A few months ago he was simply the number four receiver for the Jaguars but fast forward to the present and Cecil Shorts is now the number one wide receiver for the Jaguars and completely changed the Jaguars roster and outlook. One player can have a serious impact on a team’s future. In the NFL, unlike the NBA or other leagues, teams have the ability to simply cut or release a player with little recourse. This is the reason why NFL rosters change so frequently and why the emergence of once player can significantly alter a team’s roster. For the Jaguars, this season’s emerging player has been Shorts who is on pace to become the first Jaguar’s wide receiver to reach 1000 yards receiving since Jimmy Smith. Whether you realize it or not yet, Shorts has already had a profound effect not only on the 2012 Jaguars but also how the team will operate moving forward.
Entering this past preseason Cecil Shorts III was one of the many wide receivers fighting it out for a spot in a suddenly crowded wide receiver unit. With Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans added via free agency and Justin Blackmon draft #5 overall, there were some solid additions alongside the returning group of Shorts, Mike Thomas, Brian Robiske, and Taylor Price. Add in a few undrafted free agents like Kevin Elliot and suddenly there was a solid roster battle at the WR position. Shorts took the camp by storm however and most observers seemed impressed with the young wide receiver. Shorts strong camp seemed to solidify himself a roster spot and this was where he had his first impact on the 2012 roster. With Shorts camp performance the Jaguars quickly parted ways with receivers Taylor Price and Lee Evans. Evans a veteran addition had been added for cheap and with Shorts looking like the Jaguars #4 WR, the Jaguars saw no need to pay Evans over a million dollars to be the team’s #5 WR. After a few underwhelming preseason games in comparison to Blackmon and Robiske, the Shorts mania cooled but still had a roster spot mostly guaranteed. Entering the regular season Short’s continued to stay on the bench but as we all know he made an impact quickly with limited snaps and in Week 1 he was able to haul in an amazing 39 yard touchdown grab to tie the game up late. As the season has gone along however Short’s didn’t stay on the bench long. After many great catches and long TDs, finally in Week 7 with Robinson out via concussion Shorts became a starting WR. He hasn’t been on the bench since. Taking full advantage of his chances, Shorts has raced out to an impressive 642 yard receiving and 5 touchdowns even in the league’s worst offense. He has solidified himself as a starting WR for the Jaguars for the remainder of the season and most likely for the future.
The releasing of Evans, Price and Robiske were in large part due to Shorts’ emergence as a solid WR option, but when he showed he was capable of becoming a go-to guy in the Jaguars offense, he again changed the Jaguars roster outlook. This time the victim was Mike Thomas who had only underperformed since his large contract extension early last season. Thomas was contributing next to nothing in the Jaguars offense and with Shorts becoming a starter the Jaguars felt there was no real reason to hold onto Thomas as they had Robinson, Blackmon and Shorts as capable starters. Thomas had become expendable. For the price tag of a 2014 5th round pick, Thomas was traded away. If you are keeping score at home, Shorts’ break out year has affected how the Jaguars handled four different players who all found themselves traded or released because of it.
Shorts’ performance this season has not simply been limited to effecting how the Jaguars make roster decisions but it has also affected the players around him. Take for instance Justin Blackmon who has accumulated 75% of his season receiving yards since Shorts became a starter (granted last week skews the numbers but still counts none the less). Or how about the Jaguar’s QBs who have only posted one game below 200 yards passing since Shorts took over as starter. Gabbert and Henne even both had over 300 yards passing during the time Short’s has started which is something no Jaguars QB did all last season. Cecil Shots has simply become a dynamic go-to playmaker which has in turn allowed the players around him to improve. It is something the Jaguar’s desperately needed and it will have a profound effect on the future of the team.
While Short's big year has already impacted the Jaguars roster, it is his impact on the future of the Jaguars roster that will be the greatest. With Blackmon and Shorts at WR the Jaguars have a young starting duo that they can count on for the future. If Cecil Shorts had not developed into the starting WR that he is now, the issue of Laurent Robinson’s concussions would have a lot larger impact on the Jaguars plans this offseason. Imagine Robinson’s career possibly being over (best of luck to Robinson btw, concussions are life threatening so get well soon) and the Jaguars only having Justin Blackmon as a capable starter. It would make the WR position a position of need once again. With Shorts there however the Jaguars don’t have to stress and can wait to see how Robinson feels as well as just pick up a WR in FA or late in the draft without feeling pressured to add more talent at the position. The Jaguars can instead now focus on other positions like OL or DE that are a lot more serious needs. For the first time since Jimmy Smith has left I can honestly say I am not worried about the WR position this offseason. Shorts and Blackmon are the future for us. Is the position the best it could be, no way, but at least Shorts has provided us with another capable starter that we so badly needed. Shorts big 2012 year simply has added stability to a position that has been basically been a game of musical chairs for years now.