Ace Sanders has struggled to stay relevant during his two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, leaving him the likely odd man out as the Jags gear up for and look toward the 2015 season.
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Sanders is a return specialist wide receiver whose speciality seems to be lacking after given chances to make returning punts a near full time job. Sanders has the same number of receptions and returns (57) over his two years, but with mediocrity in the return game and a severe decline in offensive production (484 yards in 2013 to 55 in 2014), Sanders isn’t cutting it.
In Fox’s analysis of the Jags’ special teams, they note that Sanders’ return average of 7.1 is only good enough for 12th in the AFC and 22nd in the league. For being drafted in the fourth round as someone who could break one open at any time, that’s exactly what the Jaguars don’t want. Mediocrity is not what Sanders was brought in to do. He was brought in to end a return-TD drought stretching back to 2007. With a long of just 23 yards, it’s clear he is not hitting home runs.
Sanders was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season and he was quickly surpassed by young wide receivers like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee. The logjam at receiver is most threatening to Sanders whose lack of offensive production in 2014 and his continued mediocrity in the return game will loom over any decisions at those positions this offseason.
Personally, it seems that the Jags can do without Sanders at this point in their rebuild. H was an intriguing option his rookie season, but without showing an ability to build off of his first year and with better prospects emerging, it may be time for GM Dave Cadwell to move on.
Sanders is a great example of Caldwell taking a shot on a player who could hit a home run for the team. This fourth round swing and (apparent) miss is a great example of the abrupt departure away from former GM Gene Smith’s “base hit” approach to drafting. If Sanders isn’t back in his third season (which is certainly possible) or if he is, his tenure with the Jags serves as a decent indicator of the way the Jags want to build going forward.