The Jaguars wide receiving corp has been bad for a long time. I believe we can all be honest with ourselves on that one. Following Keenan McCardell's departure in 2001, Jimmy Smith held the fort down admirably. Smith had three 70+ reception/1000 yard seasons in his final four years as a Jaguar. Matt Jones' 2008 campaign, with 65 receptions for 741 yards was the best production from any wide receiver since 2005. In fact, it was easily the best production from a Jaguar wide receiver not named Jimmy Smith since McCardell left.
In 2009, the Jaguars are looking to reverse that trend with mainly young wide receivers and one proven veteran in Torry Holt. Holt will most likely be the Jaguars #1 wide receiver, however, where will the others fall in place behind him?
Holt was the headline free agent signing of the offseason. GM Gene Smith managed to get him to come to Jacksonville instead of division rival Tennessee, in a courting that was the exact opposite of last year's bust Jerry Porter. While it's obvious the Jaguars aren't getting the Torry Holt of "Greatest Show on Turf" fame, he provides a consistent target the Jaguars have lacked for some time.
If reports are correct, Garrard is already looking to Holt as his "Go To" guy in mini-camp. If something catches there, then Holt will be worth every penny the Jaguars spent. If Holt can turn in between 900-1100 yards and 6-8 touchdowns, then I think we can all agree it was a successful signing.
Mike Walker may well be the most well known Jaguar for what he hasn't done, stay on the field. Drafted out of Central Florida, Walker would seem to have all the skills a team would want in a wide receiver. A big, strong wide out that runs a 4.35 40 is usually gone by pick 15. However, Walker's nagging knee injuries have kept him from seeing the field.
This is the first time since he was drafted that Vic hasn't given the "Mike's been looking great in camp, then his knee starting flaring up" post. If Walker can stay healthy this year, then he is primed to breakout. I expect Walker to grab the #2 position behind Holt, if healthy. If he can finally play pain free, then the Jaguars should have a solid starting pair.
If you haven't already, please check his bio/scouting report here. Thomas will be competing with fellow draftees Jarrett Dillard and Tiquan Underwood, along with Troy Williamson and Nate Hughes, for the rest of the spots on the Jaguars roster. Thomas' best shot at getting the #3 wide receiver role would be becoming the Jaguars' Wes Welker. If he can get open in the slot and be reliable, then he'll be ahead of the game. If not, expect him to challenge Witherspoon for kick returning duties.
Dillard comes to Jacksonvillle as one half of the most prolific QB-WR duo in Division I-A college football history. Dillard is never going to leave a corner back in a Delorian-esque trail of smoke, but he has great hands and runs routes with precision. I'm expecting a good battle between Thomas and Dillard over who can grab the slot position.
Underwood was taken in the 7th round, as the Jaguars thought of him highly enough to not let him slip into undrafted free agency. Underwood has good numbers on paper, however, it does bother me he only had 7 bench reps at the combine. If he can't get off a jam, he'll find himself out of a job soon. In addition, how much did playing next to Kenny Britt in college help him out?
Williamson gives the recently departed Reggie William a run for his money as the biggest wide receiver flop in recent memory. A former 7th overall pick that was acquired for a 6th rounder, Williamson needs to show he has hands to go along with all of his speed.
Hughes is a undrafted free agent that was on the Jaguars' practice squad for the final few weeks of the season. Early indications are that he is making a move towards getting the final wide receiver spot. Hughes is raw, but he certainly has talent. He is a three time SWAC Outdoor Decathlon Champion. If nothing else, I expect Hughes to be kept on the Jaguars practice squad if he isn't on the final 53.
Where does the group stand
The Jaguars have one proven veterans, a young player with all the talent in the world and a now healthy knee, a monumental bust, and four unknowns. If nothing else, I enjoy writing that over it being composed of multiple first round busts. If Holt can provide a consistent target, the Jaguars will take a step in the right direction. However, the future of the group lies with Walker, and the other young players.