With an increased workload put on his plate in recent weeks, second-year Redskins safety Phillip Thomas says he's feeling more comfortable on the field.
His role and responsibilities could increase even more on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, when Thomas could very well be making his first-career start in place of strong safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been listed as doubtful to play as he continues to battle a nagging toe injury.
Top images from Washington Redskins' practice on Dec. 5, 2014, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
With Meriweather unable to practice this week, Thomas has been taking first-team reps in practice this week.
"The more reps I get the better I'll become," he said. "Obviously, the more I see out there the more I'll get used to the speed of the game. Everything has been coming along pretty well and I feel like I'm going to be able to perform this week."
Since being signed to the active roster on Nov. 1, the Fresno State product has appeared in four games, recording six tackles and a fumble recovery against the San Francisco 49ers.
Showing flashes of the playmaker he was in college when he recorded an NCAA FBS-high eight interceptions during the 2012 season, head coach Jay Gruden said that if he does indeed start, they need him to play at his best.
"We have to count on him," Gruden said Friday. "You know it's time for him to step up. This is a great opportunity for Phillip. …He had some opportunities last week and failed on a couple plays, but this is a great opportunity for Phillip and we hope that he can step in there and show why he is still here.
"I think he has got some talent but he has to go out and put it together for a full football game, not for three quarters or for eight drives out of the 12.
"He has got to put it together and hopefully he will. We have faith in him."
Regardless of if he's in the starting lineup or not, Thomas said his mindset will remain unchanged.
"You prepare to be in the game every week," he said. "No matter if you're a starter, second, third string because anything can happen. We've had so many injuries—the 49er game, it was ridiculous and everyone had to be prepared. That's how you prepare every week.
"You prepare just in case things like that happen. So there's no added preparation, but I think I have added focus onto everything, making sure of it, making sure I can communicate and making sure people hear me loud and clear out there because it's going to be loud for us on defense."
Thomas said he's really focused on getting all the signals down this week to ease his transition into a bigger role.
"I've been really working on my communication, just getting everything out there and being heard," he said. "It just makes everything comfortable, it makes me feel more comfortable, just playing well."
After spending all of his rookie season on injured reserve, Thomas is entering December football in the NFL for the first time. Despite this, Thomas is "feeling as healthy as I've ever been."
"I've just got to take care of my body and always stay in that training room and just do maintenance all the time," he said. "I'm learning that there's a lot more maintenance that goes into this level and it's a longer season. A lot of bigger, faster, stronger people. I just have to take care of my body as I get sore or hurt or banged up."