The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a season to forget in 2016 — especially their offense. Blake Bortles has regressed to sophomore at UCF levels, T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory were good at times but never consistently enough to lean on, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns had their fair share of drops, and the offensive line was a game of duck, duck, goose gone horribly, horribly wrong.
And then there’s Marqise Lee.
Lee has been, well, good. He’s been great, all things considered. And relative to the crumbling pile of ashes that is the 2016 Jaguars offense he’s been — dare I say it? — consistently the best player on that side of the ball.
There’s not much controversy in that statement (sadly) moreso because of how far the rest of the skill players have fallen. But Lee didn’t. And in fact, Lee is often the only spark keeping this offense from completely flat-lining.
Just look at what he did today. Early in the second half, Lee sprinted down the right sideline and took in a long pass from Blake Bortles in front of Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The pass was supposed to be a back shoulder route but Bortles Bortles’d it and threw it high, forcing Lee to have to contort his body to connect on the 34-yard pass.
And connect Lee did.
This isn’t some one-week wonder either. Lee has had at least four receptions in 10 of 13 games this year. He ranks second on the team in receptions with 54 (Allen Robinson has 56), and first on the team in receiving yards with 728. Also, Lee’s 62.8 percent catch rate and 12.6 yards per reception are the best of any receiver on the team. Add in Lee’s yards on the ground and he’s the most productive non-quarterback the team has.
And the strides he’s made since last year. His penchant for staying healthy this year and his improved catching ability has helped him garner just as many (if not more) receiving yards, first downs, and touchdowns this year as he had in his first two years in the league combined.
Lee is by no means a No. 1 receiver in this league. He is best used as an ancillary piece that can cause fits for an opposing defensive coordinator who has his hands full scheming against a team’s top two receivers. Lee’s production is not unlike that of rookie Ace Sanders in 2013 — someone had to get the targets and it just so happened to be him.
But Lee’s improvement is one of the few things that is cause for celebration in a season to forget.