In the years since he was drafted by the Jaguars in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, I maintain that tight end Marcedes Lewis has been one of the most important cogs in the Jacksonville offense and a very underrated player in the eyes of fans. While he has drawn criticism for his hands (undeserved, in my eyes), where he has been most valuable is as a blocker for the Jaguars.
One of the best run blocking tight ends in the NFL, Lewis has had to also be an offensive tackle, of sorts, for the Jaguars on many pass plays during the last four seasons, as the team has struggled to find consistent play from Guy Whimper, Cameron Bradfield and Eben Britton.
It's no sure thing that the second-overall selection of the 2013 NFL Draft, Luke Joeckel, will be able to step into that role and play well; however, if he does, it could mean the end of Lewis' time as part-tight end, part-right tackle for the Jaguars. Something that would free up the former-Pro Bowler to contribute in the passing game.
According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis has been involved in 1,822 pass plays over the last four seasons for the Jaguars, but has remained back to be an extra pass blocker in 391 of them. In 28 of the 62 games he's played in over the past four seasons, he's been a pass blocker in at least 25 percent of the pass plays he was in the game for.
The difference in quarterback play with Lewis acting as an extra blocker has been very noticeable. Despite missing an extra receiver in Lewis, the combined performance of Jaguars quarterbacks, whether that was David Garrard, Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert, has been distinctly better with Lewis helping to hold off the pass rush.
Basically, if Lewis is running routes, there's a good chance that the quarterback is going to get hit.
If Joeckel can step in and perform at a high level for the Jaguars, stopping the rush off the right side without the help of Lewis, the team could also receive the benefit of a 6'6 receiver actually having the opportunity to contribute to the passing offense.
And don't think Lewis hasn't noticed either:
Haha RT @irod0616: @marcedeslewis89 are you excited that you don't have to play tight end AND right tackle this year?— Marcedes Lewis (@MarcedesLewis89) April 28, 2013
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