A lot of emphasis this offseason has been place on Jaguars GM Gene Smith’s decision not to address the receiving corp. Smith chose not to sign any free agent WR’s and go with a diverse bunch of young receivers. Besides Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, the Jaguars haven’t really had success in bringing in free agent WR’s. In recent years, the team brought in veterans Jerry Porter and Torry Holt, whom ended up being average at best, so it would make sense for the Jaguars to be cautious when shopping for a veteran receiver. Gene Smith has his idea of what a Jaguars player should be, but this year there were some quality, good character guys on the market. I was surprised when the team didn’t make a move to bring in James Jones, a well-rounded guy who could have easily meshed into the offense. Since the team didn’t make any free agent moves I began searching for logic with the current receivers.
The offense is centered around the two Pro Bowl players on the offense, Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis. Jacksonville is a run first team and opposing defenses take note of that, so to stop Jones-Drew teams fill the box with 8 men. This is where Jason Hill and Cecil Shorts help the offense. Both Hill and Shorts have the speed to go deep down the field which will cause safeties to stay back, taking a defender out the box. If the safeties cheat up, they’ll risk being burnt by Hill or Shorts. I expect Shorts to contribute on certain play packages at the beginning of the season, until he adjusts to the talent level and speed of the NFL.
I like to think of Marcedes Lewis as being the “X factor” for the offense. He’s a freakish athlete with long arms and height. Teams will have a handful defending him. He’s too athletic and fast for a LB to cover him and he’s too big and strong to have a safety cover him. Lewis will be the guy to run those intermediate routes. Those routes are long enough for him to outrun a LB, and get to the second level to have a mismatch with the safeties. His skill set will make LB’s take a few steps back if they know they have to cover him, therefore loosening up the front 7 even more, making it easier on Mike Thomas. Thomas is great at short routes where he’s able to use his quickness and agility to maneuver around CB’s. His quick, twitchy movements will allow him to thrive underneath, sort of like Wes Welker. Don’t forget that if they let MJD out the backfield, he’s going to be a threat as a check down receiver. Any time he touches the ball in open space, it could be a touchdown.
I assume the remaining WR’s and TE’s will be role players. Kassim Osgood is a special teams ace and could be called to go against smaller corners that’ll have trouble covering his big frame. Jarett Dillard is a leaper and can catch great for jump balls in the red zone. Zach Miller could become an offensive utility man; he can play out at WR, line up at TE, or even FB. The undrafted rookies the Jaguars brought in all seem to have one thing in common, they’re big. They’ve also played well, and they could get some use in the red zone, to block, or as size mismatches. I believe that Tiquan Underwood won’t make the roster unless he shows up in the preseason games. I’m yet to hear anything about him.