Logan Thomas' height, quarterback experience give Bills a boost at tight end - The Buffalo News

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Logan Thomas' height, quarterback experience give Bills a boost at tight end

PITTSFORD -- Start with the height. At 6-foot-6, Logan Thomas is the tallest of the Buffalo Bills' tight ends and taller than most of the other players on the team. In high school, he worked part-time in a carpet warehouse. As he explains in his bio in the Bills' media guide, "I was too big to fit in the forklift, so I had to lift and move the carpet myself."

Picture when Thomas and Tyrod Taylor, who is generously listed at 6-1, would stand next to each other on the sidelines as fellow quarterbacks at Virginia Tech. Talk about your extremes.

"He was a big quarterback," Taylor said with a smile Thursday, remembering the awkwardness of it all. "I think he wears like size 17 shoes, and he would trip every time he ran outside the pocket. That's because those shoes were too big."

Thomas' height no longer is a source of amusement for Taylor. It's a cause for comfort, the kind every quarterback wants when seeking an open receiver in the crowded middle of the field. In case you haven't heard, that's been an issue for Taylor from the moment he became the Bills' starting quarterback in 2015.

Now, he just might have someone to finally help him get over that hump. And it isn't only because Thomas is so tall.

Thomas' quarterbacking experience does plenty to help with how he runs pass routes, knowing where the defense is vulnerable in coverage, and his ability to anticipate when and where the quarterback will deliver the ball.

"I think, for a (former) quarterback, it helps transition about 40 percent, just because you understand pass concepts, you understand defense," Thomas said. "But the other 60 percent -- learning how to run routes, what the quarterback's looking for, specifically; obviously, as a quarterback, you know what you want, but, obviously, everybody has their specifics. And then run game, obviously, takes up most of (the transition)."

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This is what isn't so obvious: how things will shake out at tight end for the Bills by the time the season starts.

Charles Clay is the clear-cut starter, as much because of the heavy financial investment the team has in him as anything else. But he's dealing with a chronic knee problem, and received his second "veteran's day off" from practice Thursday as part of a plan to prevent the knee from becoming an even larger issue.

Nick O'Leary is No. 2 on the depth chart, although that doesn't appear a lock. He still has to do more to convince coaches that he merits a regular spot in two-tight-end formations and is someone who can help the Bills get more production from the position.

Thomas is the  tight end in training camp who has created the most buzz. He has consistently caught the ball well and made some head-turning plays, such as on Wednesday, when he easily out-jumped two defenders to grab a 25-yard Taylor throw in the middle of the field. Thomas also has gotten some first-team action while Clay has rested.

"He's a big guy, for sure, a big target going down the middle of the field," Taylor said. "He made a strong catch (Wednesday). There were three people there at the same time. It was almost like one person. He's a talented guy."

Watch: Tyrod Taylor on Bills training camp, Zay Jones

But that talent as a tight end has largely been unknown. The Bills signed Thomas off of the Detroit Lions' practice squad last Nov. 30. He didn't see any action with the Bills. The idea was to find out what kind of fit he might be in the future, and although the general manager (Doug Whaley) and coach (Rex Ryan) who brought him in have since been fired, Thomas did enough during offseason workouts to stick around and continue developing his skills at his new position.

In 2014, the Arizona Cardinals made Thomas a fourth-round draft pick as a quarterback. He played in two games, thanks to an injury to Drew Stanton, and completed only one pass -- for an 81-yard touchdown against Denver. Thomas became the first NFL quarterback to have his first career completion go for 80-plus yards since Pittsburgh's Neil O'Donnell threw an 89-yarder in 1991.

After the Cardinals released Thomas before the 2015 season, he spent time with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants before switching to tight end and joining the Lions' practice squad late in the 2016 season.

For Thomas, this isn't any sort of experiment. He believes he has found his path to NFL success.

"I definitely want to be one of those guys that gets a lot of run," he said. "Obviously, you've got Charles, you've got Nick, who's pretty much running with the ones as well. And I don't know how it sets after that, but for me, I'm not looking to be third. I want to be first or second, but that's just the mind frame. You kind of know where you sit, but my mind frame is you've got to try to be the one or the two. And that's how you get better."

Thomas devoted his offseason work to becoming the most knowledgeable tight end possible. He spent time studying all aspects of the position, how it functions in the new offense, and his responsibilities.

He has tried to be the consummate sponge, soaking in all he can from the new Bills tight ends coach, Rob Boras.

"I've learned exponentially more in this offseason going into (training camp)," Thomas said. "Understanding blocking schemes, understanding the little fundamentals, the little concepts, what it takes in the route-running, just growing. Every day is a new learning experience for me."

He considers his bond with Taylor a huge bonus. It was Taylor who encouraged Thomas to sign with the Bills when at least two other NFL clubs were interested in acquiring Thomas.

As Taylor pointed out, former Hokies are part of a big family, even after going their separate ways.

"It makes you comfortable," Thomas said of having Taylor as a teammate. "I came into a new place, obviously, but coming to a new place with people you know, people you trust, people you understand, it makes it easy."

For a quarterback, the same is true for having a tight end who knows how he thinks.

"(Thomas) sees certain routes from a quarterback perspective, so it's easy for him to find the soft spot because he's thinking like a quarterback when he's out there running the routes, especially in the red zone," Taylor said. "Just body position. Certain throws that quarterbacks talk (about) amongst themselves, certain areas that need to be exploited. He's done a good job of finding those areas.

"He's a talented guy, but I think the fact that he thinks like a quarterback out there on the field at the tight end position definitely helps him."

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