The Dolphins got Peyton's seal of approval before trading for Julius Thomas

Nearly every single job is made easier to acquire with a good reference heading into the interview process. Tight end Julius Thomas, who the Dolphins acquired in a trade with the Jaguars for Branden Albert this offseason, got the best possible recommendation. 

That's because when offensive coordinator Clyde Christenson rang up his old pal Peyton Manning, the former NFL quarterback had nothing but positive things to say about his former teammate.

According to Christenson, via Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, he hit up Manning about how he liked working with the tight end while playing for the Broncos and Manning praised his "figure-it-out factor." 

"[Thomas'] figure-it-out factor was high. That's what you look for. There's a guy who came in and probably didn't know a whole bunch about football, or played very little. His experience was very minimal, and then [he] came in and figured it out and then worked. [Manning] talked a lot about [Thomas asking], 'Would you stay out and help me with this? Take me through this. Would you watch a little tape with me? Would you explain what you want on this?' And he still does the same thing. I'll see him in Coach [Adam] Gase's office and his questions are right. His questions and his process are right, which as a coach, [is what] you're looking for."

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Julius Thomas was a free-agent bust in Jacksonville. USATSI

Thomas, an athletic former basketball player who played college ball at Portland State, was taken by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft with the hope he would become their version of Antonio Gates. 

He didn't ever become that good, obviously, but he was really impressive while playing with Manning. Thomas caught 24 touchdown passes in the 2013 and '14 seasons combined before jumping to Jacksonville as a free agent. 

In two years with the Jaguars, he recorded just 38 catches, although nine of them went for touchdowns. The Jags believed he was expendable, but were able to work out a deal with the Dolphins for a seventh-round pick.

And the bonus is Thomas is coming back to his old coach, reuniting with Gase, who was his offensive coordinator when he played with Manning.

"It's on film. I've seen it. Hearing Peyton [Manning] talk about him and what he meant to the offense. Gase knows him inside out. Gase knows exactly what he's getting and knows how to use him," Christensen said of his tight end. "[Gase] used him extremely well out there in Denver. I have great confidence that we will get that. It's not a speculation. There's some -- as you like to say -- empirical data. There's data we can see, see him do it [and] see the things we need him to do. That always is encouraging."

The Dolphins have high hopes after making the playoffs last year and establishing an offense that had a lot of balance and could put up points. They need to expand the passing game this year and let Ryan Tannehill become more dangerous in the red zone.

If Thomas can return to form and deliver on Manning's high praise of him, there's a good chance the offense could take another step forward.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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