New Jets defensive lineman Solomon Thomas has made peace with the MetLife Stadium turf. Now he plans to drive opposing quarterbacks into it.
Thomas tore his ACL in 2020 at MetLife in Week 2 while playing for the 49ers. San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa also tore his ACL in that game, leading to complaints about the MetLife turf that had been installed that offseason.
Last season, Thomas returned to the stadium as a member of the Raiders to play the Giants. He said during a Wednesday Zoom call that three hours before the game he came out to spend some private time with the turf and he has no concerns about calling MetLife home this season.
“I sat on the turf and I made amends with it,’ Thomas said. “I talked to it. I forgave it. And I said, ‘Moving forward we’re going to be buddies. I’m glad I did that because now I’m going to be playing here eight, nine games a season.
“It was new turf. I know it’s broken up a little bit and it’s more firm now. It’s a better turf now. I’m excited to be here. Like I said, me and the turf are on good terms now. We’re good to go.”
The 26-year-old Thomas is good to go and expecting to have the best season of his career as he reunites with his old 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Thomas, who officially signed his one-year deal with the Jets Wednesday, played his first four seasons in Saleh’s system after being selected third overall in the 2017 draft. Thomas hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being a high draft pick.
He only has 9.5 career sacks, but he’s determined to prove he can be more disruptive and productive.
“I was drafted third for a reason,” Thomas said. “I know what I can do in this league. That’s why I’m still here and I’m still here striving to be what I know I can be. I haven’t performed exactly how I wanted over the years. My production is not there.
“I try to bring championship level effort, championship level professionalism to a program every day that I can. That’s what I’m here to do. I know my personal production can go up a lot. I know I can be a way better player in this league.”
Thomas is all the way back from his torn ACL and coming off a season in which he had a career-best 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits for the Raiders. He said he’s “feeling better than ever” and is confident this will be a breakout year.
“I’m excited to go off,” Thomas said “I’m excited to go dominate.”
The 6-3, 280-pound Thomas said he’s played all over the defensive line in this system and is comfortable and versatile enough to play wherever Saleh and defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton, who also came from the 49ers, wants him to line up.
Thomas said he’s an “undersized” interior lineman but he can use his quickness and athleticism to get to the quarterback and make plays.
When Thomas was a free agent last year, he said he talked to Saleh and considered the Jets. Thomas is happy he got the opportunity again this offseason and jumped at the chance to play for Saleh again and help him try to make the Jets a winning team.
“It’s a young, hungry team,” Thomas said. “You look at the talent on this team, a young, hungry quarterback, a very young and talented D-Line and also coach Saleh really attracted me, too.
“Knowing how he takes care of his players, how he coaches, the intensity and passion that he brings, the scheme and philosophy, just how he runs the building. I know it’s set up for success.”