The Houston Texans started the season with Vernon Hargreaves III and Terrance Mitchell as their outside cornerbacks. Yes, Nick Caserio opened the door for disaster by re-signing Hargreaves III, and disaster predictably came rushing in. Houston eventually relented by releasing Hargreaves III and moved Desmond King out of position to the outside cornerback position.
This was spurred by Tavierre Thomas’s performance in the slot. Thomas played King’s role better than King did, and as a result, Houston found a cost-effective starter to play the hook, chase and tackle, and look to poach passes in zone coverage.
Pro Football Focus named every team’s most improved player recently. For the Houston Texans, Thomas was the easy choice.
PFF Grade change from 2020 to 2021: 50.2 → 77.6 (+27.4)
Thomas had one of the most underrated seasons in the league this year. Up until this last season, the 2018 undrafted free agent had played only 237 snaps in meaningful NFL games for the Browns. Last year, Thomas stepped up as the nickel for Houston, and he was one of the best at the position. Thomas posted one of the five highest slot coverage grades in the NFL and allowed the fewest yards per slot coverage snap (0.50).
We know what Thomas can do. He can play zone coverage, chase and tackle, fill, and fit the run game. We don’t know if he can play man coverage. Those reps came sparingly. Maybe 2022 will answer this question.
Regardless, for now, Thomas is the team’s nickel corner in 2022. He was one of the rare bright spots in a dark season.