After much shakeup to the position during the 2018 offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars are left with a lot of question marks at wide receiver.
At training camp one year ago, the group was headlined by Allen Robinson, who at that point was on the brink of receiving a contract extension, the always-reliable possession receiver Allen Hurns, and the finally-comfortable-in-the-offense, speedy receiver Marqise Lee.
One of those three receivers remain on the roster today, that being Lee.
Lee signed a four year, $34 million extension with the team in March. After tearing his ACL in week one of the 2017 season, Robinson and the Jaguars couldn’t see eye to eye in contract negotions, leading him to leave Jacksonville and sign a three year deal with the Chicago Bears. Hurns was released shortly after free agency to shed $7 milion in cap space. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys within days.
The Jaaguars’ wide receiver corps is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years after all the shakeup. Who will be serving what role during the 2018 season and beyond?
While Lee is the household name among the returning Jaguars’ receivers, there are a couple of talented ball-catchers returning to the offense as well. Second-year receivers Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole look to take massive strides after their solid rookie seasons.
Cole, who truly broke out later in the year, silently led the team in receiving yards with 748, and recorded an average of 17.8 yards per catch. The undrafted receiver out of Kentucky Wesleyan flashed in training camp last year by consistently making plays on 9-routes (streaks up the seam and go-routes outside), and added to his deep route-running arsenal as the season went on. If he can continue to sharpen his routes and become a threat in the short and intermediate levels of the field, he can become the team’s most versatile receiving threat.
Westbrook was originally perceived as the team’s future deep-threat with his 4.34 40 yard dash, but Cole appears to have taken that role on. That isn’t to say Westbrook won’t be utilized as a field-stretcher, but he will have to grow in other areas in order to consistently see the field, one being as a possession receiver in intermediate level of the field, and in conversion situations.
Shane Wynn, the 5-6 training camp wonder from the past two offseasons, is looking to bounce back from a leg injury that sidelined him for the entire 2017 campaign. He provides the ability to return punts and made flashy plays on numerous occasions during training camp last offseason. Wynn appeared to have an inside track to make the 2017 roster before suffering his leg injury,
Jaydon Mickens, the flashy punt returner who played slot receiver near the end of the season last year, has an uphill battle to face in training camp. Westbrook, Wynn, and rookie receiver D.J. Chark have experience returning punts and could unseat Mickens from that gig, and at that point there might be too many bodies at wide receiver unless Mickens can win a sixth-receiver spot.
The oft-forgotten Rashad Greene is fighting for a role in the offense as well, and like Mickens, he’s on the roster bubble. Greene hasn’t seen the field since December of 2016, and has found himself on the injured reserve twice since. However, he reportedly looked impressive during the Jaguars’ voluntary workout phase last month.
This is where things get interesting.
The Jaguars signed former Indianapolis Colts’ receiver Donte Moncrief to a one year, prove-it style deal worth $9.6 million in March. Normally, prove-it style deals can be disregarded if the player fails to compete from Day 1, but the price tag on Moncrief’s contract is seemingly too big for him not to have a significant role in the offense, at least early in the year.
Following free agency, Jacksonville used their second round pick in the NFL Draft on LSU receiver D.J. Chark. Chark, who at 6-3, 199 lbs, ran a 4.34 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine and recorded a 40″ vertical jump. Like Cole, Chark is far from a complete receiver. He has a lot to clean up technically, including breaks on routes and eliminating body catches, but his measurables and ability to win contested catches provide the potential for him to become a game-changer.
The team signed undrafted free agent WR Allen Lazard after the draft as well. Lazard fits the mold of a tight end, standing at nearly 6-5, 227 lbs with a 4.55 40 time and a 38″ vertical, but he will likely compete for a sixth receiver spot with Greene, Wynn, and Mickens. Those three receivers can all return punts, unlike Lazard, but Lazard is much more of a red-zone threat with his size than the other roster-bubble receivers.
How will the wide receiver roles shape out?
Lee, Chark, Moncrief, Cole and Westbrook are locks to make the 53 man roster, and Greene, Mickens, Wynn, and Lazard will all battle for a potential sixth-receiver spot, if the team chooses to keep six WRs on the roster.
Lee has found himself to be quarterback Blake Bortles’ most trusted weapon. He saw a team-high 96 targets in 2017, hauling in 56 of those passes. Lee is mainly utilized in the short areas of the field, mainly on crossers and slant routes to convert, and will likely continue seeing that role in the future.
Moncrief and Chark will likely be given the most “50-50” targets of the entire group, as they both stand at 6-3 and provide the ability to adjust to outside passes away from defenders. This will be beneficial in the red-zone passing game and 3rd-and-long situations.
Even if he adds more routes to his arsenal, Cole’s knack for hauling in deep balls will be a big part of the passing game, and can take pressure off of the run game with the ability to keep defenses patient. He has the ability to become the Jaguars’ No. 1 receiver quickly, but his long-field game can not be forgotten about in his development.
