The Jaguars are coming off a disappointing 2018 campaign. Only a year after reaching the AFC Championship Game, the Jags went 5-11. And, a large part of this regression was due to a mediocre offense that ranked 27th in total offense.
To get back atop the AFC South, the Jags desperately need a better offense.
Enter QB Nick Foles, who came over in free agency from Philadelphia, and figures to be a significant upgrade over Blake Bortles. As an Eagle, Foles was able to lead a downfield attack that, if he wants to translate to the “Sunshine State,” will need some help from a few young receivers.
Speedy slot receiver Dede Westbrook (above) seems primed for a breakout season. Last year with Bortles at the helm, Westbrook had a solid season. He led the team in yards at 717 with a 10.9 avg and was able to find the endzone five times.
With an improved quarterback and an improved offense as a whole, Westbrook could have a massive 2019.
He was a machine at Oklahoma where he was a Biletnikoff Award winner and a Heisman candidate.
We have seen him showcase his speed and could be an impactful downfield threat off the play-action this year.
Another young receiver could be a steady target for Foles as well, in second year D.J. Chark.
He also understands that 2019 could be a big jump, telling Jaguars.com that he “feels like ‘it’s a big year for me.”
Chark has all the measurables to succeed as well, with 4.3 speed to go along with his ‘6’4 frame. He needs to stay healthy in 2019 first and foremost after missing six games last year.
If he can stay healthy, who is to say that he can’t be this team’s version of Alshon Jeffery, who Foles frequently targeted in Philadelphia. Chark’s combination of size and speed ‘isn’t something you find every day.
The Jags are high on the young wideouts and are looking for more consistency. And, Westbrook and Chark will definitely have a shot to become a 1-2 tandem downfield for the offense this season.
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.