JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Despite the Jaguars’ 27-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, there were a number of bright spots. One of those bright spots was the consistency and dependability that was displayed by the tight end position as a unit, specifically with both Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis.
Things didn’t exactly come easy for the Jaguars offense against the Packers. Wide receiver Allen Robinson was getting mugged the entire game, without drawing flags, the running game struggled, and they dug themselves a hole early with an opening drive Blake Bortles interception.
Instead, it was the tight ends that sparked the Jaguars offense, allowing them to get things going and compete with what is widely considered to be one of the best offenses in the NFL.
It was Lewis who got things rolling first. Midway through the first quarter, Lewis caught a tight-end screen and weaved through defenders, taking it 37 yards down to the Green Bay 11-yard-line. That would set up a TJ Yeldon touchdown two plays later.
Next it was Thomas who gave the Jaguars a spark, catching a 22-yard touchdown pass from Bortles with 1:09 left in the half, giving them a 17-14 lead over the Packers. For the Jaguars, the production they saw from the tight ends is something they expected and hope they can continue throughout the season.
“I think most importantly it’s good for our offense,” Thomas said. “We know we have great receivers and we believe in them all but the more [the tight ends] can do to give defenders more to think about is going to help us all… We want to take advantage of our opportunities. We have a highly skilled group and we’re all going to look to make plays when they come at us.”
Not only did the unit make big plays for the Jaguars on Sunday, but they were efficient. In all, Thomas and Lewis combined for seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Basically one-third of the Jaguars passing offense. They also caught all seven of their targets on the day.
Thomas said Monday that efficiency is something they focus on each week in the tight end room. He also said that the tight end position lends itself to more efficient passes, so they want to make sure they take advantage of those opportunities when they come their way.
Head coach Gus Bradley echoed that same emphasis Monday.
“To go through the game that was one of our emphases,” Bradley said. “Catch the ones thrown to you. You can say, ‘That is pretty simple, Gus.’ Well, we are trying to simplify this game for them. We just had some other opportunities. I thought, really, the guys did a pretty good job on that.”
Bradley went on to applaud the performances of both tight ends, not only in the passing game, but also in the running game. He said both played well at the point of attack and that it’s an ideal situation to have both Thomas and Lewis contributing in both phases of the offense.
“I thought [they] did a good job,” Bradley said. “Julius, not only got involved in the passing game, but he showed some good toughness, too. We ran over the top of him a couple of times. I just thought he played pretty well. Marcedes, there were some things that we saw in training camp that impressed us. The big catch obviously showed up. The things that he does at the point of attack.”
The Thomas-Lewis combo was something Jaguars fans were excited for last season when the Jaguars signed Thomas to a five-year $46 million contract. While they showed glimpses throughout 2015, Thomas dealt with an injury during the first half of the year, slowing down his progression into the offense. He eventually began to catch on, scoring four touchdowns throughout the Jaguars last seven games of the season.
As Bradley stated, Lewis was a bright spot throughout training camp this offseason. Bradley singled Lewis out multiple times and said Monday that his production against the Packers was no surprise, considering the offseason the veteran put together.
Still, with a nice day from Thomas and Lewis on Sunday, the Jaguars still found themselves on the losing side of the ball, something the team isn’t taking lightly. Thomas said it’s great to have a nice day statistically but at the end of the day it's really all about doing whatever they can to help the team.
“In the end it’s about getting wins,” Thomas said. “My main focus this year, just like years in the past, is doing what I can to help this team be successful. Whether we’re playing the Chargers or Packers, that’s going to be my goal.”
Next up for the Jaguars – a west coast trip to San Diego to take on the Chargers – kickoff at 4:25 p.m.
Follow Tim Bee on Twitter @timbeesports