DAVIE—In the year-plus since Adam Gase has been coaching the Dolphins, only one player has known him well enough to refer to him publicly by his childhood nickname.
New tight end Julius Thomas, who was with Gase for four seasons in Denver, drew a double take from the media after Sunday’s practice when he called him “Goose,” a moniker that hadn’t yet become well known in South Florida. Thomas even has Gase’s number stored in his phone under that name.
There’s great familiarity between these two, which was a big incentive for both sides when Miami traded for Thomas in the spring. He was a Jaguars castoff after making just 17 starts in two seasons there. It was a tremendous dropoff from his Pro Bowl years with the Broncos in 2013 and ’14, but he and Gase saw an opportunity to redirect that if they reconnected.
Their history runs too deep for Gase to be bothered by Thomas’ nondescript performance the first four days of training camp, where he hasn’t had many catches in the first four days. The main thing for the Dolphins is that Thomas is healthy and moving well, and Gase is confident the receptions will come by the time his team starts playing preseason games next week.
“I wouldn’t say he’s gotten off to a slow start,”’ Gase said. “I think a lot of the things that we’ve tried to do with him, we haven’t really gotten the matchup we wanted and the ball has kind of gone somewhere else. The thing about him is he’s been in this long enough, but especially in this offense, that he understands about, ‘Just keep doing what I’m supposed to do.’”
Thomas, 29, is in line as the Dolphins’ No. 1 tight end and has the capacity to offer something they badly missed in 2016. Jordan Cameron, the starter, went down because of a concussion in Week 3 and went on to retire. Miami’s tight ends combined for a total of 55 catches, 551 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Anything close to Thomas’ monster seasons three years ago would be a welcome upgrade. In 2013, he caught 65 balls for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns, then followed it with 43, 489 and 12 the next season.
In Jacksonville, while dealing mainly with a back injury, he totaled 76 receptions, 736 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Luckily for me, none of my injuries have been wear and tear,” Thomas said. “All of them have been just getting hit in the wrong position. None of them have been chronic. I’m getting a little bit older now, so I’ve been able to have a more mindful approach to (training). That’s about it.”
If Thomas stays healthy, everything points toward him getting back on track. He’ll have a significant role in the game plan, he’s well-versed in Gase’s offense and Ryan Tannehill certainly gives him a better chance than he had playing with Blake Bortles.
One of the reasons Gase is so certain of what Thomas will contribute this year is the extensive time he spent working with Tannehill throughout the offseason, OTAs and minicamp.
“The chemistry between those two guys in the passing game, I feel like is pretty good, and those two have confidence in it,” Gase said. “I like that he always knows how to stay focused and kind of just stick with what’s going on and just keep finding ways to get better.”
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