Going into the 2019 NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have many unanswered questions. One question being, which player will assert themselves as Nick Foles’ top weapon on offense this season?
While there are many players who have an opportunity to step up, we look to the wide-out position to find this player. Despite the Jaguars going into the season with wide receivers by committee instead of a sole star wide-out, one player will have to elevate themselves to WR1 on the young Jaguars squad for the offense to flourish.
The guy destined to do it throughout this point in training camp is Chris Conley.
Conley, a new addition for the Jaguars in the off-season will look to build off a decent year he displayed with the Kansas City Chiefs last season. A bigger body standing at 6’3, 205 pounds is a perfect fit for the Jaguars offense as they lack an outside receiver.
Putting Conley on the outside of the offense immediately makes the team better by allowing them to spread out the field as new offensive coordinator John Defilippo likes to do. Conley looks to be the lead man on a Jaguars team that lacks a big-name player in the wide receiver corp.
With returning players such as Dede Westbrook and Marquise Lee (who is returning from a season-ending ACL tear in last year’s preseason) on the inside, and brand new veteran addition Terrelle Pryor opposite of him, Conley will look to not only get himself open but take attention off those guys as well. Conley’s speed on the outside, strong hands, and ability to accelerate at the break of his routes will separate himself from the rest of the unit.
The biggest attribute Conley shows that will support this revamped Jacksonville offense is his ability to track down the deep ball, a part of the Jacksonville offense they have lacked for many years but looks to re-emerge, and Conley will be the threat on those deep balls.
Conley showed spurts of talent whilst in Kansas City but was derailed by plaguing injuries that kept him from seeing the field much in the 2017 season. Missing nearly a full season he was unable to gain chemistry with the then Kansas City starting quarterback Alex Smith.
Not receiving many targets, it was difficult for Conley to get into a rhythm and show off his big-play ability and talents that KC drafted him for. When Patrick Mahomes took over last season, Conley showed that knack to get into the end zone and help his team win games. Having 32 receptions for 334 yards and 5 scores in a very crowded wide receiver room in terms of talent on the Chiefs team.
Being former teammates with highly touted free agent signing Foles, Conley looks to use the previously formed chemistry to assert himself as Foles go-to guy early on as they reunite in Jacksonville. Foles having previous knowledge of Conley’s tendencies as a wide-out will prove huge in the passing game as Conley will receive a higher number of targets than ever before at the professional level.
Conley has been overshadowed by players such as Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins throughout his career in Kansas City, and looks for a fresh start to show that he belongs as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
The 5th year man out of Georgia signed with the Jaguars looking to reinvent himself and kick start his career after learning from some of the best in the game early on. Number 18 looks as if he is going to be a force to be reckoned in the Jaguars offensive attack. This is all only OTA’s though.
Being able to translate the training camp success to on-field success will be crucial for the Jaguars and what they are able to accomplish as a team when the season rolls around in early September.
Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee officially taken off PUP list
The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially taken wide receiver Marqise Lee off of the physically unable to perform (PUP) list today. Head coach Doug Marrone announced the development at his pre-practice press conference today. Marrone says Lee will be practicing today.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 17, 2019
Lee has not practiced or played since his preseason knee injury almost a year ago today. With this progression, the Jaguars will go into the season — at least for now — with their top receivers active and relatively healthy. If Lee is able to make any sort of contribution during the start of the season it will be a major success for the Jaguars.
Currently, the Jaguars have relied on newcomer Chris Conley along with veterans Dede Westbrook, and D.J. Chark along with other newcomers to make up for Lee’s absence. It is not yet known how this will affect the Jaguars roster come the cut-down day.
The Jaguars have not announced a corresponding move as of right now. The roster stands at 91 until they do so.
REPORT: Jaguars sign RB Elijah Hood, release QB Tanner Lee
Earlier today the Jacksonville Jaguars announced the signing of running back Elijah Hood. As a corresponding move, the Jaguars have released quarterback Tanner Lee.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 17, 2019
Hood, 5’11” 230 pounds, was originally drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders. After bouncing around on the Raiders practice squad for the year, he was eventually waived following the 2017 season.
Hood most recently played the Carolina Panthers, however, his time with the Panthers was cut short in 2018 due to a torn ACL. He will get an opportunity to prove himself with the Jaguars and potentially live up to his collegiate career where he accumulated 2,580 yards and 29 touchdowns while at UNC.
With the injury to running back Alfred Blue (ankle) this past Thursday along with other running backs on the roster, the Jaguars needed to add depth at the position. Hood will get every opportunity to make the team, but his chances are rather slim.
