The Jacksonville Jaguars had a big receiver problem in 2017 and it was made apparent in the opposing defenses that the Jaguars played. It’s a known fact, now that the 2017 season has come and gone, that Leonard Fournette faced the most stacked boxes among all featured running backs in the NFL with 48.69% of his 267 attempts facing 8+ defenders in the box. A lesser known fact is that backup running back Chris Ivory faced the third most stacked boxes of any running back in the NFL (with minimum 85 attempts) with 50.89% of his 112 attempts facing 8+ defenders.
What does this have to do with the Jaguars wide receivers?
Doug Marrone and the Jaguars fully recognize that teams don’t respect Blake Bortles or their receiving corp and for good reason. The Jaguars’ receivers couldn’t seem to create the separation they needed for an efficient passing offense but they did excel in one aspect, vertical routes making for explosive plays. Breakout receiver Keelan Cole exemplified exactly what Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett wanted out of this offense. They don’t expect defenses to respect this revamped receiving corp in 2018 anymore than they did in 2017 and that is also exactly where the Jaguars want to be.
The Jaguars operate with a run first/vertical play action passing offense and they made it apparent that they want to continue running that style of offense well into 2018 with the moves they made in the offseason. The additions to their receiving corp suit the Jaguars perfectly and their passing offense will be even better despite the losses of star wide receiver Allen Robinson and veteran wide receiver Allen Hurns. Let’s break down the Jaguars receiving corp and where they fit in this offense.
An interesting player considering his pay grade (avg. salary of $8.5 million/yr) although he will only count $4.56 mil. against the cap for the 2018 season. His average salary will more than double for the next three years of his contract although the Jaguars have a potential to opt out after the 2019 season. Despite signing a decent sized contract, Lee was disappointing to say the least. Rookie receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook took advantage of lackluster receiver play and injuries exposing Lee as a faulty #1 receiver. According to Fox Sports Marqise Lee led all wide receivers in the NFL in dropped passes with 8. As well as this Matt Harmon’s wide receiver analysis “Reception Perception” found that Marqise Lee ranked below average in every single route run in 2017 among all NFL receivers. It seems all too possible that Lee could be usurped as the #1 receiver in this offense early in the season. He will, however, have a significant role no matter the situation considering his contract and experience with Bortles and the Jaguars system.
The newly acquired and now highest paid receiver on the team (just over $1 million more than Marqise Lee for the 2018 season) will look to salvage a lackluster NFL career since entering the league in 2014. Drafted by the Colts in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Colts envisioned Moncrief as a compliment to T.Y. Hilton’s deep threat speed and implemented him as a red zone/big target type receiver. Why is this important? Because Donte Moncrief was not used correctly in Indianapolis. Moncrief fits the Jaguars’ vertical passing scheme perfectly and he will be used as just that, a vertical threat on the outside. With 4.40 speed and fairly unrefined route running ability the Jaguars won’t ask him to do what he doesn’t excel in. Moncrief will be only 25 years old as the Jaguars enter the 2018 season. That can be easy to forget considering his time in the league already. Look for Moncrief to get a lot of action on the outside opposite the other speedy receivers on this team.
Westbrook did not disappoint during his rookie campaign despite injury that sidelined him for the first nine games of the season. With only seven games to show for his first NFL season his 51 targets were on pace for around 116 targets had he played all season which would have led any Jaguars receiver by 20+ targets. Westbrook has great acceleration and strong hands. He flashed great body control and runs a multitude of routes well so look for him to be heavily involved as the #2 or #3 receiver on this team with #1 potential by the end of the season.
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Breakout receiver Keelan Cole quickly proved that he has a role carved out for himself in this Jaguars offense. His deep threat ability provided some much needed explosiveness averaging the second most yards per catch among all NFL wide receivers for the 2017 season with 17.8. His vertical threat ability is once again exactly what Marrone and Hackett are looking for to compliment an effective run game.
The Jaguars second round pick in the 2018 draft is an athletic freak. Despite being listed at 6’3 and 199 lbs, Chark displays a skinny frame. He definitely makes up for his skinny gram with an impressive 4.34 time on the 40 yard dash at the 2018 NFL Combine. His route running is raw and he didn’t get much route running experience in a lackluster LSU passing offense. However, the Jaguars saw a naturally talented receiver that has the athletic tools in place to build off of. Similar to the other receivers on this Jaguars’ team Chark had success as a vertical threat type receiver averaging 21.9 yards per catch at LSU in 2017. Exactly the fit the Jaguars were looking for.
Sefarian-Jenkins finds himself on a third NFL team as he enters his fifth career year. A tight end that has flashed impressive ability, ASJ has found himself falling short year after year due to injury and off field issues. His 2017 season with the Jets was his best yet playing in 13 games and putting up the most receptions (50) and receiving yards (357) of his career. As minicamp ends for the Jaguars ASJ seems to be one of the most polarizing members of the offense thus far. ASJ gives Bortles a big body security blanket when plays break down. The Jacksonville Jaguars seem to have big plans for what may arguably be the best receiving tight end they’ve had on the roster in their 23 years of existence.
The starting five receivers for the Jacksonville Jaguars are a hotly debated bunch. It could be argued that any one of them could emerge as the #1 receiver by the end of the 2018 season. Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett have come in and made it apparent that they have a clear direction that they want to take this offense. Establishing a strong running game has allowed them to build an explosive receiving corp that will compliment Fournette and this improved offensive line. Expect this passing offense to be among the most explosive in the league. Separation around the short-middle areas of the field is still a huge question mark for this team but players like Dede Westbrook and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins may provide some much needed consistency for Bortles in these areas of the field as the season gets rolling.