Gene Smith's Weakness: Wide Receivers


Someone please make these guys an elite group of pass catchers! Source: Jaguars.com

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the Jags’ receivers have been subpar as of late.  And by as of late, I mean the past three years.  Not only have the Jaguars failed to draft or sign an elite wide receiver, nobody on the roster seems eager to even step up and become that man.  Since Gene Smith’s arrival in Jacksonville three years ago, we’ve had three different receivers claim the title of “top receiver.” One, Mike Sims-Walker, somehow managed to get his way back onto the roster this past season despite him, rightly, being cut at the end of 2010.  Mike Thomas (2010) and Marcedes Lewis (2011) are the other two who have been top targets for the Jaguars quarterbacks.

Can it really be that hard to sign an elite, true #1 receiver that can actually catch the ball?  Maybe it’s that a lot of them have character issues…(yes, you Chad Ochocinco and Co.)

But why has Gene Smith been so absent minded when it comes to the wide receivers?  (Our tight ends are actually pretty solid, and Marcedes Lewis should return to dominance in 2012)

In 2009, Gene Smith brought in Torry Holt to try and rejuvenate the flagging wide out corps.  Remember ’08?  Yeah, we were supposed to be moving away from that.  Yet we kept Troy Williamson (former 1st round bust).  But who else was there to catch balls from David Garrard? (Troy Williamson doesn’t count since he can’t catch) Nate Hughes, Mike Sims-Walker, and Jarett Dillard.

Torry, if you come back you could become our #2! Seriously, you could. Source: picturesdepot.com

We all know how it turned out.  MSW did a good job, earned himself some fame, and was supposed to be our go-to guy for years to come.  Torry Holt provided guidance for a mostly young pass catching group.  Troy Williamson somehow completed another season on an NFL roster.  Nate Hughes looked ok. Jarret Dillard showed flashes (again) and was injured (again).

We finished 19th in passing yards with the 24th ranked overall offense.

Cue 2010.  Gene Smith retains MSW (he’s becoming a big deal, remember?), Mike Thomas is moved into the lineup from kick return duties, and Jarett Dillard becomes injured before he makes catch.  To solve the loss of Torry Holt as guidance, Gene Smith brings in….nobody.  Instead he brings in rookie Tiquan Underwood, speedy (though often ineffective) wideout Jason Hill from San Francisco, and Kassim Osgood (mostly for his special teams abilities).

2010 ended with the Jags losing a spot in the playoffs by losing to the Colts (with Peyton Manning, remember), and sliding to an 8-8 finish.  The Jags fortunately punch their way into the top half of offenses at 15th yet somehow manage to become worse at passing, ranking 27th.

Gene’s got to get it right on his third try, right?  Unfortunately, 2011 proved to be little different.  While the Jags started a rookie quarterback (hence the safety valve TE becoming the top receiver on the team), the receivers failed to generate any form of buzz, confidence, or yards.  A large number of drops seemed to plague the receivers all season long.

So, who made up this corps of receivers? Jason Hill, Mike Thomas, Kassim Osgood, Jarett Dillard, all keep their jobs.  Smith brings in Chastin West, Taylor Price, Cecil Shorts, and rehires Mike Sims-Walker after cutting him in the offseason and after the Rams jettison him midseason.

Remember when MSW Could Catch? 2011 Didn't bring back those memories. Source: Winmyfantasyleague.com

See anybody who is regularly regarded as the best in the business?  I don’t either.

Even with Dillard, and his great potential, playing in 14 games (finally), the Jaguars somehow failed to even look like a pro receiving group on the field.  It was as if they were cursed.  The Jags finished 2011 as the worst ranked offense and the worst ranked passing attack.

So, is our problem because we keep trying to build through the draft?  Underwood, Shorts, West, and Price, all showed the ability to catch the ball.  But none of them showed brilliance.  Underwood is no longer with the team and I doubt Price and West will be kept around for next year.  Shorts has shown good route running and should develop into a stronger player, so he’ll probably get a shot in 2012.

So, Why doesn’t GM Gene go for big wide receivers from big, high producing offenses and schools?

Why doesn’t GM Gene bring in high-quality talent in free agency rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel of 1st round busts and returning to mediocre talent?  (Ernest Wilford, an Ex-Jaguars receiver turned tight end had been on the roster in 2009 and 2010)

Does he not know how to do his job?  No, he’s done very well at many other positions, including revitalizing the Jaguars’ defense in 2011.

Does he not know how to approach the wide receiver position?  Perhaps, but I doubt a general manager can’t just look at tape and understand who runs routes well and who doesn’t have balls bounce off his hands.

Does he not understand how important the position is?  If he doesn’t, he should after this year.

I can only conclude that his philosophy of going after small school, small name, small build players is not the right approach.  The tallest wide receiver on the team, Osgood, is mostly known for special teams.

Gene needs to recognize his weakness with the wide receiver position and allow some input from Mike Mularkey (who has worked with some very good receivers in Atlanta) and tweak his approach.  Obviously it’s not working.  It’s time for a change.  Maybe not in the general manager, but in how he approaches what is obviously a weak position for him.

