Demaryius Thomas Inspires Confidence With Dynamite Patriots Debut


August 30, 2019

FOXBORO, Mass. — After making his New England Patriots practice debut last weekend, Demaryius Thomas confidently declared: “I can still go.”

He wasn’t lying.

The 31-year-old wide receiver looked like his vintage self Thursday night in his first game action since tearing his Achilles last December, catching seven passes on eight targets for 87 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-29 loss to the New York Giants that closed the book on the 2019 preseason.

“I was excited,” Thomas said after the game. “Especially first game coming back from tearing my Achilles, getting out to make a couple plays. I was excited about it, and I look to build on it and keep getting better.”

Thomas spent all of training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and there was some concern over whether he’d still be able to create separation against NFL-caliber defensive backs. He wasn’t even considered a stone-cold roster lock entering Thursday, though the timing of his activation gave him strong odd of cracking the 53-man roster.

Those questions about Thomas’ skill level won’t be answered until the regular season — as is tradition, the Giants played their backups in this game — but the former Denver Broncos star proved to be Jarrett Stidham’s most reliable target in his first outing in Patriot blue.

“I actually feel a lot better now,” Thomas said. “Before the injury, I was a little smaller. But I?m a little heavier, a little stronger. The program we?ve been doing here has helped out a lot, so I feel great.”

He added: “If I?m going to get hurt, I?m going to get hurt. But I?m going to be full speed getting hurt. My Achilles is great. I?m going to do whatever I can to play my best ball.”

In the five series Thomas played (roughly a quarter-and-a-half), he caught more passes than he did in any of his 15 games for the Broncos or Houston Texans last season.

Stidham had less success throwing to the recently reinstated Josh Gordon, who caught two passes on six targets for 30 yards in his first game post-suspension. Gordon did draw a defensive pass interference call that helped set up Thomas’ first touchdown, however.

That touchdown, a 35-yarder, came on a gorgeous back-shoulder throw from Stidham. Thomas slowed near the goal line to catch the pass behind trailing corner Henre’ Toliver, who’d kept pace with him down the sideline.

“DT?s been through so much in this last year,” undrafted rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers said. “I was just happy to see him score and happy to see him making plays out there.”

Thomas’ second score came on a scramble drill inside the 5-yard line. He initially settled just inside the end zone after running a slant from the slot, but as Stidham was flushed from the pocket, Thomas broke toward the corner of the end zone. Stidham located his receiver and floated a pass over two onrushing defenders, landing it in the arms of a wide-open Thomas.

“It was really good,” Stidham said of his connection with Thomas, who made his NFL debut before the rookie QB started high school. “Obviously, he’s a phenomenal player. He’s been around for a really long time, so it was really good to get some throws in to him and to Josh and Julian (Edelman) — guys that have been in the league a long time. They’re great players for a reason. It was a lot of fun.”

Thomas did endure one forgettable moment when he mishandled an attempted end-around, resulting in a lost fumble, but it’s unlikely he’ll be asked to take many handoffs this season. Overall, it was an impressive first act for a player who’s determined to show he can, in fact, still go.

And if he can? An already-dangerous Patriots offense would become all the more explosive.

“We?ve got a lot of potential,” Thomas said. “But there are a lot of guys around the league that I feel like are going after the Patriots. Because I know when I was on other teams, we were going after them. We might look good on the roster, but we?ve got to go out every week and get better and better every week. So if I can be a part of that, I?ll be happy.”

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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