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Jaguars rookie safety Daniel Thomas slated to play major role vs. Packers

With safety Josh Jones officially on injured reserve, rookie safety Daniel Thomas has big shoes to fill.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars will be without several key players in today’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers. One of the starters slated to be missing in action, safety Josh Jones, was placed on the team’s reserve/injured list on Saturday. As a result, the team could rely on one of its rookies in the secondary, fifth-round selection Daniel Thomas.

As competitors go, Thomas has always been one of the toughest of them all. Through four seasons at Auburn, the former Tigers safety contributed for 199 tackles (124 solos), nine sacks and five interceptions in just 43 games. He’s always been a standout on special teams, but now he could be slated to play a much bigger role today at Lambeau Field.

Against the Houston Texans last week, Thomas played his second-highest snap-count total of the year, splitting time with Jones as the team’s box safety while sometimes playing outside coverage against tight ends. On two passes thrown his way, Thomas allowed neither to be completed, including one in the end zone that was ultimately broken up.

Prior to Jones going on injured reserve with a chest injury, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone spoke about the availability of both players, playing the same position and getting ample playing time to them without giving up production, on Monday.

“Daniel [Thomas]’s been a guy that has a potential to make plays. I think it’s unfortunate when you have two players at the same position that have the ability to play well and that’s a unique position so it’s not like we can have both of them on the field at the same time unless we put some different types of packages in,” Marrone said when asked if Thomas’ role could expand even with Jones as the team’s starter.

The Jaguars head coach indicated the team did have three-safety sets a couple of weeks ago, but nothing was concrete, permanent.

“So, Daniel didn’t do anything bad. He had the good man coverage; you saw that in the tight end down the sideline. Now Andrew Wingard comes back, so he goes back to the safety position. Those guys are much better up than they are back, so we’re constantly looking at it.”

A second-year safety, Wingard was activated off of the team’s reserve/injured list on Saturday, potentially starting in place of Jones today against the Packers. But, don’t be surprised if Thomas continues to see plenty of snaps, especially after Wingard missed so much time due to injury.

“My goal was to play both those players, get Daniel in there some to hopefully get better production out of that position and more production out of that position and I think we did help ourselves a little bit.”

At 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, Thomas packs a punch in a stout frame that can become a presence in the box for the Jaguars. For now, he will continue his development, though, defensive coordinator Todd Wash said on Thursday.

“I thought he went out and functioned really well. We’ve seen that he’s getting better and better,” Wash said when asked about Thomas’ performance from Sunday. “Once again, he was a rookie obviously when he came in and it’s taking him a while to learn it. There’s a lot stuff going on in the back end and we’ve seen him start to learn and [function] a lot more efficiently in practice.”

Although, ultimately, Wingard could receive the bulk of the repetitions today, Thomas’ role isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s just getting started.

“And even like we said today, ‘Let’s get him a couple series here and there.’ And he went in and functioned really well. So, we’re going to continue to develop him. Obviously, Josh Jones is our starter, but we’re going to continue to develop him because I think he’s got some play-making ability.”