Barry Jackson

Dolphins’ Thomas has challenges before and after game, update on Parker

For tight end Julius Thomas, last Sunday began with the awkwardness of remaining in the locker-room until just before kickoff after the team informed him and the other players that they must stand for the national anthem if they’re on the field.
For tight end Julius Thomas, last Sunday began with the awkwardness of remaining in the locker-room until just before kickoff after the team informed him and the other players that they must stand for the national anthem if they’re on the field.

Lots of Wednesday Dolphins news:

• For tight end Julius Thomas, last Sunday began with the awkwardness of remaining in the locker-room until just before kickoff after the team informed him and the other players that they must stand for the national anthem if they’re on the field.

It continued with the awkwardness of not being with the starters for the first time as a Dolphin.

But Thomas made clear on Wednesday that he can deal with both.

Asked about not starting this past Sunday, he said: “You've got to be mentally tougher than that. If it's about my ego or how I look, I'm going to have a long, tough life. If I'm going to be worried about being out there for the first snap, all kinds of things in life are going to trip me up.”

Adam Gase, asked if Anthony Fasano is now the starting tight end, said: “It’s whatever personnel grouping I call. Everything is week to week.”

Thomas has only nine catches for 86 yards in four games, and Pro Football Focus rates his run blocking this season 65th among 69 tight ends.

Gase said one reason he hasn’t been more involved in the passing game is because the team hasn’t gotten favorable matchups.

“His value comes when he is matched up on safeties and linebackers,” Gase said. “When you put a corner on him, it’s not as easy for him to get as open as what he’s done in the past. If you get a safety or a linebacker on him, it’s a good matchup for him. He’s got a good skill set that makes it tough on them. We haven’t really seen a lot of man. We have a lot of guys that can win one-on-one coverage and we’re seeing a lot of zone.

“Teams are able to kind of try to take our run game away and still play zone behind it and that’s where we’ve got to hurt them in the run game, and then you saw this last week, we started running some play-action and we started making some hay; but when we do run play-action, the tight ends aren’t going out for a pass. He can body up a corner every once in a while but that’s not always a route you’re running with him.”

Asked if he’s frustrated, Thomas said: “The frustration is something I can't allow. I can't think about the past. All I can do is try to take advantage of the opportunities I get and do my part in winning that one on one matchup. When those matchups come, it’s my responsibility to go out there and execute.”

How can the Dolphins get Thomas more involved?

“Got to get in the red zone more,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “That would be the first step. We haven't been able to showcase him.”

As for the anthem, Thomas had been kneeling since President Donald Trump used a derogatory term to describe people who do so.

Asked if he had any objection to the team’s new policy prohibited players on the field from kneeling, he said: “No. Upstairs are their decisions. I plan to continue protesting in the ways that I can. Our team understands that. I'll just do what I have to do and focus on football as well as finding different ways to create conversations and hopefully solutions to end some of the inequalities in our country.”

Thomas declined to discuss his conversation with Gase about the subject. But he made clear he was kneeling to draw attention to social issues.

“We can't pretend we have the answers,” Thomas said. “But we have big hearts and want to continue to do what we can to make this country a better place.”

Thomas, Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas were the only Dolphins who stayed in the locker-room during the anthem on Sunday.

Asked if he will remain in the locker-room moving forward, Stills said: "I guess that's what the team has asked us to do, and so that's our plan."

Stills and Commissioner Roger Goodell were among those who attended a police Ride-A-Long in North Miami on Tuesday, and Stills said he spent “just a couple of minutes” with Goodell but was appreciative of his presence.

“I didn’t expect him to be there,” Stills said. “It was nice for him to take some time out of his day to make it and see what we’re doing.”

The goal, Stills said, is "Just building trust with the law enforcement. We want equality for everyone. ...

“The law enforcement, we're all on the same page. They want to weed out the bad guys, the bad cops. And we want to make sure we're holding everyone in the community to the same standard. You have to act right and do right and the police will treat you with respect if you treat them with respect. It was really important to get out there and share that message."

Stills said Goodell “just was proud of us for putting on what we were putting on and happy that he could spend some time with us… We're trying to come to some sort of agreement and move past the protest, but at the same time, we still feel like our message is being understood, and that's why we're doing what we're doing."

• DeVante Parker, who played only three snaps against Tennessee because of a sprained ankle, was the only player who didn’t participate in any of practice on Wednesday. Gase said he had no new information on his status.

Two players – cornerback Byron Maxwell (foot) and Terrence Fede (shoulder) – were limited.

• I asked Cutler, who has a career-worst 74.8 passer rating, if he has asked himself this season if he needs this aggravation (as opposed to being retired).

Cutler laughed and said: “That’s how the NFL goes. It's never as good as you think it is. It's never as bad as you think it is.”

Even though the Dolphins - buoyed by a defensive touchdown - beat Tennessee 16-10 on Sunday, Cutler said: “You walk away from the game and feel like you lost on the offensive side of the ball.”

Are you having fun, Jay?

“I am. It's a really good locker-room. Great organization. They will do anything under the sun to make you a successful player. There's a lot of bright side to being here.”

And he suggests the sky is not falling.

“At the end of the day, we're 2-2,” he said. “We're still in a good position. We have to feel good about that. There's a lot of noise that would lead to believe otherwise. But we are 2-2. Offensively if we can't get together, it can go the other way pretty quickly. There's a lot of football left to figure things out.”

Establishing consistent footwork, in the face of frequent pressure from opposing defenses, has been challenging.

“You always have to fight that and trust those guys will give you a good pocket and set the edge and let you work in it,” he said. “It's the constant battle of when to leave [the pocket], when to stay.”

Asked Wednesday about Cutler, Gase said: “The one thing that people don’t understand with the quarterback is that he’s at the mercy of 10 other guys. For the most part, [Cutler] has been doing his job. He’s been delivering the ball to the right guy; but at the end of the day, we’ve got to catch the ball, we’ve got to make sure that we protect him and we’ve got to be able to run the ball to make sure our play-action game is actually going to work. But until we clean a lot of things up, it’s going to be hard to even evaluate where he’s at.”

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