Remember 2010 Marcedes Lewis? The guy who had 58 receptions for 700 yards and 10 TDs on his way to his first and only pro bowl, remember him? Well we still have that guy on the team. He’s only two seasons removed from that kind of production. When the new regime was set in place, Caldwell referred to Lewis as a “core player.” The undisputed starting tight end for the Jacksonville Jaguars will have to return to his 2010 production in order to still be considered a “core” player.
Zach Miller didn’t pan out. Zach Potter was not tendered and I believe he recently signed on with the St. Louis Rams. That means that the only set in stone player at this group is Marcedes Lewis. Now, there’s not the kind of talent within this group as say the wide receivers. There is more opportunity here for players to step up and snag some back up positions though. So let’s take a look at this somewhat unknown group shall we?
- Marcedes Lewis: The 28th overall pick in the 2006 draft has been a mainstay and one of the only constants for the Jaguars over the years. He will be counted on to not just return to 2010 form, but to be a leader in the locker room. I’m sure you’ve heard about how he won’t have to play “tackle” anymore due to Luke Joeckel taking up the right side. It makes sense and it’s a good point. Hopefully with this new offense and with improved offensive line play, Lewis will become somewhat of a security blanket that young quarterbacks so desperately need. Lewis is a big target. The Jaguars don’t need to Lewis to be some kind of explosive playmaker. The Jaguars need Lewis to become a reliable red zone target. Lewis just needs to be solid. A very underrated aspect of Lewis’ game (let the eye rolling begin) is his blocking ability. He really is a punishing blocker. What I’m saying is, you can’t pass the ball every single play and sometimes tight ends will need to be kept in to neutralize a pass rush, I don’t care how good your right tackle is. It’s nice to know that Lewis can do that. At the same time, it’s also nice to know that he won’t have to be kept in to block every single play and he’ll actually be able to go out and help the passing game.
- Matt Veldman: One of my favorite UDFAs last season, Veldman showed a lot of promise in training camp and the preseason games before (you guessed it) hitting I.R. before the regular season even began. He has nice size at 6’7 and 255 lbs.. He has good hands, and I believe he’s a leading candidate to be the second tight end.
- Allen Reisner: He’s a 2011 UDFA who has spent most of his time with the Minnesota Vikings before being picked up off waivers by the Jaguars in December of last year. More of a blocking tight end, Reisner will have to show a lot in camp to be noticed.
- Brett Brackett: Brackett came into the league as a UDFA in 2011 with the Miami Dolphins. The highlight of his career so far came with the Philadelphia Eagles when he was believed to be able to compete with Clay Harbor for back up duties. This is Brackett’s second go-round with Jacksonville, his first coming in 2011. He spent 3 days on the practice squad. Anyways, after being released during final cuts in Philly, he signed with Jacksonville in September of last year. Everything was going so well too until he hurt his knee during his first day of practice and (guess) hit I.R..
- Isaiah Stanback: Taken in the 4th round of the 2007 draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Stanback played quarterback in college but was switched to wide receiver/kick returner during his 3 year stint in Jerry-land. While in Dallas, he appeared in a handful of games, never making an impact. Since being released by Dallas in 2009, Stanback has bounced around the league, having played for the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants. He appeared in games for both New England and Seattle. Late last year, he was signed to the Jaguars’ practice squad and promoted to the active roster in December. His leg up on the rest of the competition: he’s the only tight end on the current roster other than Lewis to have actually played in a NFL game.
- Ryan Otten: One of my favorite UDFA signings this year, Otten comes from San Diego State. At his pro day, he ran his 40 in the 4.6 range, had 17 reps on the bench press, and a 33 inch vertical. He was also one of Rob Rang’s “Diamonds in the Rough” for those of you who are keeping up. He’s big and athletic with good hands and had a great junior campaign with 52 receptions, 739 yards and 5 TDs. Defenses, however, began locking down on him during his senior year and he finished with only 47 catches which was still good for 4th on the team. He’s the only tight end in FBS history to go over 100 yards receiving in 3 different games and he averaged 15.8 yards per grab. This is a very intriguing young player the Jaguars have.
- Kyler Reed: Another UDFA Caldwell brought in, Reed ran a 4.43 at his pro day. He played at Nebraska which was more of a run based offense so he doesn’t have eye-popping numbers but he has good size at 6’3 230 lbs. to go with his speed and is a young, athletic prospect with a lot of potential. The passing game at Nebraska was more of a complement to their top-notch rushing attack, so there’s really no telling what Reed is truly capable of.
The pool of talent among the tight ends is fairly underwhelming. The most we can try to look at when analyzing the tight ends is how Lewis will be deployed within the system, and just how productive will he be? After Lewis, it’s all up in the air. Once again, I really like the talent Caldwell brought in via collegiate free agency in Otten and Reed, and I want to see if Veldman is completely healthy and if he can build on the progress that he started last year.
Grazing through this group, I began to wonder if we have bigger plans for the tight end position. I’m not too familiar with how Fisch’s offense will work, especially with him recently saying in an interview that his offense is a mix of concepts and ideas picked up through the years at different stops in his career. I know that the en vogue thing to do now is to try to get multiple tight ends involved and create all kinds of mismatches and havoc on the field, but I don’t see Fisch doing this simply based on the personnel. What I can see is Fisch getting Lewis more involved in the passing game and that in itself is exciting. Hopefully one of these younger players will step up in the meantime and provide the position with some kind of quality depth, that way the Jaguars can stop scraping the bottom of the barrel if the position gets a bit thin. Thankfully Lewis has at the very least been an extremely durable player during his tenure, but it would be nice to see us develop a second tight end.
Overall this position is top-heavy. It’s Lewis at the very top, then a whole bunch of unknowns scraping and fighting for a back up gig.
-David R. Johns