Julius Thomas isn’t looking to repeat the 2015 season anytime soon. The Jacksonville Jaguars tight end didn’t measure up during his first season in Duvall County. But going into the 2016 campaign he’s more than ready to prove why he’s one of the best tight ends in football.
Thomas was once the NFL’s most productive tight end not named Rob Gronkowski. His 2013 season with the Denver Broncos was one of the best years for a player of his position in recent memory. On the year, Thomas recorded 65 receptions, 788 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. He was an essential part of Peyton Manning’s record-breaking season.
While not amassing the same reception and yardage totals in 2014, Thomas still recorded 12 touchdowns. He showed a knack for getting in the end zone, something which is essential for a player of his position. Because of this, Thomas signed a deal with Jacksonville in 2015 to become their starting tight end.
Unfortunately for Thomas, the injury bug crept up on him before he could take the field in the regular season. He sustained an injury to his hand that forced him to miss the first four weeks of the season. And while he did return earlier than expected, he didn’t have the impact many had thought he would.
Normally a tight end that records 46 receptions, 455 yards, and five touchdowns is a reason to celebrate. However, Thomas is known for getting to the end zone, and that’s something he simply did not do enough of last season. A lot of his appeal in Denver were his touchdown totals. And while Jacksonville had Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and T.J.Yeldon, it’s surprising Blake Bortles didn’t find Thomas more often.
But now that Thomas can put the injury behind him, the opportunity for bigger numbers will grow. He gets another year to work with Bortles, and a full training camp. While he might not reach 12 touchdowns in 2016, there is still the possibility of him getting 8-10. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Jacksonville, but Thomas will be a primary target for Bortles.
It’s impossible to tell if Thomas will repeat his 2013 numbers, but anything close to that and the Jaguars are going to be a dangerous threat to the AFC. Julius Thomas might no longer be one of the best tight ends in football, but that can change pretty quickly.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288