Training Camp Battles; Wide Receiver
By David Johns
OTAs have come and gone. Mini-camps are up next. You know what happens after mini-camp. Yes, training camp occurs in July. Some say that this is the lull of the offseason. I have to disagree. For some players, they already have a spot on the roster. For others this is their prime opportunity to show the coaching staff what they are made of.
One of the Jaguars’ main weak spots last season was wide receiver. I have written much on this topic, and I can’t seem to turn away from the subject. So much roster overhaul has happened at this position, it’s almost as if it’s made up of completely new faces altogether.
The top spots are already locked up. We’re just all kind of waiting to see what will happen if and when Justin Blackmon is suspended. We do know that Laurent Robinson will serve as the #2, and the #1 once Blackmon’s punishment occurs. Mike Thomas has played both inside and outside, and even though he is more effective in the slot, he can play as the second receiver.
Could the impending Blackmon suspension cause the Jags to carry six receivers? It’s a possibility. All of a sudden, even more spots have opened up than originally intended.
Obviously we signed Lee Evans in the offseason. It’s yet to be seen what he’s got left. Either way he’s on the tail end of his career. I don’t believe that the UDFA receivers we brought in are anything more than camp bodies unless one of them steps up during preseason and shines.
So we’re looking at between 2-3 spots at this position to be wide open. The competition will be fierce and I’m a firm believer that competition brings out the best in everyone. Let’s take a look at three young receivers that were on last year’s roster who I believe could fill those last few spots.
Chastin West was a UDFA signed by the Green Bay Packers in 2010, and spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. He led the Packers in receiving in the 2011 preseason with 153 yards on 8 receptions. He was then signed to the Jaguars active roster in September of last year. He caught two touchdowns last year which is impressive considering how anemic our passing offense was. I believe that Mr. Sims and I both agree that he and Gabbert had some chemistry at times last season, and if West has a good training camp he could push Evans for a spot.
The next two players I will highlight were unheralded free agents signing during the 2011 season. They both have had similiar careers. Brian Robiskie was taken in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft by the Cleveland Browns, and Taylor Price was taken in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft by the New England Patriots.
Robiskie played in 31 games for the Browns with 14 starts. He caught 39 balls for 441 yards with 3 touchdowns. Price appeared in 4 games over 2 seasons for the Pats. Neither one panned out for various reasons. Robiskie suffered from the lack of a passing offense in Cleveland while Price just kind of got lost in the mix in New England. Robiskie came from a big time program at Ohio State while Price hails from small school program Ohio University where he was the all time leader in career receptions (149), single game receptions (14), and tied the school record for TD receptions in a game (3).
A few weeks ago, I mentioned how Gene Smith likes to pick undiscovered talent from other teams and squeeze out any potential that may have gone overlooked. Some risks have paid off. Others have been paid for. I for one believe there is potential there in all three of these young receivers and I hope at least one of them prove me right.
-David R. Johns