Dec 24, 2011; Nashville, TN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Thomas (80) runs with the ball after a reception against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at LP Field. The Titans beat the Jaguars 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Thomas' 2012 Impact

A lot has been said about the new additions to the Jaguars’ receiving corps.  Justin Blackmon will make some serious waves during the 2012 season, Laurent Robinson is expected to be a gifted #2 receiver.  But what about Mike Thomas?

What will his role be?  How can he impact games?

If you’re reading Big Cat Country’s recent notes on Mike Thomas, you’re probably beginning to wonder as well – and rightly so.  If the reports are true that Thomas has had poor route running, poor hands, and apparently can’t get his head into OTAs, then the odds are he won’t be around much longer for the Black and Teal.

But I doubt that OTAs will be the defining factor in whether the Jags keep Mike Thomas or not.  While Thomas may not be impressing the new Mike Mularkey led coaching staff during OTAs, he was given a contract extension last year by the same GM, Gene Smith.

Thomas has still got game. Expect him to bring it up a notch during training camp. Source: Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE

It is ultimately up to Gene Smith to decided who will make the final cut and who will not.  Based on the contract extension that Thomas signed last year ($6 million guaranteed over the next two years), and the very good play he had in the slot prior to the failing of Mike Sims-Walker in 2010 and the failing of everyone in 2011 – I expect Thomas to be back in the slot and back to productivity.

Alfie Crow at BCC noted that there is a bit of a logjam at wide receiver right now.  But there’s a logjam at every position right now because there are 90 people on the roster.  It just appears worse at wide receiver because of all the talk the corps gets due to their inability to do their jobs last season.  The players are being talked up in order to get the fanbase behind whomever starts and whomever they retain.  But really there isn’t much of a logjam.  Just a lot of opportunities.

Behind Justin Blackmon, there is a serious depletion of talent at the wide receiver position.  Blackmon sits alone at the top, followed by Laurent Robinson and Mike Thomas in a productive level that is separate from the rest of the receivers.

But why are Robinson and Thomas ahead of the other receivers?  Because they have proven that they can be productive.  Cecil Shorts III, Chastin West, Lee Evans, etc. all have to prove that they can take that next step (or in Evans’ case, retake that next step).  Thomas didn’t have the best year in 2011, but he wasn’t as unproductive as a lot of receivers on the roster (though he was given more opportunity).

As the Jags move him back to the slot, watch for him to look more like the safety valve he was for David Garrard when he managed to earn himself more money with a contract extension.  Gabbert will look for Thomas, make no mistake.

Even if Thomas ends up losing a step in 2012, expect his impact to be greater than lining up Shorts or West.  Thomas is a slightly undersized, yet proven commodity that defenses are forced to respect.  And when the Jaguars are lining up in three receiver formations, they need someone to draw attention off Gabbert and off Maurice Jones-Drew.  Thomas can command that attention.

He isn’t Wes Welker, but he isn’t mud either.

- Luke N. Sims

Tags: Cecil Shorts III Chastin West Gene Smith Jacksonville Jaguars Justin Blackmon Laurent Robinson Lee Evans Mike Mularkey Mike Thomas Wes Welker

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