"I came into the league as a run stopper, so I'm not worried about the run too much," Thornton said. "I am definitely still working on the run just as much, but I am focusing on the pass rush because if you can be a multitask person and can do more than one job, then you are going to be looked at and evaluated differently."
According to Thornton, the extra work before and after practice is nothing new to the 25-year-old, undrafted free agent out of Division II Southern Arkansas. After a long journey to the NFL, Thornton credits his work ethic and God for allowing him to be considered a starter.
"I prepared for it the same way I prepared for it last year, by just working hard; that's all I know," Thornton said. "My work ethic is to work when nobody else works and I always try to give that extra effort, even if it's before practice or after practice.
"I just acknowledge God before I do anything. He is my everything and I give Him the glory before I step out here, and He allows me to turn this natural body into some super stuff some days.''
Thornton joined the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent most of the season on the practice squad. He played in every game last season, recording 25 solo tackles and one sack but has yet to start a game.
"I have always seen myself as a starter," Thornton said. "With my skill set, I have always been a starter throughout and right now I'm getting a chance to start, but I believe there is definitely room for improvement."
Like many of his teammates, Thornton is adjusting to the 3-4 defense after playing in the 4-3 the past two seasons. While he does not believe his role will drastically change, he described the transition as a learning process.
"I definitely want to be effective both on the passes and the runs," Thornton said. "This is a team game and I just want to be successful. I want to be somebody that the team can rely on and I want to be somebody that the [opposing] coaching staff can run away from and not somebody that [they] want to run to."
During his days at Southern Arkansas, Thornton was described as a player with raw, physical power who could bull-rush through offensive lines. Upon beginning his NFL career, he admitted that he has had to alter his style by learning how to balance power and moves.
"Last year I was just attacking, and now I am trying to keep attacking, but trying to react smarter and trying to make plays within the scheme," Thornton said. "It's a lot different than last year, but it's something that I've definitely improved in since the spring."
Thornton is expected to receive his first action as a starter in tonight's preseason opener with the New England Patriots. He says he is ready.
"Whenever they call my number and whatever they ask me to do, I'm here to do it and here to work hard and take coaching," Thornton said. "I'm trying to be like the other players in the room trying to learn and work hard every day and become consistent at the job that they want me to do."
Before every game, Thornton reads the Bible. His favorite verses are Romans 10:9 and John 3:16. During each game, he often recites to himself Philippians 4:13, which states, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
Said Thornton: "God always wants to elevate you to the next level; he is not a God that wants you to stay the same, but he wants to elevate you and the God I am serving, my God Jesus Christ, wants me here to take the challenge."
On Twitter: @JohnMurrow12