"He's very coachable,"says Cowboys secondary coach Todd Bowles, and Bowles has a basis for comparison. He was working for Cleveland when Thomas came out of school. Bowles worked him out at the combine and spent a good bit of time with him there.
"He's a good kid," says Bowles. "He always had a high opinion of himself, but that's okay. We're just trying to improve his technique and make him more consistent, but he has a chance."
Thomas will tell you he's always around the ball, and his interception against the Colts in the preseason opener is an example. After that play, he pointed his thumb over his head and behind him to indicate his name on the back of his jersey.
"Coach (defensive coordinator Brian) Stewart told us the night before to play for ourselves and play with pride," Thomas says sheepishly about his interception celebration. "I was just doing that."
"That's Soldier Boy," ribbed veteran teammate Aaron Glenn, using the tag players have hung on Thomas after a song by the singer of that name that's used to open practice. But it's obvious Thomas fits in with this veteran group.
It is also a deep group, and that's where the rub comes for Joey Thomas. No one is moving the top three corners, Terence Newman, Anthony Henry and Glenn. Jacques Reeves appears to be separating himself from the group as the fourth corner. Who, then will be the fifth? Maybe Thomas, maybe veteran Nate Jones, the incumbent who also plays nickel safety and special teams and, as coaches and scouts say, does almost nothing wrong. Maybe it can still be '06 practice squadder Quincy Butler if he can get back on the field. He's missed more than a week with an injury.
That's why the next three preseason games will be so important. They'll provide snaps on defense and they'll provide opportunities on special teams, which can't be practiced. "We all know," says Thomas, "that's about 110 percent of it. It's all what you do on teams if you're not a starter."
So Saturday night against Denver and in the next two weeks, Joey Thomas will go back out and try to play his way back into the league he virtually talked himself out of. If he makes it, you can bet few players will appreciate it more.