Lee, a 2018 6th-round pick by the Jaguars was finally released as a corresponding move to signing Hood. Releasing Lee will not come to much of a shock for Jaguars fans. Lee has struggled throughout the offseason and in the preseason during both of his seasons with the Jaguars. This leaves backup quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Alex McGough to battle it out in the Jaguars last two preseason games — although it looks like Minshew has the upper hand as of right now.
Jaguars defensive end Datone Jones has inside track on backup job
Earlier this offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to sign seven-year veteran Datone Jones as a means to create more competition and depth behind defensive end Calais Campbell. At the time, this was seen as more of a roster-filler type move, essentially to make sure the Jaguars have enough bodies during training camp. However, the situation has completely changed due to the way Jones has played during the offseason and into training camp.
Jones, 6’4″ 285 pounds, was originally drafted 26th overall in the 2013 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers. Coming out of UCLA he was expected to make a major impact along the defensive line after accumulating a respectable 62 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks during his senior season. Since being drafted, Jones has bounced around the NFL playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and, most recently, the Dallas Cowboys.
Jones was not able to make as much of an impact on the Packers’ 3-4 defensive front after bouncing around from the defensive line to — surprisingly — linebacker.
For a short time, Jones signed with the Minnesota Vikings shortly after his contract with the Packers ended and expressed the concern of a position switch during an interview with the Vikings update stating, “They didn’t tell me. I found out on NFL Network that they had moved me to outside linebacker, I kind of knew that I would have to make the adjustment or I wasn’t going to be there anymore. I wanted to come into a place where I felt most natural, where I could really showcase my ability, what I could really do.”
Having to make such a drastic change in his career path after being mildly successful — 73 tackles and nine sacks with the Packers — at another position impacted Jones. While Jones did accumulate the most pressures for the Packers during the 2016 season while playing outside linebacker, it still was not the appropriate position for him to play given his natural ability.
Now with the Jaguars, Jones is back along the defensive line and is thriving. With the backup strong-side defensive end position for the Jaguars being completely wide open, Jones has taken the opportunity afforded to him and could be apart of the first group of players coming onto the field for the normal starters.
The Jaguars have tried for a couple of years now to find a good backup behind Campbell. They drafted defensive tackle/end Taven Bryan in the first round just a year ago, however, he has switched to more of a fulltime role on the interior of the defense. Mostly a disappointment his first two seasons, defensive end Dawuane Smoot has also taken a backseat with the arrival of Jones, giving Jones the inside track to win the primary backup job.
Jones has taken that opportunity and has thrived. Able to come off the ball with speed and power, he has the ability to adequately stop the run along with getting to the quarterback. During the game on Thursday, Jones completely took over the Eagles offensive line. One play in particular from Thursday’s game stands out.
Jones lines up on the defensive edge and is unblocked, getting to the quarterback and knocking him (Cody Kessler) out of the game. These are the type of plays which illustrate why he has earned a spot on the Jaguars 53-man roster.
— Datone Jones AKA TONE_LOCC (@IAM_Dat_One) August 16, 2019
A rotation from normal starters Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones, and Campbell to Josh Allen, Bryan, Eli Ankou, and Jones illustrates just how deep the Jaguars are along the defensive line.
This past week head coach Jaguars Doug Marrone was asked about the importance of the defensive end spot behind Campbell.
“I feel good about where we are with our D-Line, I do. In other words, I feel like we have good starters, and I feel like we have good depth. I think we have a lot of players there, guys that will probably be, if you look at the roster, I think that can potentially be the toughest. Who is nine, who is 10 if we keep 10, wherever that goes,” Marrone stated.
“Yan obviously looks great out there, but then all of a sudden [Dontavius] Russell, [Michael] Hughes, Datone Jones, I mean you have guys now, big V [Kalani Vakameilalo] is a big body in there. We have guys now that are in there that are pretty good that it’s going to be a tough call.”
A “tough call” that might have gotten tougher — or easier depending on how you look at it — with the performance Jones put on Thursday and throughout the offseason. Against the Eagles, Jones was credited with three tackles and a quarterback hit, however, it was his persistent pressure and pocket collapsing plays that set him apart from everyone else.
Shortly after the game, reporters spoke to Jones about his strong play against the Eagles. “I just wanted to go out there and execute and compete. I felt like I started off really slow the first preseason game and I felt like I owed it to my teammates to go out there today, execute and put my abilities on film,” Jones said.
“[I wanted to] let guys like Calais [Campbell], Marcell [Dareus] and Yannick [Ngakoue] know that I’m here to compete and I want to be in the lineup with those guys. I want to be here in Sacksonville, sacking quarterbacks. Preseason is all about coming out here and displaying and competing and just having fun with your brothers. Executing, you know.”
It is clear playing behind the Jaguars starting defensive line, and seeing the culture within that group has lit a fire under Jones for the better. If he can provide the same production he has done in the past, the Jaguars may have one of the deepest defensive line groups in the entire league.
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