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Scheming a productive offense without Julius Thomas

Greg Olson has several different offensive looks, but 2TE is his bread and butter. Without Thomas, could the early season Jaguars' passing attack look different than we think?

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

There's no way to walk around it -- when Julius Thomas went down in the first preseason game, the Jaguars passing attack took a substantial hit.

Greg Olson spoke recently on the topic. "He was going to be a big part of what we were going to do, I'm not going to sugarcoat that. You need a plan to utilize the other personnel groupings you have and expand on the other players' strengths."

Going forward, it'll be interesting to see how the Jaguars handle Julius' absence. Two tight-end personnel sets have always been a major component of Greg Olson's offensive DNA, and are no-doubt a huge element of the offense that the Jaguars will work to establish this season.

I use the word "interesting" because Olson has shown several different sides to his offense during the preseason.

At this point, we expect a two tight-end set to become the Jaguars base offense over time. Even early in the season, while Julius sits out, the Jaguars will employ Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor into various formations, using Nic Jacobs rotationally.

There are other sides to Greg Olson's offense, however, and these sides may come to light with the absence of the Jaguars best pass-catching TE.

Rookie Rashad Greene, Jaguars starting slot receiver, will see quite a bit of time on 3rd downs on Sunday -- as is the norm for slot receivers. Greene may also see time in other situations as well, as Olson shifts away from his 2TE sets in favor of a spread out passing attack.

To get a picture of Olson's versatility, look no further than the difference in game planning for the first preseason game against the Steelers and the second preseason game against the Giants.

Here are Blake Bortles' pass attempts from each game:

The glaring difference between the two is that Bortles had three RB dump offs in the first preseason game, but zero in the second. This is in part because of the more dialed in, straight line offense Olson ran in the second game. He utilized a slot receiver situationally over a 2TE look, and found success doing so.

There were no TE targets in the 2nd game, either.

You can't really argue that losing Julius Thomas influenced the shift in philosophy, considering Julius sustained his injury on the first play of the first preseason game.

More likely, Olson was experimenting with different schemes and strategies during half-speed preseason action.

Still, it's very clear that the Jaguars had a big offensive shift from game 1 to game 2, which might not be important but it does show that Olson has the ability to switch things up.

With Thomas out, it'll be interesting to see just how much Olson decides to switch.

Against Carolina on Sunday, the Jaguars are bound to bounce around quite a bit on offense. The base offense will most likely remain a heavier look early, but we could see a lot of slot play early in the game.

It also depends on how much of a ground attack the Jags want to establish.

Rotating between offensive sets could provide a huge boost to an offense that's missing one of it's biggest pass-catching targets.