The Jacksonville Jaguars grabbed wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the fourth round of the draft this past spring in the hopes of adding a break-away speed element to their offense.
Midway through the preseason, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone says he has yet to see that “pure break-away, great speed’’ that was supposed to set Westbrook apart from all the rest.
What Marrone has seen out of Westbrook is something that may prove to be even more important to his long-term success.
A 5-foot-11 and 178 pound, Westbrook is a slightly-built, rail-thin player who had a tendency at times during his college career to get spooked when trying to make plays between the numbers.
That’s a bad trait to have, especially for a player projected to work mostly in the slot the way Westbrook is with the Jaguars, but Marrone says Westbrook has looked fine in that area of the field so far.
“He’s shown me that he’s not afraid to go over the middle, and I think that’s a big thing when you look at players that are fast,’’ Marrone said. Sometimes those players shy away from that, but I haven’t seen that with him.’’
He certainly didn’t see it during the Jaguars 12-8 preseason loss to the Bucs last week. While catching six passes for 131 yards in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars 12-8 loss to the Buccaneers last week, Westbrook made several plays over the middle.
Making plays in the middle of the field is one thing. To make those plays there, though, a player first has to get to the middle of the field and that’s something Westbrook continues to work on.
“The thing I’ve been telling him – and he said people have been saying this to him for a while – is that in this league, in order to be successful, you have to be able to get off press coverage,” Marrone said.
“That’s something that a lot of young receivers have to work extremely hard on because in college, guys are spread out all over the place, but in the NFL they’ll walk right up there and they’ll test you.
“And if you show you can’t get off press, then you’re going to get press all day and the quarterback … if they see someone who gets pressed and can’t win, they’re off that progression. So you have to be able to do that, and that’s why you’ve seen us work a ton on press.’’
According to Westbrook, the work has paid off. He told Jaguars.com on Monday that in terms of beating press coverage, “At the beginning of training camp it was bad for me. But now it’s better. A lot better.”