Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen knows a thing or two about coaching in the NFL, having spent more than 20 years coaching in the league, including five years as an offensive coordinator. He also knows a few things about coaching intelligent players, having spent more than ten years with Peyton Manning while both were with the Indianapolis Colts.
Christensen recalls Manning as a player that always wanted to know exactly what was expected in every facet of the game, often asking coaches, “How do we want to do this? How do I do this? Is this exactly what you want, or is it different?”
And now Christensen is seeing that same demeanor in another player, tight end Julius Thomas, whom the Dolphins acquired prior to this year’s draft in exchange for a swap of late-round draft picks with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As most fans are well aware, Thomas played two years under current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, when both were with the Denver Broncos. And Thomas put together his best two seasons on his young career in those two years, compiling 108 catches for 1277 yards and 24 touchdowns, and earning Pro Bowl honors in both of those seasons.
“I'll see him in Coach Gase's office and his questions are right,” said Christensen. “His questions and his process are right, which as a coach is what you're looking for. Those are the right questions to be asking. He has been terrific in the short time he has been here, and it doesn't take long to see he enjoys football, he likes football, which is the other attribute we've been looking for.”
As for what he feels Thomas adds to the Dolphins, Christensen effused, “What can he add? In Denver, he added 10 or 12 touchdowns. That's a gigantic addition … the guy is a professional. He's going to add way more than touchdowns - way, way more than touchdowns. I hope he adds those touchdowns, but the guy is a pro. He knows Coach Gase. He knows the system. He's going to do whatever it takes to find a way to play good football.”
One question most fans have is if the Dolphins are getting the Julius Thomas from his pro bowl seasons in Denver, or the guy whose production dropped by about 50% in his two years in Jacksonville.
“There's no guarantee,” admits Christensen. “It's on film. I've seen it. Coach Gase knows him inside out. Gase knows exactly what he's getting and knows how to use him. He used him extremely well out there in Denver. I have great confidence that we will get that - it's not a speculation.
“He's a pleasant guy, he has a good demeanor. He has got a smile on his face when he comes to work. That's good stuff. A lot of times when you go get a free agent – a high-profile free agent – you don't know what you're going to get. It's a reach, and all you can go on is second hand. This one, we had the advantage of Coach Gase (and) people knew him, and he has been exactly that. Coach Gase has been clear that's what he wants. He wants guys that enjoy football, enjoy the process, who enjoy working, who want to be great.
“And (Thomas) certainly has been that in the time I've seen him."
When head coach Adam Gase was asked what Thomas can add to the Dolphins offense, he didn’t hold back, giving an indication of just exactly how he intend to utilize his new weapon.
"I think any time you have a tight end that can really cause issues in the passing game, especially down the middle of the field, it benefits the run game and the other players on the field,” says Gase. “Any time you can single a guy up and there's a matchup problem there, whether it's a safety or linebacker on him, now you've got man-to-man. And if he can win, there are some big-time issues. We had a lot of success doing that, and teams quit doing it against us.
“The next thing you know they're playing Cover 2 or some kind of quarters. And then we start running the ball. And then the next thing you know, you've got an 1,100-yard back that nobody thinks can run the ball."
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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