we've had in a long time to help us win games next year."
That likely will cause Thomas to blush when he hears what the owner had to say but at the same time make him work even harder to prove the head man right.
Thomas, if for no other reason than deference to his age and stature in the league, likely will open up the team's OTA sessions next week (Tuesday through Thursday) working with the first-team defense next to Bradie James. Bradie is what they call the "Mike" backer in this defense, the run-stopper who must take on the blockers and deal with all the traffic in the middle. Thomas will play what's known as the "Mo" linebacker, and no one ever has told me this, but let's assume "Mo" has something to do with "move" or "mobile"; something to do with the guy who's "more" protected and asked to basically just run to the football.
Like make plays.
Naturally, most will think Thomas is too small to play inside on the 3-4, and compared to last year's starter, he is smaller. James will check in at 240 pounds. Ayodele was 240, too. His main competition for the starting job, Bobby Carpenter, goes a cool 248, and Kevin Burnett, who also will be given a chance and played mostly as one of the inside backers on the nickel defense last year, might check in at just 227 but at least he's 6-3.
"This gives us the chance just to really utilize his ability to make plays," Jones said.
Thomas' ears don't burn.
"They said when Nick Saban brought in the 3-4 I wouldn't fit because I'm a smaller guy," the Texas High School Hall of Fame member said of the Dolphins former head coach when he switched the team out of the 4-3 defense of Johnson and Dave Wannstedt.
When Saban arrived? Heck Zach, they said that about you when Jimmy drafted you. You have been eternally "too small."
"Right!" he said, laughing at the stereotype, knowing he's made a mockery of it his entire NFL career, having led the Dolphins in tackles in 10 of his 12 seasons while earning the most Pro Bowl selections in Miami history.
"It's something people don't understand; there's really not three guys on the line of scrimmage, there's five, and in the 4-3 you've got four, so you're more protected, and I love it. It fits me more than the 4-3, even though Jimmy Johnson brought me in for that 4-3. The 3-4 I would recommend over any defense out there.
"Just run and tackle the guy with the ball, it's simple."
Sounds simple, and Zachary Michael Thomas has made this somewhat difficult task of putting the guy with the ball on the ground seem simple his entire career.
And if he continues to do so, proves he belongs, don't you worry, he won't be flying under the radar much longer. Not around here, not with all these radar detectors in the Texas skies.
Especially if he redefines the "Mo" to mean "Mo-Better."