JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL doesn’t hand out end of the season awards for positions coaches but if they did Keenan McCardell would certainly be a finalist. In his first season as the Jaguars wide receivers coach, McCardell has seen the top three pass catchers on the depth chart all go down with a injury.
On the Jaguars first offensive possession of the season, Allen Robinson was lost for the year with a ACL injury. In week 10 against San Diego, Allen Hurns injured his ankle and missed the next five games. Early in last Sunday’s blowout win over the Texas, Marqise Lee also went down with an ankle injury.
There aren’t many teams that could survive without their top three receivers. That left quarterback Blake Bortles with two un-drafted free agents and a fourth round draft pick as his top three targets.
“It’s been fun but I’ve gotten some gray hairs though,” said McCardell after Wednesday’s practice. “Coming in you have Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Rashad Greene and Shane Wynn. I had a veteran group and now we have three first-year guys that were playing on Sunday.”
The trio of Keelan Cole, Jaydon Mickens and Dede Westbrook combined for 268 yards receiving and three touchdowns in the win over Houston. After struggling to get adjusted to the NFL earlier this season the three “young guys” are finding their groove and they say McCardell is the reason why.
“You can’t miss anything little with him,” said Cole who had a career high 186-yards receiving against the Texans. “Whether it’s one little cut, or if he says put your toe on the white line that’s exactly what he expects when you’re running your route. Or it’s not going to be a good route to him.”
As the second leading receiver in Jaguars franchise history with 499 receptions and 6,393 yards, McCardell brings instant credibility to the Jaguars wide receiver meeting room. With Hurns returning to the practice field on Wednesday, McCardell got a de facto teachers assistant of pass catching to aid in the development of the younger receivers. Lee is also expected to return by the playoffs and no matter who is in or out of the lineup the standard hasn’t changed according to McCardell.
“These guys have bought in and I give those guys a lot of credit. They’ve bought in and given me everything that I want every day on the practice field. They’ve earned it on the practice field.”