Jordan Thomas excited to have pads on at Commanders training camp
By Cole Thompson, San Antonio Commanders Team Reporter
SAN ANTONIO — As tight end Jevoni Robinson (NC State) broke upfield on his route toward the end zone, he was greeted by an open field tackle courtesy of safety Nick Orr (TCU). Commanders cornerbacks coach Bill Bradley erupted following the hit.
“We wrap up son, don’t bring them to the ground,” Bradley growled at Orr.
From the sideline, cornerback Jordan Thomas (Oklahoma) couldn’t help but laugh at Bradley’s reaction to a clean tackle.
“C’mon coach,” Thomas said. “It’s in our blood to hit the target.”
As the San Antonio Commanders entered the new week, shoulder pads were finally added to the practice. For the first time in months for several players, the team could finally get a look at how the defenders would be able to make plays in the open field.
For the defense, it was a chance to make a statement after several days of tough practice in coverage. They did not disappoint as tackles could be heard echoing off into the afternoon sky.
Coach Mike Riley, a former defensive back at the University of Alabama, understands the safety precautions players must go through in order to remain healthy throughout training camp. If he could have it his way, the players would be making hits in the open field from first whistle of practice.
“It provides the protection for when a running back in running through a hole,” Riley said. “I think it’s good. Frankly, it wasn’t a lot different except for the interaction in the line.”
On offense, quarterback Dalton Sturm (UTSA) is coming full circle from his rehabilitation earlier this offseason. Following training camp with the Dallas Cowboys, the former Roadrunner elected to undergo elbow surgery, forcing him to miss the all of mini camp in December.
In the team’s first padded practice, Sturm looked comfortable in the pocket, finding a rhythm under center and delivering clean balls across the middle of the field. During team drills, Sturm threw a deep ball downfield against the Commanders secondary that was hauled in by wide receiver Speedy Noil (Texas A&M).
“I love Dalton,” Riley said. “Dalton’s got a good story behind him. He walked on, won the spot, won games, has records at his school. I think he’s got a lot of self confidence and I think he understands the quarterback position.”
Thomas made several key plays in coverage during the team’s seven on drills. Matched in man coverage against Carl Whitley (Abilene Christian), the former Sooner broke up three passes and nearly came away with an interception against quarterback Logan Woodside. Thomas recently was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles preseason roster.
As the Commanders move to more physical practices, injuries could play a factor in the team’s final roster. For Riley, it’s more about figuring out which players can find ways to find success after failing on moments before.
“I think there’s a lot of mental parts that go into this game,” Riley said. “The fact of the matter is even in a miss, what we coach is an opportunity that you can bounce back and that you’re tough minded enough to do it. It’s a great chance to build a better you.”
Here’s several notes from the Commanders’ third day of practice.
- Wide receiver Darius Prince (Philadelphia Soul) came away with a one-handed catch on a crossing pattern over the middle. The catch elicited applause from the offensive players and a few exclaims of “How did he make that catch?” from the defenders.
- The first wave offensive line created a large hole for running back Kenneth Farrow II (Houston) on a run up the middle. Farrow II then made a safety miss and was headed toward the end zone.
- Cornerback Tre Dickerson III (Emporia State) jumped a route on a ball intended for wide receiver Carl Whitley. Dropping the pass, the play would have led to an interception returned for touchdown.
- Linebacker Nick Temple (Cincinnati) could become a starter for the Commanders defense on the team’s initial depth chart. Against Marquise Williams (North Carolina), Temple swatted down a pass intended for tight end Cole Hunt (TCU).
- Also in attendance were nearly 50 football coaches from various colleges, including UTEP head coach Dana Dimel, each of whom is in San Antonio for the American Football Coaches Associations’ annual convention.