Editor’s Note: This is a post from special contributor J. Neal Sims. He is an excellent writer and superb older brother. Neal writes from Burnsville, Minnesota. Please welcome him to the Black & Teal community.
One word: Hands.
The Jags lack a significant receiving threat to match the mega running game from MJD. This allows defenses to stack the box, go after the run and Blaine Gabbert. To do this, opposing defenses just have to play the receiving core tight. This is a big problem. Solution: Draft a big time wide receiver to open up the running game, and take the pressure off Gabbert.
Of the top four receiving threats Jacksonville had last year, not one of them had a catch rate above 60%. From best to worst: Dillard 58%, Thomas 48%, Lewis 46%, and Hill 45%.
When watching games last year, Jags receivers did not get separation from defenders, making already small windows at the pro level smaller for their young quarterback. When Gabbert did thread the needle, the receivers caught less than 50% of total attempts thrown their way. Sure, the opposing defenders played well, but as a receiver you are paid to shake those defenders, make yourself a target, and catch the ball.
Play calling can be blamed a little bit, since the average per catch is 9 yards or better for the group, but that also attributes to the 40 sacks delt to Gabbert. It takes too much time to run the deeper routes. The pass protection side of the offensive line can share the blame, but let’s be realistic, this is just a Mike Martz lite playbook. With an offensive line specialized in run blocking you have to shorten the routes and get some yards after the catch. You can not get YAC if you can not get separation, this is called “being covered”. You do not want your quarterback throwing to covered receivers.
Evans is a great addition for the season, but is more of a deep threat receiver; which fits the system, but not the need. He does run excellent routes, and let us hope that rubs off on the rest of the receiving core. The one thing he will do is open up the mid and underneath routes, since he is an established deep threat.
All of this brings me back to the #7 pick in the draft: a big time wide receiver.
Justin Blackmon Blackmon (if he does not go to St. Louis) would be ideal, but if not available, they have to take Michael Floyd. It does not matter if it will be considered a reach by McShay and Kiper, it is a necessity. Just look at what Calvin Johnson did for the Lions if you need a recent example of a big time wide receiver turning around a bad team.
Both are big red zone targets (Blackmon at 6’1″ and Floyd at 6’2″) and both are physically athletic to stretch that window for Gabbert to throw into. Blackmon is fast, but is considered more agile to shake defensive backs, and has the ability to go over the middle. Floyd has an amazing first step, understands coverages well, and has perhaps the best vision of any wide receiver in this upcoming class. Oh yeah, and they can catch, spectacularly even. That being the most important thing of all.
– J. Neal Sims
(Stats from ESPN.com and footballoutsiders.com)