The Jacksonville Jaguars opted not to keep their clear No. 1 receiver in Allen Robinson this past offseason, instead going with a receiver-by-committee approach that will see an assortment of guys that all seem to be one big Venn Diagram when you put them together — some of them do the same thing to about the same ability but they all bring their own niche to the table.
Yesterday, we looked at how the Jaguars and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will be using his running backs. Today, the wide receivers!
The injury to Marqise Lee was devastating to the blueprint of this coaching staff, but a silver lining case could be made that it will actually help amplify the creativity of the offense.
Lee’s primary responsibilities as the Z receiver in this quick-hitting west coast offense was to use his strong run blocking ability on the perimeter to spring long runs in the ground game and then attack the middle of the field on drags, slants, and crossers. The player who is most-suited to pick up the slack in this regard is actually Dede Westbrook, and his preseason route tree echoes that sentiment.
Worked hard on tracking #Jaguars WRs D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook’s route in training camp/preseason. With the help of @JaxonFil, here y’all go.— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) September 3, 2018
Chark was fairly balanced but clearly displayed deep-threat potential. Westbrook will fill in very nicely for the injured Marqise Lee pic.twitter.com/6tERhCyrsE
Westbrook may not be as strong in run support as Lee, but he has made big strides in that capacity. He does, however, add a deep threat element from the perimeter to give Bortles the opportunity to hit the go or corner route; a throw that Bortles has made a lot of progress on by all accounts this offseason. Bortles and Lee just never seemed to develop that deep ball chemistry over the last four years, but Westbrook has already shown flashes in his short career on attacking deep targets. By employing multiple backs in the backfield with RPO concepts, this forces discipline from the defense and in turn gives Bortles an extra half-second to diagnose the field and allow his pass catchers to gain some separation in their routes.
Without an Alpha WR1, It’s clear that Hackett’s goal this season will be to rotate all the receivers across multiple positions. For this reason, we may not see DJ Chark make a profound impact until later on in the season as he continues to acclimate to the route tree for all three spots. This rotation not only makes it more difficult for opposing defensive backs to game plan for in preparation of facing the Jaguars, but also allows the receivers to stay fresh later into the game, allowing Hackett to be more aggressive in his play calling as defenders crowd the box if the Jaguars have a lead.
This is the reason they lost the AFC Championship game, and I don’t expect this extraordinary conglomerate of football minds to make the same mistakes this year.
My early prediction is that Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook will be the starting receivers in 21 personnel and then Cole will slide into the slot with Donte Moncrief in the perimeter on three receiver sets. As the Jaguars get closer to the red zone, look for Moncrief to replace Westbrook on the perimeter to take advantage of his size and length.
When you try to digest all this information, it’s abundantly resolute that nobody knows how Hackett will deploy his offensive personnel throughout a bevy of packages for the upcoming season. But as long as Hackett is cavalier in his play calling and doesn’t fall into a conservative cocoon, we should have a lot of fun surprises along the way.
Let’s hope New York Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher is as equally as surprised as we are on Sunday.