When you think of the best tight ends in football, you probably think of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Well, it’s time to add Julius Thomas to the list.
Thomas is a 6-5, 250-pound freak who last year – in what was essentially his rookie season – caught 65 balls for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. A nightmare matchup, he’s one of the main reasons that Denver won the AFC.
This year, the Broncos will need Thomas to be just as good – if not better – after losing Eric Decker to free agency. Then again, with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders – not to mention DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib – maybe the Broncos won’t need an otherworldly season from Thomas; maybe they just need him to be himself and fill a role.
“I think we have a ton of talent,” Thomas said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think one of the most underrated aspects of our team is our depth. I think we have a ton of guys that can play in a lot of different positions. So when guys come out and take a break (at practice), we have another guy who’s coming in and playing at a high level. I mean, you look at bringing in T. J. Ward, Aqib Talib – we have some young, good corners who are doing good things. I think that’s really going to make us a much better team.”
Given what Thomas will face in practice, the games might actually be easier.
“I spend my days going up against DeMarcus Ware (and) Von Miller; (then I) take a break (and) then (I go against) T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib, so it’s making all of us better,” Thomas said. “I’m really excited about it.”
The Broncos obviously hope to win the AFC for a second consecutive season, but they’re also hoping for a different result in the Super Bowl. Denver was annihilated by Seattle, 43-8, this past February, and the running game was a big reason why. The Broncos had 14 carries for just 27 yards (1.9 yards per carry), while Seattle had 29 carries for 135 yards (4.7 yards per carry).
With so many elite receiving options, is Denver built to run the football?
“Well, I think so,” Thomas said. “I think that when you look at sort of the scheme aspects of the game, when you’re able to put the type of receiving talent we can on the field, defenses have to respect that. I think we do get favorable looks in the running game. If you’re playing the Broncos, all week in practice they’re going to focus on the pass because that’s what we’ve done the most of in the past. But that’s going to give us good looks to run the ball.”
“That’s something we’ve talked about (as) something we have to focus on doing better,” Thomas continued. “Coming into this offseason, we said, We’ve got to run the ball effectively. We have some talented pass-catchers, Peyton – but we judge our run game based on effectiveness. It’s an important part of the game. We have to do better at it, and we’ve all been working at that this training camp.”
That includes the 38-year-old Peyton Manning, who typically stays after practice to work on timing with his receivers.
“Peyton is a perfectionist,” Thomas said. “His work ethic and his preparation is really what’s made him as great as he’s been. He’s talented, he knows the game well, but the fact that he’s going on year 17, 18, and he’s the one staying after practice (and) working with people (tells you all you need to know). I always like to say, We’re going to do it until we get it right – and Peyton’s going to make sure of that. It’s up to all of us to try to always play at his level.”