JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Monday was the first time that Dede Westbrook was able to practice since the final week of the preseason. The rookie wide receiver had surgery on Sept. 12 to repair a sports hernia injury, which landed him on injured reserve.
After missing the first eight weeks of the season (seven games), he is eligible to return this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I haven’t played a game in eight weeks so I’m ready to get out there and play,” said Westbrook on Wednesday.
Through seven games the Jaguars lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (169). However they’ve lacked big plays, especially in the passing game. Their 17 plays of 20 yards or more is tied for 25th in the league.
During the preseason Westbrook led the NFL with 288 receiving yards. He was able to make several big plays down the field and his potential return could be the missing link for the Jaguars offense.
“I think the speed and what he can do with the ball in his hands after the catch is extremely impressive,” said Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. “I think we got to see a little bit of that during the preseason. We saw how explosive he was and the plays he was able to make. I think that’s the exciting factor that he brings.”
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said that they’ve been preparing Westbrook like he was going to play since the beginning of the season. Mentally he should be up to speed but developing the on field chemistry with Bortles could take some time.
“It’s very important,” said Westbrook. “At the end of the day I have to continue to get back right and he has to get a feel for me because it’s been eight weeks.”
Marrone wouldn’t commit to Westbrook playing on Sunday but Bortles is preparing like he’ll have an additional deep threat against the Bengals.
“Physically I think it’s just let’s get as many throws as possible,” said Bortles. “Let’s try and feel some things out and these are the things he does well. We have to find a way to get on the same page with him with repetitions during practice. Before and after as well.”