Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pats: 'We've got our work cut out for us' with Thomas


Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas wasn't present during his team's Week 12 matchup with the New England Patriots. That won't keep him off his opponent's radar.

Bill Belichick stroked the Pro Bowler's ego a bit Tuesday as he rattled off what seemed like an infinite amount of attributes the playmaker brings to the offense, as well as about a half dozen routes he can expertly execute.

"Excellent player – size, speed, he’s a good vertical receiver, he gets down the field on seams and flags and over routes and wheel routes, like he caught last week and things like that," Belichick said, via patriots.com.

"He’s also good on catch-and-run plays. He’s caught crossing patterns, diagonal patterns out to the flat, things like that where he’s made a catch for a small gain but then turned it into a long gain because of his ability to run after the catch and break tackles and his size and his speed."

Despite the midseason absence, it's not as if Thomas has flown under the radar this season. The third-year pro tallied the eighth-most receiving yards among tight ends (788) despite missing a couple weeks, and he was tied for the fifth-most touchdowns of any receiver in the regular season with 12.

"He’s just a good, solid all-around tight end," Belichick said.

Those are fairly ominous numbers for New England, especially given their success (or lack thereof) against opposing tight ends.

The Patriots' defense has given up the sixth-most receiving yards to tight ends this year (971), including six touchdowns. One of those went to Jacob Tamme, who filled in for the injured Thomas in his team's overtime loss.

New England's also struggled in red zone efficiency on the defensive side of the ball through most of the year, an area Thomas is particularly deadly. In fact, 66 percent of Thomas's touchdowns came in the red zone. New England has stepped up its play in that regard of late, however, allowing touchdowns in only 33 percent of red zone trips in its last three games.

"A big guy that can go up and make a lot of catches and again, he's a big talented tight end that can pretty much do it all," defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich said Monday. "You know, again, we've got our work cut out for us. We've got to prepare well."

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