JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 05: Wide receiver Cecil Shorts #84 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates scoring a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter at EverBank Field on December 5, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Jacksonville Jaguars held their three-day minicamp last week, which was open to the public for all to see. I went to two of the practices and paid close attention to the wide receivers. A couple of players stood out, notably Laurent Robinson and undrafted rookie Kevin Elliot, but a second year player really seemed to stand out in the set of practices.
This was something Shorts did last season as well in training camp and the preseason. Coming in from Mount Union, there were some aspects of Shorts' game that were a bit raw, but you could tell watching him work he had plenty of talent. Shorts looked so good, I wrote that he could be in position to take over as a starter in his rookie season.
That of course never materialized and Shorts struggled his rookie season, catching just two passes. While most are quick to write off Shorts as another small school wide receiver wash out, once again watching him in practice makes one question why it's not showing up on the field in the games, and I think I have a better understanding of why.
Watching the practices Shorts simply stood out, as I and others who were in attendance have mentioned. It led to some chatting on the sideline about how Shorts could look so good in practice, even in the preseason last year, but completely disappear in games. It apparently all goes back to coaching, or lack thereof.
Last season the Jaguars entered the season with Johnny Cox as their wide receivers coach, a coach who had never coached that position before and was actually on the other side of the football in past positions. Part of the problem for Shorts' disappearing act in the regular season was that Cox didn't feel Shorts was ready to play, but didn't really help Shorts understand what he needed to do to get ready to play.
Makes sense, right?
"You're not ready to play."
"Ok coach. What do I need to be working on?"
"..... You're not ready yet."
While the ultimate fault lies on the Jaguars for hiring a coach who had never coached the position before and relying on a woeful wide receiver group, that's still not how you go about guiding a young player who's clearly overwhelmed.
Shorts was again standing out in practice last week, but with new receiver coach Jerry Sullivan I'd be willing to bet he won't be left wanting in regards to guidance or knowing what to do to be ready to see the field. I'm not sure Shorts will ever be a go-to wide receiver, but he does show talent and an ability to make plays in practice. Now he just needs to translate that to the football field.