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How important will the Jaguars tight end room be moving forward?

The Jaguars of the Jaguars’ tight end group will be pivotal for their offensive production moving forward.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Training Camp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A quarterback’s best friend, and one of the more overlooked ares of the offensive side of the football, tight end has been the bane of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ existence for quite some time.

The season is inching ever closer with training camp officially projected to kick off on July 28th.

For the Jaguars, training camp will be one of the most important pieces of their offseason, especially considering the youth of the team, currently. Cohesion along the offensive side of the football, particularly with second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II, will be squarely under the microscope.

With new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in tow, the Jaguars are expected to have a much-more balanced offense than in seasons past, especially when it comes to the passing game. However, what they lack in terms of weapons will be magnified when inspecting the tight end position which is expected to play a major role in Gruden’s offense.

“You can double receivers all you want to,” Gruden said when speaking to reporters in May. “It’s hard to double tight ends and tight ends really are a key component down there in the red zone and on third down, and they’re a quarterback’s best friend. You know, the passes don’t have to be 25 yards down the field. They can be option routes, choice routes, in-breaking routes, you know, quicker type element passes if you have that tight end.”

The Jaguars have, historically, fielded some of the most abhorrent tight end play in the NFL, lacking any form of consistency on offense. Much of that had to do with the quarterback play over the past decade, however, the issue was magnified following the departure of tight end Marcedes Lewis shortly prior to the 2018 season.

What the Jaguars expected last year was a growth at the position, adding former Dallas Cowboys tight end Geoff Swaim, and third-round selection Josh Oliver, the play of the group did not, however, live up to expectations.

Instead, the Jaguars lost all three tight ends, James O’Shaughnessy, Geoff Swaim and Oliver to season-ending injuries - both O’Shaughnessy and Swaim appeared in five and six games, respectively, before their injuries. Oliver was never able to truly get rolling after suffering a serious hamstring injury in training camp before appearing in four games total on the year.

Still, O’Shaughnessy was able to lead the group with 14 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Outside of that, the Jaguars saw porous production in the form of, 39 receptions for 312 yards and one touchdown in 16 games.

In a semi-rebuild of the tight end room, the Jaguars signed eighth-year veteran Tyler Eifert, a player who is all-too familiar with Gruden, to shore up their dwindling core of players along with drafting recently-signed sixth-round pick, tight end Tyler Davis.

In order to understand the potential growth of the tight end position under Gruden for the Jaguars, we took a look at the reception, target and yard-share of the top-two tight ends under Gruden from 2014-18 and of the Jaguars’ from 2015-19. We excluded Gruden’s final year with Washington as he was fired not long into the season.


TE YARDS/TOTAL YARDS (%) 5,118/21,084 (24.27%) 2,120/19,523 (10.86%)
TE REC/TOTAL REC (%) 452/1,815 (24.90%) 212/1,733 (12.23%)
TE TGT/TOTAL TGT (%) 625/2,712 (23%) 364/2,828 (12.9%)

While Washington did have the benefit of overall better talent at the tight end position - along with quarterback -, their usage of the tight end dwarfs what the Jaguars have accomplished over the same a similar time frame. Gruden, and Washington’s quarterback, utilized his tight ends much more with a difference in target percentage of 10% over five years.

The Jaguars have struggled to get anything going out of the tight end group and will hope, with the assistance of Gruden, an improved Minshew and the addition of Eifert, the odds turn in their favor. While there may not yet be a Jordan Reed within the Jaguars’ locker room as of right now, Gruden has, and will likely continue to, lean on the position aggressively in his first year in Jacksonville.