Despite being a disappointment over his first two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Julius Thomas should get another chance to show his worth in 2017.
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell has signed a handful of high-priced free agents over the last two seasons. Some have hit (Malik Jackson) while some haven’t worked out yet (Chris Ivory), but one guy who has been somewhat of an enigma is Julius Thomas.
The former Denver Broncos star tight end signed a relatively big deal two years ago to become a Jaguar, but he could potentially be off the team as soon as this Friday.
"If Thomas is still on the roster on Friday, $3 million of his 2017 base salary becomes fully guaranteed, according to Joel Corry of CBS. That means it’s time for the Jaguars to either cut him or decide he’ll be on the team in 2017."
It’s hard to dispute that Thomas has been a underwhelming over the last two years, but in reality he hasn’t been as bad as perception would indicate. Thomas has 9 touchdowns with the Jaguars despite only starting in 17 games over that span. He looked a little heavy early in 2015, but he got into better shape for 2016.
Overall, it’s hard to judge Thomas without taking into consideration two variables – his injuries and the horrific coaching under Gus Bradley. The injuries are a separate issue and completely valid in terms of whether or not to keep Thomas, but the coaching throws a wrench into the process. Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union wrote about the Jaguars misusing Thomas a few weeks after Bradley fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
"Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas has scored nine touchdowns in 20 games with the team.So, why does it feel like he’s being misused?…Nathaniel Hackett was promoted from quarterbacks coach, but through his first two games Thomas’ role remains a bit baffling.Where are the seam routes?Why is Thomas being asked to run such short routes that frequently have him near the sideline?Why is he often put in position to make a catch with no momentum going forward?"
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Carlyon is right – we rarely saw Thomas running the kind of routes that made him successful in Denver. More so, Thomas was constantly asked to run routes and make plays where he had little chance of using his size and speed.
The editorial even included a classic “clueless” Bradley quote:
"When I asked Bradley what Thomas does well in the offense on Monday, his response was baffling.“We feel Ben Koyack is doing a pretty good job,” Bradley said.What? Koyack has eight career catches."
The case for keeping Thomas is the same for letting it play out with Dante Fowler Jr. – it’s hard to know just how much Bradley’s historically bad coaching affected these players.
It’ll do the entire roster some good to get another set of eyes evaluating them and seeing if they can adjust the scheme to their strengths. It’s somewhat far-fetched given the return of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, but it’s better than keeping everything the same.