Justin Blackmon didn’t have the biggest impact against the Minnesota Vikings in week one. He was definitely a viable target for quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but he wasn’t the kind of impact player that fans want.
While it’s a risk, rookie wide receivers generally aren’t as good as A.J. Green and Randy Moss make it seem. There is a lot of transition and speed change going from the college level to the NFL. Even players from big programs like Oklahoma State don’t have the same level of competition in college that they will have in the big leagues.
While Blackmon’s three catches for 24 yards is a welcome difference from the terrible play of the receivers last year, it wasn’t the kind of impact that the team wanted from their first round pick. Brad Barrell argues that despite Blackmon’s ability, his debut was a letdown and one of the bad things to take away from the Vikings game. I’m inclined to agree.
So, can he have the impact that we desire against the Houston Texans? At first glance it looks like there won’t be much hope for the Jags’ receiving corps. To be honest, it really doesn’t look bright. Fortunately, Blackmon is the kind of physical receiver that can battle with the Texans’ excellent corners and (if he wins) he could really have an impact.
I’m not predicting a 100 yard game for the receiver, but expect him to make a play or two. Whether that play is as good or important as the Cecil Shorts catch in week one is still to be decided, but he will certainly make an effort. This isn’t the kind of player that enjoys being limited by the defense. He wants to set the pace and set the way the game is going to be played. The battle against whichever corner lines up against him will be for who has control over that side of the field. I don’t expect it to be all Texans all the time, but I do think there is a more probable chance for them to take control of Blackmon from the onset.
Look for a struggle, but don’t be shocked if he fades later in the game. To combat this the Jags need to get him involved early an often. Whether that’s targeting Blackmon early or ensuring his is a crucial part in blocking or drawing coverage, having Blackmon be an active part of the offense early will demand attention to his fight for control on the outside. If this opens up opportunities for him or for Laurent Robinson, it’s all good for the Jags offense.
This relies, to an extent, on the play calling from OC Bob Bratkowski. Based on what we saw in the preseason and training camp though, it appears that Bratkowski and Mularkey have an offense that can make Blackmon a weapon in the short to mid-range passing game. While that offensive scheming will be important, it also relies on Blackmon playing his part and making sure he isn’t being manhandled.
While he may not end up leading the team in receptions, Blackmon should bounce back from what was an underwhelming pro debut. I expect it, but it really comes down to how much fight he has in him early in the game. To have a bigger impact in the game he can’t allow himself to be limited by the corner.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims