The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t get what they expected out of tight end Julius Thomas. That’s well-documented.
But here’s a point that has largely gone overlooked: The reverse was true, too. Thomas didn’t get what he had hoped out of his two-year stint in North Florida.
Jacksonville made Thomas the highest-paid tight end in league history in 2015, handing him a five-year, $46 million contract. Thomas only lasted two seasons with the franchise before the Jaguars dealt him to the Dolphins for negligible trade compensation.
Thomas couldn’t stay healthy and could never reach the high standard he set in Denver (where he caught 12 touchdowns in each of his final two seasons with the Broncos).
A change of scenery wasn’t a good thing. Thomas averaged 38 catches, 368 yards and 4 1/2 touchdowns in his short Jaguars career.
On Wednesday, he tried to explain why:
“Sometimes things just don’t work out,” Thomas said. “I don’t have any ill will towards anybody in Jacksonville. I like everybody there. We all got along great. But not everything always fits. It just wasn’t a fit for me.”
The fit will almost certainly be better in Miami.
He’s back with the offensive coordinator (now head coach) that turned him into a star.
Thomas, Adam Gase and the rest of the Broncos offense broke records together in 2013.
And Thomas believes Gase is a better coach now than when he left Denver after the 2014 season.
“Not only a guy that I think is one of the best football minds — he’s really good at teaching and instructing — but he’s also somebody that I consider a friend and somebody that I trust in this game,” Thomas said. “To have that marriage is pretty good.”
Priority No. 1 for Gase this season: Actually have Thomas on the field in the red zone. The Jaguars, for no real good reason, would take their touchdown-catching tight end off the field when they got close to scoring touchdowns.
Gase won’t make that same mistake.
Expect Thomas to be allowed to do what he does best in Miami. Gase’s playbook “has definitely changed” from his time in Miami, but the broad strokes remain the same.
“The skeleton of it is pretty similar, but he’s grown as a coordinator, he’s grown as a coach, and it reflects in the offense,” Thomas said. “I think him having complete control of what we do offensively and really getting to have his vision in there and attack a defense the way he’s known and learned, it’s been fun.”
Thomas is fired up about playing with Ryan Tannehill, suggesting that Tannehill’s mental command of the game is an overlooked strength. He expects the Dolphins quarterback to make another jump in Year 6.
“Very cerebral,” Thomas said of Tannehill. “He puts so much time in. He really wants to make this his offense and own it. I’ve been extremely pleased and excited to see his work ethic.”
Granted, all of these high hopes will be moot if Thomas can’t stay healthy. In Jacksonville, he battled a different ailment seemingly every month; he had finger, back and elbow issues.
But Thomas, still only 28 years old, insisted that is behind him and that he’s still in the prime of his career.
“I think this is the best I’ve ever felt,” Thomas said. “When I was younger, somebody told me that the hardest part about playing when you get older is getting your body right. The game slows down. I’m kind of in that sweet spot where the body still feels good and the game’s slowing down, so I’m really looking forward to this year. It’s gonna be an exciting time for me.”