Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Justin Blackmon made his debut on Friday night against the New Orleans Saints, and to say it was a successful debut would be an understatement. Blackmon led all Jaguars receivers with four receptions and 48 receiving yards, including a 16-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive. Blackmon was targeted a total of four times, catching all four passes.
"He did well," Mike Mularkey said after Friday's game. "I was glad to see that happen. He made a play. You could see his ball skills, he's got strong hands and he knows how to find the end zone."
As someone who was very critical of Blackmon coming out in the draft, it was an impressive debut.
In just a few plays on the field, Blackmon showed some of that ability that made him a special football player at Oklahoma State. I still have my concerns about his ability to create separation down the football field, but for what the Jaguars appear to be doing offensively, he's not going to need to.
In college, Blackmon's biggest trait was his ability to pick up yards after the catch and break tackles. He was able to get open at times down the football field, but quite a bit of that was scheming against undermanned defenses trying to slow down a wide open spread offense. Part of a reason I personally wasn't all aboard the Blackmon train was the fact that those physical receivers who dominate in college usually seem to struggled with that skill set at the next level.
It's only been one half of football, but those struggles don't look like they're going to be an issue for Blackmon in the NFL, especially with what the Jaguars are doing in the passing game.
Thus far in the preseason the Jaguars have focused on short and intermediate quick passing, which is right in Justin Blackmon's wheelhouse. As I mentioned a few weeks ago about the idea of starting Blackmon in the slot because of his skill set, the team is already using that style with Blackmon on the outside.
"You can tell he studied while he was gone," Mularkey told NFL.com's Steve Wyche over the weekend. "He played fast. There was not a lot of thinking going on and he made some great plays. We've got to get the ball in his hands. That will go a long way for his confidence and Blaine's confidence in him."
Blackmon looks to be that type of receiver who's similar to a running back, where you need to feed him the football. He's not likely to pick up 40 or 50-yard chunks on any given play like someone like Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, but he should be at the very least a steady chains moving receiver, especially given the strong hands he's shown thus far. Strong hands and catching the football away from his body, rather than letting it into his body, was something that seemed worrisome at Oklahoma state.
Blackmon doesn't need to be that down-the-field threat at wide receiver that typically gets taken in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft for this team, he needs to be exactly what he is in this offense: A reliable target who will at least move the chains and be a threat in the redzone.