I hope to death he realizes this before the draft, because Blaine Gabbert needs targets and he needs them fast.  I don’t care how good someone looks in practice (Jarett Dillard), if they can’t perform on the field then they aren’t worth keeping around.

In Gene We Trust, right?

- Luke N. Sims

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Tags: Cecil Shorts Chastin West Gene Smith Jacksonville Jaguars Jarett Dillard Jason Hill Kassim Osgood Mike Sims-walker Mike Thomas Peyton Manning Taylor Price Tiquan Underwood Torry Holt Troy Williamson

  • dlago89

    Just playing devil’s advocate (because our receivers have sucked for as long as I can remember): Who were supposed to sign in free agency? Most of the big name free agent receivers over the last three years haven’t worked out. This year is probably the best for free agent receivers in a long time. I agree he definitely could have snagged a late round receiver the last few years. Seeing the Steelers get Mike Wallace in the 3rd round and the Giants get Victor Cruz as an undrafted free agent is rough.

  • dlago89

    Just playing devil’s advocate (because our receivers have sucked for as long as I can remember): Who were supposed to sign in free agency? Most of the big name free agent receivers over the last three years haven’t worked out. This year is probably the best for free agent receivers in a long time. I agree he definitely could have snagged a late round receiver the last few years. Seeing the Steelers get Mike Wallace in the 3rd round and the Giants get Victor Cruz as an undrafted free agent is rough.

  • mattg1975

    If your a Mike Thomas fan, he will be holding at camp for kids ages 7-18 at JU. You can get more details at http://www.footballcamps.com.

  • mattg1975

    If your a Mike Thomas fan, he will be holding at camp for kids ages 7-18 at JU. You can get more details at http://www.footballcamps.com.

  • JackRohal

    @dlago89 I agree. Who is the 3rd best WR in Jaguar history? The Jags have not had a good WR since Jimmy Smith and Keenan.

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @JackRohal@dlago89

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @JackRohal@dlago89 WILLIE JACKSON, SON!!!

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @JackRohal@dlago89 I looked this up and sadly, the Jaguars third best receiver in franchise history is………………[drumroll]………Marcedes Lewis (I was shocked,too), with 2684 career yards. The next highest WR is Reggie Williams, who is #7 in franchise history with 2322 yards as a Jag. Yowza.

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/jax/career-receiving.htm

  • JackRohal

    @dlago89 I agree. Who is the 3rd best WR in Jaguar history? The Jags have not had a good WR since Jimmy Smith and Keenan.

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @JackRohal@dlago89

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @JackRohal@dlago89 WILLIE JACKSON, SON!!!

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @JackRohal@dlago89 I looked this up and sadly, the Jaguars third best receiver in franchise history is………………[drumroll]………Marcedes Lewis (I was shocked,too), with 2684 career yards. The next highest WR is Reggie Williams, who is #7 in franchise history with 2322 yards as a Jag. Yowza.

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/jax/career-receiving.htm

  • viral

    @dlago89 Ummmm He did say from the last 3 years. Not just last year.

  • viral

    @dlago89 Ummmm He did say from the last 3 years. Not just last year.

  • dlago89

    @viral@dlago89 Even over the last 3 years, how many free agent wide receivers that switched teams actually made an impact?

  • KeenanJ

    I don’t think it’s a weakness, I just think he had other things higher on his list of priorities the first three years of him being GM. He had to rebuild both lines and for the most part he has. He had to rebuild the secondary and again, for the most part, other than Rashean, he has. He had to bolster the linebackers and he has. He had to the opportunity to go and get what he believes can be our franchise QB and he took it. Now that he has set his foundation, he’ll begin to add the fine trimmings which I would consider as the wide receivers. If you think about it, it worked out beautifully because with the new CBA creating one of the best wide receiver class of free agents, he’ll have his pick of the litter. Considering what he did with the defense, I don’t think he’ll have a hard time attracting some of the top tier talent out there. I doubt it’ll appear to be much of a weakness after this offseason.

  • dlago89

    @viral@dlago89 Even over the last 3 years, how many free agent wide receivers that switched teams actually made an impact?

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @KeenanJ I’d also like to point out that you can make whatever arguments you like about WR’s not wanting to come to Jacksonville, not wanting to play w/ Gabbert, etc. the truth is, if the money’s right then they’ll put out the teal. And Gene proved last year (Poz, Session, Landry) that he’ll spend the cash to get who he wants.

  • KeenanJ

    I don’t think it’s a weakness, I just think he had other things higher on his list of priorities the first three years of him being GM. He had to rebuild both lines and for the most part he has. He had to rebuild the secondary and again, for the most part, other than Rashean, he has. He had to bolster the linebackers and he has. He had to the opportunity to go and get what he believes can be our franchise QB and he took it. Now that he has set his foundation, he’ll begin to add the fine trimmings which I would consider as the wide receivers. If you think about it, it worked out beautifully because with the new CBA creating one of the best wide receiver class of free agents, he’ll have his pick of the litter. Considering what he did with the defense, I don’t think he’ll have a hard time attracting some of the top tier talent out there. I doubt it’ll appear to be much of a weakness after this offseason.

