When Mike Mularkey became head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars we saw talent come to the Jaguars like we haven’t seen in a long, long time. Coaching was a big part of that talent influx. With Mularkey came Bob Bratkowski and Jerry Sullivan. Sullivan, a very gifted receivers coach, looked like he had his work cut out for him when he got to Jacksonville. Even while the season flounders, though, his unit is a bright spot for the Jaguars.
While the improved play of Chad Henne can be pointed to for the explosion of offensive production for the Jaguars, getting the ball to some playmakers has been made easier with much better route running and plays on the ball by the receivers. Even before Henne came in and started lighting things up, Cecil Shorts III was on pace to be the first 1,000 yard receiver for the team since 2005. Justin Blackmon (definitely still a work in progress) had a monster 236 yard day on only seven receptions in week 11. That isn’t just pure ability, that’s also the ability to exploit weakness that he is learning at the pro level.
Sullivan should be credited with this development.
Last season Shorts was a fourth round disappointment with only two catches. Now he’s the team leader in receptions (43), receiving touchdowns (7), and yards (824). The man is becoming the go-to guy and it has happened in the form of a major jump in his sophomore year. So much for a slump!
While the coaching doesn’t affect the play calling, Sullivan has also managed to get his receivers more involved even when the play isn’t going their way. You won’t find a Randy Moss-esque lack of effort from his players. Kevin Elliott is a good example of this. While Elliott (seven receptions, 70 yards) isn’t a game changing wide receiver, the effort he puts in when he’s on the field is really something. Try and keep your eye on him when the play is going on. He’s still young and knows that the only way he’s staying with this team next year is if he puts in the work. His effort isn’t yielding much now, but I guarantee that we’re seeing what we should expect from a player who knows he can grow under Sullivan. Keep your eye on him when he’s on the field. Who cares if he doesn’t pan out, we’re getting good effort out of our receivers because they buy into their coach.
With all of the potential turmoil that the offseason may bring, we need to look past the general manager and head coach. They both may be fired after the season, but we need to keep in mind that on the staff are some really good position coaches. They may not all get results (Joe Cullen) but some do. Sullivan needs to be recognized for his work and if he walks if the Jags cut Mularkey, then that should be a strong con for getting rid of the head coach. This is the most success a receiving unit has had in Jacksonville in a long time.
No matter what happens this offseason, it’s nice to know that some of our receivers were able to benefit from the good coaching.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims