DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins have no shortage of offensive optimism for this season. With returning weapons such as Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi and deep threat Kenny Stills, Miami is confident it will see sizable improvements in scoring and total yards while playing in the second year of coach Adam Gase's system.
One new player who is trying to fit in and find his role on the team is tight end Julius Thomas, who was acquired this offseason in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Miami's coaches believe they will get the Denver Broncos-version of Thomas, who scored 24 touchdowns in two seasons, as opposed to the player who struggled with injuries and inconsistency the past two years in Jacksonville.
"If Julius Thomas is healthy and we catch some breaks, he can be and has been a 10-touchdown guy," Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said confidently. "That's a big number. He can be that. The thing I'd tell you about Julius that's been most impressive to me is what a pro he is. I happened to have dinner with him when he came on his (visit) and that's a thing that jumped out. I left the restaurant going 'This guy's a pro.'"
Thomas simply wasn't a fit in Jacksonville's scheme, suffered injuries and failed to develop chemistry with quarterback Blake Bortles. That led to Thomas being traded to Miami this offseason for a seventh-round pick. He's reuniting with Gase, who coached Thomas in Denver.
Miami didn't get enough production out of its tight ends last year. But it's apparent in early practices that Gase knows what kind of plays Thomas runs best and is doing what he can, three years later, to put the tight end in a position to succeed.
Thomas got off to a slow start in the limited organized team activities open to the media. During the first practice Thomas was quiet, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed him on several attempts. Tannehill and Thomas have connected many times since, however, and seem to be quickly establishing a rapport. The Dolphins hope by the regular season in September both the quarterback and tight end will be on the same page.
Thomas must stay healthy in order to put up big numbers. According to the 28-year-old tight end, he still has plenty of good football left in him.
"I think this is the best I've ever felt," Thomas said. "When I was younger, somebody told me that the hardest part about playing when you get older is getting your body right and the game slows down. I'm kind of in that sweet spot where the body still feels good and the game is slowing down. So I'm really looking forward to this year -- Year 7 -- so that's going to be an exciting time for me."