The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders for the first four games of the 2014 season due to a suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. While the suspension has not been officially announced, Sanders essentially confirmed it was coming with a conference call on Tuesday afternoon after he was suspiciously added to the team's non-football injury list (NFI).
"I probably will be facing a four-game suspension as well," Sanders told reporters on the conference call.
It's another frustrating suspension from a young talented wide receiver that many Jaguars fans had high hopes for. In the big picture however, even in the short picture for the 2014 season, losing Ace Sanders for four games doesn't really matter.
Sanders caught 51 passes for 484 yards and one touchdown in his rookie season. While a solid stat line for a fourth-round pick rookie, his stat line was only that high primarily because the Jaguars were forced to use him more on offense than they had initially intended. The original idea for Sanders was as a rotational player who would return punts.
However, troubled wide receiver Justin Blackmon was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy and then later on suspended indefinitely for violating it again. Coupled with that, the team suffered some injuries at the position with second-year player Mike Brown suffering a broken back (not as bad as it sounds), Stephen Burton suffering multiple concussions and Cecil Shorts III hitting injured reserve towards the end of the season.
Sanders flashed some playmaking ability, but ultimately was simply just a slot receiver who offered some gadget play versatility.
Heading into the 2014 season, the situation is much different. Sanders play time was very likely to be more what the team anticipated when they drafted him, as primarily a punt returner and package player. The team picked two receivers in the second round, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson respectively, who are going to heavily cut into Sanders snaps. Both players can play inside or out wide. Then you have veteran Shorts, who the team is likely to re-sign to a longer contract and is very likely going to be the team's primary receiver. That's three players, all of which should get heavy snaps and rotation, ahead of Sanders.
Then you factor in the team bringing in a player like Tandon Doss, who is also a punt returner and can play in the slot plus the emergence of some of the undrafted rookies who have shined so far prior to training camp, Sanders roster spot was probably "safe" but not guaranteed. His involvement in the Jaguars offense was likely to reduce anyway.
As mentioned, it's another frustrating thing for fans to deal with at the wide receiver position, but all in all, it doesn't really matter.