Despite fans being excited for Westbrook last year, he has a lot to prove this year. He missed nine games to start last season and has several receivers around him who provide the same skills that he does. Westbrook’s growth among all levels of the field from year one to year two may be the most important of all the receivers in order for him to earn reps.
While there’s a general idea as to what each receiver provides, nothing is concrete about the Jaguars’ WR corps. The depth chart could pan out several differentv ways and none of them would be overly shocking.
There’s certainly a lot of talent to go around at the wide receiver position in Jacksonville. The question is, what will the team do with it all?
Jaguars vs. Patriots Week Two Inactives: Fournette Out, Campbell Starts
The Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots have released their inactive lists for the game today. For the Jaguars star running back, Leonard Fournette is out today with a hamstring injury. However, Calais Campbell who was added late to the injury report with a knee injury is expected to start today.
There was speculation before the game that Campbell could be out. It is possible the Jaguars limit his snaps this week.
Jaguars running back TJ Yeldon will start ahead of Fournette. Corey Grant will also look to get in on the fun after only having one touch last week against the Giants.
JAGUARS INACTIVE REPORT
RB Leonard Fournette
LB Leon Jacobs
DT Eli Ankou
OL Chris Reed
OL Josh Walker
OL Will Richardson
DE Dawuane Smoot
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) September 16, 2018
One surprise on the Jaguars inactive list is rookie linebacker, Leon Jacobs. Although he was injured this week with the ankle injury, he was thought to have been progressing. Look for linebacker Larentee McCray to take his place at SAM linebacker.
PATRIOTS INACTIVE REPORT
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 16, 2018
For the Patriots they are without their starting right tackle in Marcus Cannon. They also get back their starting running back in Rex Burkhead as well as their first-round pick, rookie running back Sony Michel.
Jaguars Promote Running Back Brandon Wilds, Release WR Rashad Greene
According to Mark Long of the Associated Press, the Jacksonville Jaguars today have promoted Running Back Brandon Wilds from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. As a corresponding move, the Jaguars have released veteran Wide Receiver Rashad Greene Sr.
This move should not come as too much of a surprise as starting running back Leonard Fournette has been nursing an injured hamstring all week, and TJ Yeldon was added to the injury report yesterday with an ankle injury.
Jaguars make move that could mean RB Leonard Fournette doesn't play: Team promotes RB Brandon Wilds from practice squad and releases WR Rashad Greene
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) September 15, 2018
The move might indicate that either Fournette will not be playing in tomorrows matchup against the New England Patriots, or Wilds will simply be insurance in case the star running back goes down again. Either way, it is something to keep an eye on as the Jaguars announce their inactive report around 90 minutes prior to kickoff tomorrow.
Jaguars vs. Patriots: Friday Injury Reports, Fournette Questionable
The Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots have officially released their Friday game status injury reports ahead of their week two matchup in Jacksonville, Florida. For the Jaguars coming into this game against the Patriots, all eyes have been on star running back Leonard Fournette as he nurses a hamstring injury. Today, the Jaguars officially listed him as questionable. Fournette has not been able to practice the entire week and will have to prove to the Jaguars training staff as well as the coaching staff he is good to go.
If Fournette is not cleared look for TJ Yeldon to take over as the Jaguars starting running back this weekend. It is also likely the Jaguars would elevate running back Brandon Wilds from the practice squad as they currently only have two running backs besides Fournette on the 53-man roster. Corey Grant would also more than likely receive his bulk of the carries in the event Fournette cannot go.
As for the rest of the Jaguars players, the only player who was a late addition to the Jaguars injury report was running back TJ Yeldon. He, however, will play this Sunday as that injury has seemingly been deemed minor.
Below are the Jaguars and Patriots official gameday statuses:
RB Leonard Fournette (DNP, hamstring) is the only player that appears on the @Jaguars game status report — questionable.
RB T.J. Yeldon (ankle) was added to the practice report as a limited participant, but will play Sunday. All other players were full participants in practice.
— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) September 14, 2018
RB Rex Burkhead – Concussion (Limited participant)
T Marcus Cannon – Calf (Limited participant)
DB Keion Crossen – Hamstring (Limited participant)
RB Sony Michel – Knee (Limited participant)
For the Patriots their most notable players on the injury report are running backs Burkhead and Michel along with tackle Marcus Cannon. Burkhead being out this week against the Jaguars for the Patriots is notable due to the lack of weapons at the running back position. If Burkhead and Michel cannot go the Patriots will likely lean on running back James White for the bulk of the carries. I would, however, anticipate at least one of the two running backs to be active this Sunday.
If Marcus Cannon is out this week, then the Patriots will turn to LaAdrian Waddle at the right tackle position. Waddle is a journeyman and more than likely would struggle against the Jaguars front four.
For the Jaguars as well as the Patriots both teams are relatively healthy. The areas to watch will continue to be the running back positions and how the Jaguars, as well as the Patriots, handle the situation. With Fournette as a true game-time decision, keep a close eye on the Jaguars inactive report 90 minutes before kickoff this Sunday.
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