That’s the best way to describe this Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiving unit who, at this point in the season, lacks a bona fide alpha.
While the potential for a player such as DJ Chark or Keelan Cole to emerge into this role exists, for now it’s largely a numbers game of players jockeying up and down the depth chart.
At the moment, there seems to be two games of wide receivers checkers going on — one with the top five guys who are roster locks in Donte Moncrief, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, DJ Chark, and Dede Westbrook. The other is with the next four guys in Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Greene, Shane Wynn and Allen Lazard.
The difference, of course, is that those bottom guys are fighting for one spot.
Or are they?
In any numbers game, your odds of hitting are obviously increased with more bites at the apple. Most are assuming that the Jaguars will limit their 53-man roster to six receiver spots, but I wouldn’t be so sure. In fact, the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers are two other clubs who are kicking around the idea of keeping seven receivers on the roster.
Although extremely rare for an NFL team to stash seven pass catchers on their final roster, there is precedent. Interestingly enough, the 2009 New York Giants under Tom Coughlin kept seven wide receivers, including high-round rookie Hakeem Nicks and undrafted red zone specialist Ramses Barden from Cal Poly.
*cough* Cole *cough*
*cough* Lazard *cough*
Of course, keeping an extra receiver means taking an extra slot away from another position group, and for me, that would be the running backs. We keep reading that they want to feed Fournette and increase Corey Grant’s role in the offense, so there’s simply no need to carry a fourth running back, especially when the early favorite for that fourth spot in Tim Cook is practice squad-eligible.
So what are the pros and cons for each fringe receiver?
PRO: Electric punt returner
CON: Not the strongest receiver at the catch point
If you had to guess if Mickens scored more return or receiving touchdowns last season, which would you choose? Mickens actually scored two touchdowns as a receiver in spell duty and only one touchdown on a punt return (although he came very close to a second). The point is that I think many are really underrating Mickens’ ability as a wide receiver and pigeonholing him to being strictly a return specialist.
Mickens may not be dominant at the catch point and perhaps would struggle in sifting through traffic, but Mickens can be a sneaky good addition to what appears to be a more west coast, quick-hitting offense based on what we’re seeing in preseason.
PRO: Shows up during practice
CON: Leases a home in muff city
Greene has had three whole years to make an impact on this squad and hasn’t been available due to injury. All accounts are that Greene has been the most consistent receiver in training camp, but it would take a lot of faith to trust that he could continue this consistency under the lights when it matters.
The simple truth is that receivers at the dregs of the depth chart need to contribute on special teams, an area where Greene has actually proved to be a liability. Ironically, Greene is a free agent after this season and the fact that he is not eligible for the practice squad may actually help his cause in landing a final roster spot, as the other three have eligibility.
PRO: Shows up all the time
CON: Small frame and hasn’t been included in special teams
Wynn certainly seems to be the “Rudy” of the group and is turning into a fan-favorite due to his feisty demeanor or relentless, never-say-die attitude. He measures at just 5’6” but has shown up in practice and during games when given a shot. What is hurting him at the moment is that the team hasn’t given him much play in the return game, which is surprising due to his short area quickness and reliability.
PRO: Different body type and a red zone threat
CON: Slow start
Lazard was a high-profile rookie free agent signing that many fans were excited about, including myself. Lazard started slow out of the gate with a series of drops, but his athleticism, length and catch radius have really started to show up as of late as he continues to grasp the playbook and route tree. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jaguars try to “hide” Lazard this preseason and try to sneak him through waivers and onto the practice squad. If Lazard does beat the odds and make the final roster, it will tell you exactly what the team thinks of their receivers’ ability to win in the red zone.
Side note: Did you know Lazard handled punt return duties at Iowa State as a sophomore and finished second in the Big 12 with 19.2 yards per return?
So what do you think? Should the Jaguars sacrifice a running back for a seventh receiver? Which receivers would you keep?