With established, high paid starters in Rashean Mathis and Brian Williams, along with veteran Terry Cousin and former Jaguars draft picks Scott Starks and Dee Webb, the likelihood of the 27 year old Thornton competing for a roster spot with the Jaguars seemed somewhere between slim and none.
If you fast forward about three and a half months, you’ll find that Thornton has been one of the Jaguars most impressive defensive backs. Thornton had a big interception in the preseason opener against Miami, and has played well in each of the two other preseason games for the Jaguars. At this point, Thornton is still on the bubble for a roster spot, but not many thought that he would even last past the first cuts of the preseason.
Bruce Thornton started his NFL career in Dallas, after the Cowboys made him a fourth-round pick in 2004 after starring at the University of Georgia. Thornton played in just one game for the Cowboys as a rookie, being mostly used as a kickoff return man. After the season, he was released and then signed by the San Francisco 49ers. In 2005, Thornton stepped into the Niners lineup due to an injury in week five, and started the final 11 games of the season. Thornton finished second on the team with eight passes defensed and two interceptions.
Unfortunately for Thornton, his contributions in 2005 weren’t enough to gain him a roster spot in 2006, as he was released last August.
"I let Bruce go (because) I just felt it would give him an opportunity to maybe make it with another ball club," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "As we look down the stretch, I thought with the competition increased at the position and all, it would be a better move for both."
After sitting out the entire 2006 season, Bruce Thornton is attempting to resurrect his career in Jacksonville. When he was asked about his mindset, Thornton responded -
“I’m just basically giving a hundred percent. I know it’s a cliché, but no mental errors, no big plays, just do what I have been doing all training camp. Just staying focused and doing what the coaches say.”
Thornton enters his fourth and final preseason game tonight, and this will be the biggest game of his recent career. Thornton must play well to make the team over a proven veteran in Terry Cousin, and a couple “home-grown” young players in Scott Starks and Dee Webb.
When asked about the magnitude of this game, Thornton said “I had Bill Parcells as a rookie. It’s like any other thing. It’s a big game for all of us. The first game was a big game. I try not to add too much pressure to the situation and just play ball.”
Each and every year of the Jaguars new era, seemingly at least one or two players make the roster that seemingly flew under the radar during camp. If Thornton finishes the preseason strong, as he has been playing all summer, this year he could be that guy.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.