Before anyone gets too excited about the Jacksonville Jaguars decision to claim wide receiver Jaelen Strong off waivers from the Houston Texans, it’s worth noting just why it was Strong was available in the first place.
After all, you can make the argument that as desperate as the Jaguars were and maybe still are for help at the wide receiver position, the Texans may be even more desperate.
When the Texans finally decided on Monday to carry out the plan to dump Strong that they first contemplated three weeks ago they did so despite the fact it left them with just two fully healthy pass catchers.
One of those, of course, is DeAndre Hopkins. The other is Braxton Miller, the 2016 third-round draft pick who has caught just 17 of the 32 passes he’s been targeted for since he came into the league last year.
As for Houston’s other receivers, Will Fuller is still recovering from a broken collarbone and was just returning to the practice field when the Texans let Strong go on Monday and Bruce Ellington was still in the concussion protocol.
The Texans also have rookie Andy Jones, a player they claimed off waivers from the Cowboys, cut and then re-signed after letting Strong go, which may tell you everything you need to know about Strong.
Clearly the Texans had simply had enough of Strong, who may simply be in need of a new start somewhere else and therefore may benefit greatly from the change of scenery. Surely that’s what the Jaguars are hoping.
But if the Jaguars passing game is going to benefit from the addition of Strong or any other wide receiver, it will first have to get some improved play from its offensive line and its quarterback.
The Jaguars line played remarkably well in its season opener against the Texans two weeks ago, but its play slipped markedly against a seemingly lesser defensive front during its Week 2 loss to the Titans.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Jaguars surrendered 11 total quarterback pressures to the Titans pass rushers, who blew past rookie left tackle Cam Robinson for five of those pressures.
The only thing worse than the pressure itself was how quarterback Blake Bortles handled it. Per PFF, Bortles completed just two of the nine passes he attempted against pressure while also throwing an interception for a 4.2 passer rating.
All of that is an indication that while the Jaguars do are indeed in need of some help at receiver, their needs actually run much deeper and that the addition of this receiver won’t matter if they don’t fix their other problems as well.
Jags WR Marqise Lee returns to practice
After losing veteran Alfred Blue in the first half of the 24–10 Thursday night loss to the Eagles with an ankle injury, the Jaguars are looking for offensive depth. In some fortunate news, WR Marqise Lee is off of the PUP list and has begun practicing today, roughly one year after suffering from knee damage that sidelined him for the entire 2018 season.
Head coach Doug Marrone made the announcement before practice on Saturday.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 17, 2019
First Coast news reporter Ben Murphy got a video of Lee at practice receiving a pass from QB Nick Foles.
— Ben Murphy (@BenMurphyTV) August 17, 2019
Last year, Lee was injured in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Falcons. He was hit by reserve defensive back Damontae Kazee on this play after a reception.
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) August 25, 2018
Lee suffered a torn ACL and went on injured reserve missing the entire season.
Lee became more prominent in Jacksonville’s pass offense in 2017 with 56 catches for 702 yards and three TDs. The Jags are surely going to rely on him this season which could mean he’ll see the field a bit in their third preseason game to get him readjusted to competitive game play.
However, they might not want to risk another potential injury before the season begins. We could see it going either way. We do know that he’ll be a great weapon for Nick Foles to utilize this season.
The return of Lee is coming off the heels of some other good news for the Jags announced earlier this week. Starting left tackle Cam Robinson was also removed from the PUP list on Monday after suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 last season. He has since made enough progress participate in some individual drills and should be ready, along with Lee, for their season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
In other injury-related news, we await how serious Blue’s ankle injury is coming off this second preseason game. Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Leonard Fournette, backed up by Thomas Rawls, will be the two running backs when the Jaguars play at the Dolphins next Thursday night.
Jaguars searching for RB depth after second preseason game
With preseason game number two in the books, it’s apparent the Jaguars have real issues with running back depth due to injury. This after veteran Alfred Blue left the first half of the 24 – 10 Thursday night loss to the Eagles with an ankle injury and did not return.
Blue carried the ball four times for just five yards has Jacksonville offense once again sputtered behind a makeshift offensive line. Coach Doug Marrone was so concerned about that line situation and their ability to protect/block that starting quarterback Nick Foles and running back Leonard Fournette never saw the field for a single play during Thursday night.
That means that veteran at Thomas Rawls (above Thursday) was called upon to carry the ball a little more, and he did so, seven times for 19 yards including a long run of 11 playing in the first half.
Rawls is a 5th year veteran who had some modest success with the Seahawks, including rushing for 830 yards his rookie year in 2015 with a 5.6 yard per carry average. His numbers tapered off in 2016 – 17 with ankle and foot injuries, as he only played in 21 games in those two years. Rawls was later released and picked up by the Bengals, but injured again last season, and never carried the ball in Cincinnati.
Obviously, the Jaguars are wanting to implement Fournette, as the primary ball carrier, but they will need someone else to spell him on a series or two. Also, Fournette has had durability questions, as he missed parts or all of eight games last year with a hamstring injury.
The Jags were also hoping to bring along Temple rookie running back Ryquell Armstead, but after he carried eight times for 22 yards last week, he suffered a concussion in the preseason opening loss to the Ravens. Armstead hasn’t practiced since, and is still being evaluated with no further update Thursday.
Speaking of updates, we await how serious Blue’s ankle injury is coming off this second preseason game. Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Fournette, backed up by Rawls, will be the two running backs when the Jaguars play at the Dolphins next Thursday night.