After one catch for five yards in 2011 and 2012 combined, Thomas exploded against the Ravens for 97 yards and two touchdowns on four catches -- just in the first half. The career game was a preview of a career year to follow, but for Thomas, a Pro Bowl season wasn't good enough.
"By no standards was I my best in any aspect of the game," Thomas said after practice Wednesday. "That’s what’s really exciting about these offseason OTAs for me is I really get a chance to work on things and improve."
Improve on that season? Defenses will be shaking in their boots if Thomas can be a better player than the one who racked up 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games last season.
"I hold myself to a very high standard," he said. "I’m spending a lot of time going back and looking at last year’s tape these last couple weeks and just seeing so many areas that I can improve in."
Last week, Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said the offense, despite scoring at a record pace, left some points on the field in 2013. Thomas agrees with that assessment and sees room for improved execution in key situations.
But even if exceeding his production as a receiver last year is a tall order, Thomas is confident he hasn't approached his ceiling as a blocker in the run game. He called himself a "decent" blocker by the end of last season and is now "probably starting to get close to that above average range."
"[Tight Ends Coach Clancy Barone] always says, ‘What makes you a good athlete in the receiving game, you’ve got to kind of fight that when you’re run blocking,'" Thomas said. "Good blockers are usually slower guys. You’re out there running around and your feet are getting tangled and you’re moving too fast sometimes."
"So I think that I’m starting to learn the pace of blocking and that’s helping me out a lot.”
Developing the feel for blocking after moving from basketball to football takes time, and Thomas points out the latter also requires more work in the weight room. With one year of college football under his belt and two of his three pro seasons limited by injury, Thomas hasn't had the time most players do to develop.
"I always like to remind people it’s tough to learn when you’re going up against the best people in the world," he said. "They say ‘Just go out there and block [defensive end]
Facing a player of Ware's caliber has motivated Thomas to take his game "to another level." At the same time, Thomas said Ware has been very helpful during OTAs, communicating and offering plenty of instruction on the field.
"His leadership and his assistance in helping me become a blocker is definitely going to pay off for me," Thomas said.
Thomas' focus on exceeding what was easily the best season by a Broncos tight end since Shannon Sharpe's time echoes the whole offense's lack of satisfaction with 2013's record-toppling campaign.
Even after unprecedented production, the team believes it can be better.
"We’ve seen the tape," Thomas said. "We’ve seen how much we left out there and like I said, I saw how much I left out there last year. And I think we have that motivation to go out there and even be better."
"None of us think we’ve achieved the most we can. We know that we can come back and even be a better offense. We’ve just have to push each other, stay motivated, stay together."