It happened time and time again in the NFC Divisional round – Aaron Rodgers stepped up, rolled out, or found another way to elude the Cowboys pass rush. Blitzes and stunts failed to get home, as Rodgers discount double checked his way to the NFC title game.
The image of Jared Cook hauling in a pass along the sidelines to set up the game-winning field goal for Mason Crosby should evoke two emotions from Dallas fans: anger and closure.
Cowboys fans have the right to be upset that a 13-3 record fell victim to yet another one-and-done playoff appearance. But they should also feel closure, knowing Dallas will have to address its pass rush in the upcoming draft.
He likely won’t be on the board when the Cowboys are on the clock at No. 28, but Solomon Thomas of Stanford would be an ideal candidate to fill a void on the defensive line left by injuries, suspensions and free agency. And while he’s no Myles Garrett, Thomas is a relentless worker adept at pressuring the quarterback or even staying home to stop the run.
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, Thomas led Stanford with eight sacks and 62 tackles. Thomas’ fingerprints were all over the Cardinals win over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl, recording seven tackles and one sack. Just ask potential top QB in the draft Mitch Trubisky.
Thomas is explosive off the ball and can line up at multiple positions on the field, as seen against the Tar Heels. His ability to stay in plays is a nightmare for opposing offenses, often running sideline to sideline in pursuit of a play.
I can see Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli frothing at the mouth at just the thought of this.
When you watch Thomas get in his stance, his presence is felt. Even against double teams, Thomas has a knack for shedding blocks and finding a way to get in the backfield or in rushing lanes. Have a look for yourself here, where he comes across half the field to make the tackle on the read option.
Thomas has a motor, too, and can disengage from blocks in seconds. This approach combined with his athleticism at 6’3, 275 pounds has the ability to leave opposing guards and tackles winded by the fourth quarter.
Some wonder, though if his size could also be a weakness. He has a relatively small frame, especially for interior defensive lineman in the NFL. Since he will be going up against offensive lineman 300 pounds and over, Thomas needs to put on a few pounds, especially in his lower body.
Whether it’s a 3-4 or 4-3, Thomas has the intangibles almost any defensive coordinator would want, and has the potential to be a disruptive pass rusher and perennial playmaker. I don't think he falls to No. 28, but I think I speak for everyone when I say Cowboys fans would have no problem if he did.
For more thoughts on the NFL Draft, check out Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.