It’s third-and-goal from the 11 yard line and because he was once a touchdown machine in Adam Gase’s Denver offense, Julius Thomas seems a likely target for a Ryan Tannehill pass early in this sweltering Sunday morning Dolphins practice. But the ball goes to Jarvis Landry who rewards Tannehill’s throw with a touchdown.
Fast forward to a second-and-goal situation from the 5 and this time Thomas is blocking as a quick pass goes to DeVante Parker for a touchdown.
Later it’s first-and-goal from the 8 and Thomas isn’t even on the field as Tannehill throws a touchdown to Kenny Stills.. And later it’s Landry catching another red zone touchdown as Thomas blocks.
Julius Thomas caught 24 TD passes for Gase in 2013 and ‘14 but so far this training camp he hasn’t exactly lit up the Miami defense. He’s actually not been much a factor so far
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That would typically raise eyebrows except we are only four days into training camp ...
...And Miami defensive coordinator Matt Burke has apparently decided Thomas isn’t going to beat him during these practices.
And the Dolphins have multiple other weapons that can keep the offense moving even when the defense is doing good work erasing one or two options.
That, by the way, is a big deal.
You should know the Dolphins play in the same division as the New England Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick has something of a reputation for picking one guy off an opponent’s offense and practically eliminating him from a game. Usually the player chosen is the offense’s most effective weapon.
That leaves it up to other offensive players to respond so their team has a chance against the Patriots. The Dolphins, in that regard, believer they’re just fine. They have options in Stills, Landry, Parker, handing off to Jay Ajayi, or finding Thomas in the red zone.
The trick now is getting Thomas going.
“I wouldn’t say he’s gotten off to a slow start,” Gase said Sunday. “A lot of the things we’ve tried to do with him, we haven’t really gotten the match up we wanted and the ball’s gone somewhere else. Matt’s done a good job of using coverages to prevent us from doing that.”
That is certain. The first few days of this training camp, Sunday included, Anthony Fasano has actually found himself with the ball down the field more often than Thomas. And Fasano is supposedly the blocking tight end while Thomas is the seam and big-play threat.
But Gase isn’t worried.
And neither is Thomas because he’s caught a few passes (185) during his time in Denver and Jacksonville and he understands his contribution isn’t measured in receptions alone.
“Well, luckily, I’ve had a little practice at that,” Thomas said. “You learn not to value your day based on the passes, based on the touchdowns, based on the yards. That’s part of me getting older and understanding that I just have to be my best every day and I can’t control the outside factors. So I can’t worry about that. I’m just going to focus on making myself a better player. The catches, that will all come.”
Gase admits he’s had conversations with his playmakers about not becoming frustrated if they don’t often get the football in a game. Last year there was no public complaining from players demanding the football and if the offense works as planned, there shouldn’t be any this year, either.
“It should be a different guy [getting the ball] every game,” Gase said. “You want to make it hard for a defense from saying, ‘Take this guy away or take that guy away.’ If they keep thinking of who they have to take away and they select a guy and other guys have a big game, that’s how you approach it.
“It all evens out in the end if you do it right. I’ve seen it before, especially in 2013 and 2014 where there were a lot of other guys that had to get the ball. Everybody do what they’re supposed to do and it works out right in the end.”