torn ACL.

“I wasn’t really learning too much (of the slot) when I got here and now that’s all I’m running. It’s definitely a transition.”

Thomas said it will probably take an offseason and a training camp before he can truly learn all the nuances of the offense and get back to just playing football and not thinking so much.

“It takes an offseason and sometimes take a year to get adjusted,” Thomas said. “Being able to hear a call and you know exactly what you got with adjustments and, ‘In this coverage I can do this and in this one I can do that.’ Especially on the inside. Know your quarterback and vice versa.

“It’s a work in progress and I’m actually looking forward to the offseason to be able to get that and gain that and get on the same page and just know exactly what I’m doing and what I need to do. Then I can start adding my own skill level into it and say, ‘Okay, I know this,’ now I can put my own little flavor on it. It’s just a work in progress.”

The Lions wouldn't mind a little more help these next two weeks against two good defenses in the Falcons and Bears, though.

"You don't get very many opportunities in the NFL," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said this week when asked about other players besides Calvin Johnson stepping up and making plays.

"They need to take advantage of those opportunities and show that they can be counted on to be able to make a play.

"When we do have some guys that are put on IR and stuff like that it's more urgent for them. You don't get very many opportunities."

Johnson has been carrying the Lions offense the last couple weeks and there are opportunities these next two weeks while Johnson chases the all-time single-season receiving record for other receivers like Thomas to step up and make a play, even if he doesn't have the entire offense down yet.