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Julius Thomas needs to be more consistent part of the offense in 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tight end Julius Thomas was one of the most impressive players on the field during the Jacksonville Jaguars' organized team activities last year.

The former Denver Broncos tight end and quarterback Blake Bortles seemed to develop on-field chemistry quickly, and the two hooked up often throughout the non-padded workouts and minicamp. It continued into training camp and it appeared Thomas was going to be a significant part of the offense.

Then he suffered a broken bone in his hand in the first preseason game, missed the first four games, and he never became a consistent part of the offense, especially as receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns emerged.

Bortles is working to make sure that won’t happen again in 2016.

Bortles said he and Thomas met several times during the offseason with the goal of getting back the same kind of chemistry they had last offseason.

"We had a chance this offseason to sit down multiple times, watch film and talk about things," Bortles said. "Talk about what he wanted from me and what I wanted from him and how we can quickly get on the same page to grow together.

"He’s been unbelievable. He’s obviously a freak athlete and he’s continued to prove that and make plays."

Thomas caught 45 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. That was actually the second-highest reception total of his career (65 in 2013) so he certainly didn’t have a terrible season. Robinson and Hurns flourished during the two months that he missed so it was hard for Thomas to get into a rhythm.

He caught seven passes in his second game back but then caught 11 passes over the next four games. He did catch a touchdown in four games in a row, but he also finished the season by catching two passes for 12 yards in each of the final two games.

It’s unrealistic to expect Thomas to catch 70 passes in 2016. Robinson and Hurns will get a lot of work, and either Rashad Greene or Marqise Lee is expected to emerge as the slot receiver. In addition, the Jaguars signed running back Chris Ivory and are pairing him with T.J. Yeldon to put more of an emphasis on the run game.

If the run game does improve, Bortles likely won’t approach the franchise-record 606 pass attempts he had in 2015, either.

The Jaguars do want Thomas to be more consistent as well as a bigger option in the red zone.