Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas wasn’t the touchdown machine he was expected to be in 2015 and with emergence of other pass catchers, how relevant will he be in 2016?
Nobody expected Julius Thomas to put up the kind of monster numbers he did with Peyton Manning’s arm throwing him the ball, but many hoped he would be more involved in the Jacksonville Jaguars offense than he seems to be.
In 2015, Thomas posted 455 yards and five touchdowns. Both marks were good enough for third most on the team, behind wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. To say he isn’t involved would be to completely ignore the fact that he is still very much involved.
That isn’t to say it isn’t worth wondering if he can be better. In fact, it’s worth wondering if his level of production is concerning. In a B&T poll from the end of the 2015 season just 53 percent of respondents thought he lived up to expectations. That isn’t an overwhelming amount of support for a player who was supposed to single-handedly open things up for the Jags’ offense.
The emergence of Robinson and Hurns has helped to take a lot of pressure off of Thomas. His struggles and his successes have been overshadowed by the dominant receivers to the point that ESPN’s Michael DiRocco asks “remember Julius Thomas?” before the 2016 season.
In that piece DiRocco argues that even without blowing people away, Thomas is still the matchup nightmare the Jags need him to be. The ability to create mismatches, regardless of production, is what makes Thomas relevant going forward. Even if he doesn’t reach 500 yards or five+ touchdowns, Thomas’ presence alone can be enough to be influential with the Jaguars.
To Thomas’ credit, “he’s more worried about winning games than how many passes he catches or being part of the national conversation again” (per DiRocco’s piece) which is exactly what the Jaguars need. They need a player who is fine taking less of the spotlight in order to help the team win.
Mismatch or touchdown demi-god, having Thomas on the roster is a net positive for the Jaguars. While it would be nice to see him get into the end zone more and to make even the most basic of catches in game situations (especially since he does it in practice with ease) just having him there allows quarterback Blake Bortles and Robinson and Hurns be more successful.
Keep an eye on Thomas to see if he can explode for big production in 2016, but if it doesn’t happen don’t be too worried. He’s still contributing on each and every play regardless of whether he gets the ball or not.