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Under pressure: Mike Thomas

4/10/2012

Obviously no one on the Jaguars is under more pressure in 2012 than Blaine Gabbert.

But the quarterback is such an obvious choice, we will set him aside and go a different direction, to one of the people Gabbert or Chad Henne will need to be productive if the Jacksonville offense is going to make a significant jump.

Wide receiver Mike Thomas will have better coaching with Jerry Sullivan and a better supporting cast with Laurent Robinson, Taylor Price and, presumably, a high draft pick in the mix.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has said Thomas can combine attributes of Wes Welker and Steve Smith.

But many Jaguars fans were left wondering about Thomas last season, when he fell off after he got a contract extension in early October. That three-year, $18 million deal included $9 million guaranteed. It eclipsed the three-year deal worth $13.35 million with $5 million guaranteed that Green Bay gave Jordy Nelson.

Thomas finished with 44 catches for 415 yards and a TD, and after the contract he didn’t have a game better than four catches for 36 yards. Nelson was obviously playing for a far better team with an MVP quarterback, but he had 68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Word in Jacksonville was that Thomas gave up late in the season, frustrated by a bad receivers coach in Johnny Cox and a struggling rookie quarterback in Gabbert. Cox was fired by interim head coach Mel Tucker and replaced by quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard.

The Jaguars need Thomas to be the player they thought he was when they drafted him and then when they gave him the extension. He needs to be part of the solution for Gabbert, not an addition problem.

Thomas said recently he will benefit from being pushed by Sullivan, and if that helps, great.

But once the Jaguars signed him to a new deal, he graduated to an NFL veteran who shouldn’t necessarily need pushing. He’s a guy who should be motivated by simply living up to his contract and the faith his bosses have showed in him.

Will the additions amount to enough help? It’s too early to say and we don’t know who they will draft. But Thomas shouldn’t be the top option in the receiver group, and with Robinson in the fold Thomas should rank second at best.

Thomas is under pressure to produce.