Diagnosing 2-14: Wide Receivers


Over the next week or so we will be going through the Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 roster to try and find the problems that led to the franchise’s worst-ever record: 2-14.  There were so many problems with this team that it goes well beyond one article. So, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll take it one position at a time.

Now: wide receiver.

Here are the other parts of the series: QB, OL

Can’t name this player based on his number?  Don’t worry, it’s because his play didn’t really make him worth remembering.  He was part of the revolving door at wide receiver.  Source: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars had a terrible year with their receivers.  It seemed that everyone who could get injured did.  Justin Blackmon was the lone receiver to make it through the entire season with the team, not missing a single game.  Whether it was trading Mike Thomas to the Detroit Lions, putting Laurent Robinson on IR, or ending Cecil Shorts III’s quest for 1,000 yards, there was so much bad that it was shocking to see some good come out of.

Following the 2011 season the Jaguars were considered to have a terrible receiving corps.  Lee Evans was brought in to compete, Robinson was signed to a big contract, and the team traded up to draft Blackmon.  The team knew it needed help and took steps to get it.  Blackmon is the only one of the three who made an impact.  Second-year man Shorts was able to step up and provide the complement to Blackmon.

But how did the team do besides Shorts and Blackmon?  Why was there a revolving door at slot receiver and below?  That’s something the numbers will show us.

2-14 is not a record a good team having a bad year gets.  2-14 is a record that a bad team deserves.  Make no mistake, the 2012 Jaguars were bad.  But why could the team do so much better at wide receiver but worse overall?  The 2011 Jaguars finished 5-11 without the support of decent pass catchers. Even the Arizona Cardinals managed a better record than the Jags and Larry Fitzgerald (Larry Fitzgerald!!!) only had 798 yards.

Unfortunately, wide receivers just don’t do enough to change a team from bad to good.  You could have Jerry Rice and Cris Carter on the same team but without a decent quarterback and a running game to balance the offense, it won’t do that much.  The value that a wide receiver offers is dependent on other variables.

But that shouldn’t stop them from contributing.

The wide receivers had their work cut out for them with a struggling starting quarterback and a second-string quarterback who was inconsistent.  Still, the Jags wide receivers contributed 2,690 of the 3,746 total passing yards for the Jaguars in 2012.  A big problem for the Jaguars was getting open.  This put a strain on the passing game and forced a lot of checkdowns to running backs.

The majority of the passes to wide receivers went the way of Shorts and Blackmon.  Combined, the two accounted for 1,844 yards (49% of the passing output) on 119 receptions.  Unfortunately, Shorts and Blackmon were not the best at hanging onto the ball.  Shorts had the sixth highest drop rate in the NFL in dropping 14.06% of catchable balls.  Blackmon wasn’t much better, dropping 11.11% of catchable balls.  The other receivers were able to post such minute contributions that their drop rate is blown out of proportion.  Only Jordan Shipley had consistent hands (8% drop rate) but was with the team for only six games.  He still managed to post 244 yards and a healthy 10.6 yards per catch.

Blackmon came into his own later in the season but could still be better.  Source: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Shipley was a part of the revolving door at wide receiver.

Whether it was Kevin Elliott, Quan Cosby, Michael Spurlock, or Mike Thomas, nobody stuck as that third or fourth guy on the roster.  If Robinson had been healthy this may not have been the case, but as it was there was nobody to step up until Shipley emerged.  The lack of depth was a problem for the Jaguars.

On top of having double digit drop rates, Shorts and Blackmon were unable to gain separation from defensive backs consistently.  This allowed defenses to sell out against the run, even if there was a third or fourth receiver.  The receivers further down the depth chart did not have enough experience or playing time to prove to be a viable threat to the defense either.  In short, Blackmon and Shorts didn’t do enough during the 2012 season.

Randy Moss is still considered good if only because he is a distraction.  A major part of being a wide receiver is setting up the run.  Without demanding double teams or schematic shifts, the Jags’ receiving corps was not doing a crucial its job.  Without Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield, it was even worse.

Yet the receiving corps is generally considered a bright spot for the 2012 Jags.  They didn’t do enough.  It looks to be on the rise, fortunately, but teams that finish 2-14 need superb play from their receivers if they don’t want to finish that badly again.

We’ll look at the tight ends next while we diagnose the 2-14 Jaguars’ season.

– Luke N. Sims

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