Prized free agent Julius Thomas will have to wait longer than expected to make his much-anticipated debut for the Jacksonville Jaguars after undergoing finger surgery today.
Thomas, who signed with the Jaguars this spring, broke a bone in his right hand in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 14. Jacksonville was hoping to have Thomas back for the team’s season opener against the Carolina Panthers on September 13 but he decided to have surgery following his doctor’s visit according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
The Florida Times Union is reporting that Thomas could now be out until the Jaguars’ October 4 game at Indianapolis, which means he would miss the team’s first three games. In addition to Carolina, Jacksonville will play Miami and New England during the first three weeks of the season.
The 6-foot-5, 27-year-old has caught 108 passes over the last two years for 1, 277 yards and 24 touchdowns — he had 43 receptions and 12 touchdowns last year. Prior to getting injured, Thomas had one catch for two yards this preseason.
The loss of Thomas is very devastating for a rebuilding Jaguar squad as the team plans on using two and three tight end sets often. Thomas signed a five-year, $45 million contract with $24 million guaranteed with the Jaguars after starting for the Denver Broncos the previous two seasons.
Still, head coach Gus Bradley is confident that the Jaguars’ offense can be productive.
“Obviously, we were hoping (Thomas) would be back for Game 1, but there was still a chance he might not be ready. This is unfortunate, but it’s not the whole season or eight games — it’s something that has come up. I do feel fortunate that for the offense without Julius has moved the ball and done some really good things. That’s a positive so we’ll only be stronger when he gets back.”
Jacksonville, which ranked last in the NFL with 15.6 points a game, is averaging 17.3 points this preseason which ranks No. 24 in the league. The Jags also rank No. 15 in total yards (320.3) and No. 4 in passing yards (247.9) this preseason. Jacksonville has totaled 67 first downs and they have converted 26-of-49 third down opportunities.
With Thomas out, the Jags will likely start Clay Harbor along with Marcedes Lewis at tight end. Lewis has been used more as blocking tight end the past two seasons though he is a proven pass catcher. The 31-year-old, 10-year vet has caught 43 passes and six touchdowns the past two years while he has been targeted 79 times. Lewis has four catches for 58 yards this preseason.
Harbor has caught 50 passes over the past two years with the Jaguars – -he hauled in 26 receptions last year and had one touchdown. The 28-year old has five catches and one touchdown this preseason.
Nic Jacobs is the team’s fourth tight end and with Thomas out, he will now likely get considerable amount of time on the field. The second-year pro had two nice catches against the Detroit Lions in week three of the preseason according to ESPN. Jacobs had two catches for 16 yards and one touchdown in 13 games as a rookie last year.
Rookie Ben Koyack, who was the team’s seventh round draft pick this year, is on the 53-man roster bubble but will likely stick with the team because of Thomas’ injury. The Notre Dame product has four catches for 17 yards this preseason.
[photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images]