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Patriot Thomas used to many uses

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / September 18, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Once an opening appeared, Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas zoned in on Bills quarterback Trent Edwards.

With 7:39 remaining in the fourth quarter Monday night, Thomas darted from the outside and used his 6-foot-2-inch, 270-pound frame to bring down Edwards in a game New England eventually won, 25-24, with a rousing comeback. The play included a debatable roughing the passer penalty on Thomas, but was an example of his ability to reach the quarterback.

In his time in New England, Thomas has proven to be a versatile player, and those skills may be called upon in Sunday’s game against the Jets.

The Patriots will be without middle linebacker Jerod Mayo, who is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament suffered against Buffalo. Without Mayo, last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, a hole exists in the Patriots’ defense. Moving inside isn’t new to Thomas, who played there in the Patriots’ 3-4 scheme when he signed with New England in 2007 after seven seasons in Baltimore. Thomas started that season primarily at inside linebacker, and last season returned there at times in nickel packages.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he has considered “a lot of things’’ when looking at possible adjustments at linebacker in Mayo’s absence.

“I would never say any one thing; we consider everything,’’ Pees said. “We have had guys that are defensive ends play linebacker, and linebackers play D-end. Guys play outside and inside, both . . . Nothing is out of the realm of what we would try to do. Then again, it’s whatever’s best for the defense that week.’’

Thomas said, “As long as I’m on the field, I’m good. You could put me back there in a referee suit.’’

While the specifics of how Thomas will be used Sunday won’t be revealed until game time, Jets coach Rex Ryan is aware of what kind of player Thomas can be. The Ravens selected Thomas in the sixth round in 2000, bringing the two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year out of Southern Mississippi to Maryland. Ryan was in the midst of 10 seasons with the Ravens, as defensive line coach before becoming the defensive coordinator in 2005.

“He’s a special person. He’s a special player, and he’s doing a great job in New England,’’ Ryan said. “He’s a guy you definitely have to know where he’s at.’’

Thomas is one of five active linebackers with 50 or more sacks, a list that also includes former teammate Mike Vrabel.

No matter how he is used, Thomas expects a busy day, with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington handling most of the rushing duties for the Jets. In their 24-7 victory against Houston last week, the duo combined for 167 yards on 35 carries, with Jones scoring two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Washington gives the Jets an added element to keep defenses guessing, according to Thomas.

“He’s very unique in that he brings so much to the table,’’ Thomas said. “He’s shifty, makes people miss. You name it, he does it.’’

While members of the Jets have engaged in trash-talking the Patriots this week, Thomas said, “The off-the-field stuff won’t help you on Sunday. So, we just really focus on the stuff that they do. How they play, how they run the ball and throw the ball. [Ryan] has his guys playing with a lot of energy and they’re playing real well now in all three phases.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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