Can Jaguars' wide receivers step up this year?

Keenan McCardell trying to mold receiving corps

By Cole Pepper - Sports anchor/reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If there is one position group where the Jaguars have the most looming questions it's at wide receiver. Last year was plagued by injuries, drops and general underperformance.

The biggest injury was to Marqise Lee, who was not only the veteran of the group but also expected to be the Jaguars leading receiver last year. Instead, a preseason knee injury ended his season. The Jaguars coaches are hoping Lee can return to the field in the preseason.

“He’s coming along," said Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell. "He’s right on schedule, and we’ll see what happens when it comes to training camp. He’s probably a couple of weeks into training camp before he’ll be back, but he’s right on line.”

Lee has a slightly different expectation. He said he wants to make sure he's ready to return rather than rushing onto the field.

"Rehab is great. I am doing very well. I am on schedule, a little bit ahead. But I’m surely taking my time. I have no worries," Lee said. "I have talked to specifically dealt with an ACL. I had a little bit more than that. I know my time frame is a little bit different from them. I do get the ins and outs as far as feeling comfortable and how long it’s going to take to feel comfortable during the process. I’m still taking my time. I’m feeling great, running great, sprinting great. I don’t have any issues.”

Aside from Lee, there is Dede Westbrook, who has missed several sessions of the voluntary OTAs. Westbrook enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, leading the Jaguars in receptions and receiving yards. There is Keelan Cole, who struggled in his second season, perhaps a victim of being forced into a bigger role after Lee's injury.

"People tend to game plan you now when you’ve had some success," McCardell said. "How do you bounce back and come back and game plan for them?  How do you prepare mentally? I think this offseason has been really good for him. He’s refocused and understands that, ‘I’ve had some success. Guys tend to prepare for me a little bit different than when I was just a guy that nobody knows.’ Now you are known. People prepare for you now."

The Jaguars will also expect improvement from last year's second-round pick D.J. Chark. The former LSU receiver caught just 14 passes as a rookie. 

"I’ve seen him grow as a football player," McCardell said. "Things start to slow down for you in your second year. Being in your first year is like a tornado, everything is all the same, it sounds the same. Now he can pick and choose how to run routes, how to decipher defenses and stuff like that, which will make his game improve just understanding defenses in his second year."

The Jaguars also brought in Terrelle Pryor this week. Pryor had a 1,000-yard season in 2016 with the Browns and is looking to recapture his previous form.

"I think he just wants an opportunity. That’s the biggest thing, to show people that his 1,000-yard season wasn’t a fluke and he still can play," McCardell said. "I think if I was a player, or any player, they just want an opportunity to show people that they still can play.”

Pryor said Tuesday that there were several reasons he signed with the Jaguars. McCardell's presence and the acquisition of Nick Foles were both enticing, but the big reason was the man at the top of the Jaguars football operations.

"One of the biggest things was coach Coughlin," Pryor said. "I remember working out for him back in 2015. I was excited. I worked out for him and he didn't sign me, then I was kind of bummed out. This is round two, so hopefully I can get acclimated and make him proud."

 

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