  • LukeNSims

    @dlago89@viral I think Anquan Boldin did quite well. Derrick Mason has proved he can cause some stability for teams. Santonio Holmes has found the endzone a good bit since switching. I think those guys were top shelf talent. Sure, we sure weren’t going to go after Holmes, but the other two provide a lot of help to young receivers and are very well respected players.

  • LukeNSims

    @KeenanJ I hope to death you’re right and Gene Smith is as good as we all believe him to be.

    I trust him. PROVE ME WRONG GENE!

  • http://www.hoftalk.com/ thehof

    @KeenanJ I’d also like to point out that you can make whatever arguments you like about WR’s not wanting to come to Jacksonville, not wanting to play w/ Gabbert, etc. the truth is, if the money’s right then they’ll put out the teal. And Gene proved last year (Poz, Session, Landry) that he’ll spend the cash to get who he wants.

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

    @dlago89@viral I think Anquan Boldin did quite well. Derrick Mason has proved he can cause some stability for teams. Santonio Holmes has found the endzone a good bit since switching. I think those guys were top shelf talent. Sure, we sure weren’t going to go after Holmes, but the other two provide a lot of help to young receivers and are very well respected players.

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

    @KeenanJ I hope to death you’re right and Gene Smith is as good as we all believe him to be.

    I trust him. PROVE ME WRONG GENE!

  • dlago89

    @LukeNSims@viral Boldin was traded for (for 3 draft picks) and so was Santonio Holmes (after he got suspended for 4 games). Mason was a free agent this past offseason but was so underutilized this year that he retired. When teams get a good wide receiver they don’t let him go. You NEED to hit on draft picks to build a solid receiving core, and Gene hasn’t really. This offseason is going to be an exception with how many quality receivers are going to be available as free agents. But then again, if the receivers who are UFA are really that good, they’re going to get franchised.

  • dlago89

    @LukeNSims@viral Boldin was traded for (for 3 draft picks) and so was Santonio Holmes (after he got suspended for 4 games). Mason was a free agent this past offseason but was so underutilized this year that he retired. When teams get a good wide receiver they don’t let him go. You NEED to hit on draft picks to build a solid receiving core, and Gene hasn’t really. This offseason is going to be an exception with how many quality receivers are going to be available as free agents. But then again, if the receivers who are UFA are really that good, they’re going to get franchised.

  • KeenanJ

    @dlago89@LukeNSims@viral Not necessarily true in regards to the unrestricted free agent wide receivers getting tagged. There are a lot of good players that will be on the market such as: Vincent Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Robert Meachem and Marques Colston. With the franchise tag being 9.4 million for receivers this year, I doubt they all get tagged. There are also two other players in Brandon Lloyd and Pierre Garcon that is certainly won’t be tagged by their respective teams. So Gene will have a nice group of players to pursue when free agency opens up.

  • KeenanJ

    @dlago89@LukeNSims@viral Not necessarily true in regards to the unrestricted free agent wide receivers getting tagged. There are a lot of good players that will be on the market such as: Vincent Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Robert Meachem and Marques Colston. With the franchise tag being 9.4 million for receivers this year, I doubt they all get tagged. There are also two other players in Brandon Lloyd and Pierre Garcon that is certainly won’t be tagged by their respective teams. So Gene will have a nice group of players to pursue when free agency opens up.

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  • Ewdtrey

    To be fair, Troy Williamson was Harris guy. He was acquired in 2008.

  • Ewdtrey

    To be fair, Troy Williamson was a Harris guy. He was acquired in 2008.

  • Ewdtrey

    To be fair, Troy Williamson was Harris guy. He was acquired in 2008.

  • Ewdtrey

    To be fair, Troy Williamson was a Harris guy. He was acquired in 2008.

  • LukeNSims

    @Ewdtrey Quite right. Corrected.

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

    @Ewdtrey Quite right. Corrected.

  • KeenanJ

    @thehof I think Gene has a knack for offering reasonable deals and does a good job at presenting selling points to a potential free agent. He could gurantee a receiver a starting position and almost guranteed one on ones most of the time with MJD in the backfield. That’s a bad situation to be in for any prospect WR free agents he might attempt to lure here. You’re right, if Gene likes you enough, he’ll pay you handsomely.

  • KeenanJ

    @LukeNSims I personally believe that our trust is well placed. While it’s fair to not agree with every decision he makes, no one can argue that Gene isn’t doing all in his power to make the Jaguars a better team.

  • KeenanJ

    @thehof I think Gene has a knack for offering reasonable deals and does a good job at presenting selling points to a potential free agent. He could gurantee a receiver a starting position and almost guranteed one on ones most of the time with MJD in the backfield. That’s a bad situation to be in for any prospect WR free agents he might attempt to lure here. You’re right, if Gene likes you enough, he’ll pay you handsomely.

  • KeenanJ

    @LukeNSims I personally believe that our trust is well placed. While it’s fair to not agree with every decision he makes, no one can argue that Gene isn’t doing all in his power to make the Jaguars a better team.

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