It has been a two-year long wait for the Denver Broncos to finally see their project pick out of Portland State hit the field, but Julius Thomas looks like he might be worth the wait. After finally breaking into the starting lineup in year three in the NFL, Thomas showed what he was capable of, using his size and speed to tear open the Baltimore Ravens secondary. Because what Peyton Manning and the Denver offense really needed was another weapon in the passing game, right?
Entering the 2013 season, Thomas had just one career reception over his first two years in Denver thanks to a litany of injuries that kept him off the field. Finally healthy, the former basketball star quickly found a rhythm with Manning despite dropping the first pass of the game on a jarring hit from a Baltimore safety. He finished the night with five catches for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns as he sparked both Denver scoring drives in the first half and helped to open things up for the wide receivers in the second half.
At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and athletic as anyone on the field, Thomas is a matchup nightmare for defenses. He’s too big and strong to be covered by a defensive back but too fast to be covered by the average linebacker. When paired with the dynamic trio of wide receivers on the field with him, he provides a big problem for defensive coordinators trying to match up with the Broncos’ playmakers. He just might be the key to putting this Denver offense over the top this season.
Manning has made fantastic use of his tight ends throughout his career, including turning Dallas Clark into a perennial Pro Bowler during their time with the Indianapolis Colts. That playmaking tight end was the missing element to the Denver attack in 2012 as Joel Dreesen and Jacob Tamme couldn’t seem to take control of the middle of the field. Head coach John Fox was patient with Thomas to get healthy and develop, and now the team is reaping the rewards.
With Julius Thomas emerging as a legitimate playmaker at the tight end position, is there any chance Peyton Manning gets slowed down in 2013?