Barry Jackson

Dolphins tight end Thomas encouraged by anthem policy change and his recent play

Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas (89) screams after a fourth quarter reception in Sunday’s game against Oakland. Thomas had his best receiving game of the season.
Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas (89) screams after a fourth quarter reception in Sunday’s game against Oakland. Thomas had his best receiving game of the season. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Thursday Dolphins notes:

▪  Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas was encouraged on two fronts Sunday: His work to improve his on-field chemistry with Jay Cutler is starting to pay off. And he’s now once again able to protest social issues in the way that he would like.

In the loss to Oakland, Thomas had his best receiving day as a Dolphin, with six catches for 84 yards – including a spectacular 27-yard catch – and a touchdown, his first of the season.

The touchdown was “exciting” for a player who is accustomed to getting in the end zone a lot more than that. He had 24 touchdowns in 28 games playing with Peyton Manning in Denver, with Gase as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

“We were able to be in the right spot in the right timing and get the right result,” he said. In working with a new quarterback, “it takes time to build that in and get on the same page as everybody. We were able to get some of that stuff going and I hope it continues to go that way.”

Thomas says he’s able to do some things that other tight ends can’t. With that comes more responsibility. And with more responsibility comes more growing pains. Here’s how he explains it:

“Some of the things I do are pretty unique,” he said. “They are not everything every tight end always does. My ability to stretch the field is pretty unique for a tight end. Some of my ability to create separation. I pretty much run almost all the routes in the route tree. Can be lined up almost anywhere.

“That takes a lot of time. It's not something that comes easy, especially as a tight end, you are in different spots and you are attacking the defense differently than you do with other tight ends.”

Thomas ranks 19th among NFL tight ends with 23 receptions and 20th with 252 receiving yards.

Meanwhile, Thomas said he was pleased that Adam Gase changed a team policy and allowed he, Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills to kneel on the sideline during the national anthem on Sunday, instead of being forced to stay in the locker-room if they wanted to kneel.

The players have made clear that they are not protesting the flag, but instead making a statement on social issues that need to be addressed.

“It was something that's good after talking with him and expressing our thoughts and feelings, he was able to be understanding,” Thomas said.

“That's important we have something we believe in, something we think is right to do. It's really encouraging to have coach be willing to let us express that and display that in ways we feel most comfortable doing. To allow us to go back on the field and take a knee is a good thing and I appreciate it.”

Thomas said there are physical benefits to staying on the field – such as staying warmed up – but “there is also the benefit of being able to have the peace of mind that you are able to have the views and stances you think are appropriate. That's the biggest piece. You don't want the feeling that, ‘Man I am not being allowed to do something I think I should be allowed to do.’”

▪ Jesse Davis, who played left guard in the Oakland game, shifted to right tackle at practice on Thursday as the replacement for Ja’Wuan James, who is out indefinitely with what the team lists as a hamstring injury. Gase said the injury might be long-term, pending additional medical opinions.

Ted Larsen appears ready to move into the left guard spot after missing the first eight games with a torn biceps.

▪ Besides James, four others missed practice: Jakeem Grant and Damien Williams (who both have an illness), Ndamukong Suh (knee) and Michael Thomas (knee).

Suh suggested in his regular midweek press conference that he would play Monday at Carolina.

Also Thursday, cornerback Bobby McCain (hamstring) and linebacker Mike Hull (shoulder/ankle) were limited.

▪  Tight end MarQueis Gray said the offense wasn’t quite as basic on Sunday and that was helpful because “we have to have the defense not key in on certain plays.”

Gase said previously that he had oversimplified the offense in part because players weren’t running plays correctly, a byproduct of what he said were poor study habits by some of them.

▪  Gase was pleased with what the Dolphins got Thursday from undrafted rookie safety Maurice Smith, who played his first 16 defensive snaps of the season, many on third downs.

“That was our thought going into the game and every time I looked over, I felt like he was around the ball and made some good plays,” Gase said. “It was really the personnel groupings we were calling. That’s how he ended up in the game.”

▪  In a conference call with Charlotte writers, Gase raved about how Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams combined to kick off the post Jay Ajayi era.

“They’re two different styles of backs and any time you can kind of change it up on the defense, I’ve always looked at it as a good thing,” Gase said. “They’re not seeing the same things over and over again. Those two guys, they’re hungry to play. They’ve been kind of sitting back there for almost two years now. To see those guys get an opportunity to perform was fun to watch, and they did a great job.

“They really try to do every little detail right. We’re obviously always going to have a few things to clean up after the game but if we can continue to get performances like that out of those two guys, that’s going to help us tremendously.”

One other quick note: Jay Cutler won the FedEx weekly Air Player of the Week award for throwing for 311 yards and three touchdowns, and a 121.3 rating, in a losing effort against Oakland.

Here’s my six-pack of Thursday UM notes, including an interesting rule that could help UM’s football team get another home game this season.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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