Thomas Graham was delighted when the Chicago Bears drafted him in the 6th round last year. It was the conclusion of a journey that almost ended in tragedy. He’d had an excellent college career at Oregon by the end of 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and he chose to opt out of playing that season. While he believed it was the right decision for his health, it undoubtedly impacted his status going into the 2021 draft. With no recent tape of him, teams were reluctant to take a chance. The Bears made his dream come true despite that.
He was ready to show the team why they had made the right decision. Sadly, Graham didn’t get the opportunity until it was too late. The Bears relegated him to the practice squad for most of his rookie year, only elevating him due to injuries in the secondary. He showed everybody they might’ve made a mistake by collecting three pass defenses in his NFL debut against the Minnesota Vikings. It was the first indication that he might have what it takes to start in this league. Now with the arrival of a new coaching staff, he feels it’s a big opportunity for him to grab a starting job.
The best part is the new system is something he’s seen before. He explained this to Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, and Jim Miller on Bears All Access.
Thomas Graham Jr. isn’t wasting any time in the new system.
Graham’s junior year was in 2019 with Oregon. That season they ran something called the 4-2-5 defense under coordinator Andy Avalos. It is basically the college version of the nickel defense in the NFL with four linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs. Teams can run all sorts of different coverages and is a gap-control scheme. Everything is built on playing smart and playing fast. That sounds exactly like what Matt Eberflus is bringing to Chicago with his new system.
From what Thomas Graham says, the scheme might be even simpler than what he ran in college. Remember the young corner had two interceptions, a forced fumble, 10 passes defended, and five tackles for a loss as a junior. It isn’t hard to understand why he’s taken to the Bears’ new defense so quickly. He must feel right at home. The competition for nickel corner is heating up going into training camp.
Graham is challenging veteran Tavon Young for the job and more than holding his own. If he can keep it up, he’ll achieve the next part of his football dream by becoming a starter in the NFL.