How Thomas Graham showed a high football IQ on SEBs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
the Bear put on another underwhelming offensive performance on Monday, with virtually all of the flashing plays belonging to the defense. It was a surprising development, considering the Bears were missing all of their starting high school and several other key players in rotation. From an outsider’s perspective, perhaps the most surprising performance of all was rookie cornerback Thomas Graham’s debut in the NFL.
But for Graham’s teammates, his big night came as no surprise at all.
“He was a ball player, the world just didn’t know him,” said Deon Bush. âEveryone sees him as a simple guy on the practice squad because he hasn’t had his chance yet. But once he got his chance, he showed the world. Big up to him.
Prior to Monday night, Graham had spent his entire rookie campaign on the practice squad, having sidelined the entire 2020 varsity season due to COVID-19 issues. Graham admitted that taking a year off made it difficult to play regularly in training camp, and he recognized the need to develop in this area. But one area where Graham seems to have a head start is the mental side of the game.
âGraham has always been pretty smart,â said Bush. âHe’s smart. He’s very smart.
Graham showed this intelligence by breaking down two of his most impressive passing breakups in the game, starting with his deflection in the end zone that prevented a touchdown:
âIt was the close end,â Graham said. âIt was a maximum protection look, so I knew if I had to get a route thatâ¦ I was like, there’s no way he’d take a turn. In my head, if someone tries. to sell too strong a route, he doesn’t take it. So he tried to sell too strong a corner, he broke in, I stood back, and we knew when they entered the red zone that they love posts. They just tried hitting a corner post, trying to get me out of my influence. “
It was an exhilarating game and a sporting breakup, but Graham still had notes to himself on how he could have improved.
“I got there and I should have turned my hands this way [gestures hands in better catching position] to get the choice but you know i went this way [gestures hands as they appear on the tape]. I will take the breaking of the passes.
In this case, Graham illustrated how he avoided being deceived by the offense, but in another play he explained how he may have deceived Kirk Cousins. This is the third piece on this Graham highlight reel:
âWe were in Cover 2,â Graham said. “I saw the flat guy, but I was also looking at Kirk Cousins, seeing his high shoulders, and I was like, no way he was short.” So I took a step to make it look like he had paused me, but in reality, I’m still getting out of there.
Despite another incredibly athletic piece, Graham had the same note for himself.
âI need to get on the Vertimax a bit to be able to choose, but I’ll take the breaking of the passes. “
While all of these breakdowns seem like cutting edge gear for a rookie making his NFL debut, Graham further explained how his preparation has helped him succeed.
âUnderstand the basics of this team. Know what they are running. Know what they are doing. You don’t play against a receiver, I don’t play against a quarterback, I play against an offensive coordinator. So that’s what he likes, how does he attack it? How does he attack the corners that look like me? How does he attack my scheme? I just pay attention and take how Eddie studies, how T-Gip studies, how Jaylon studies, how Kindle, and just trying to find parts to fit into my game where, now I step into this moment and I’m ready. As Kobe always said, you don’t have to be nervous when you’re ready.