JACKSONVILLE – Talk about addressing needs, and talk about doing so boldly.
The Jaguars not only did just that at wide receiver Friday, they did so in a big way all over the offense on Day Two of the 2014 NFL Draft – bigger and bolder than even they thought possible.
Marqise Lee. Allen Robinson.
To hear Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell, Head Coach Gus Bradley and wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan tell it following a whirlwind, selection-packed Friday evening, the Jaguars entered the night trying to decide between those two players and a few other receivers.
“When we met with the coaches we were thinking about one of the top receivers we were going to get; both of these two guys were in our top six,” Caldwell said.
They figured they would maybe get one, but instead and to their surprise, they got both. First, they selected Lee – a wide receiver from Southern California – with the seventh selection of the second round, the No. 39 selection overall.
They then traded back into the second round to select Robinson – a wide receiver from Penn State – with the No. 61 overall selection, the 29th selection of the second round.
One night, two potential impact receivers …
And without question, a key night for the Jaguars’ future at the position.
“They were neck and neck,” Caldwell said moments after the Robinson selection. “We never imagined we’d go back-to-back receivers because we didn’t think we’d have the opportunity to do it.”
Caldwell moments later provided further insight into the
Blackmon, a wide receiver and the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, served a four-game NFL suspension to start last season, then missed the final eight games on an indefinite league-mandated suspension that he still is serving. Caldwell had said last Friday he would be relatively surprised if Blackmon played for the Jaguars in 2014.
Caldwell was asked Friday if drafting Robinson and Lee cemented Blackmon’s status.
“I think we’ve covered that and moved on for this year,” Caldwell said, adding that the team can’t release Blackmon.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said of Blackmon, “We haven’t heard much and it doesn’t sound like it’s going in the right direction.”
“There’s probably a little emptiness that there’s some unknowns there and you don’t know how it’s working out,” Bradley said. “I don’t want to shut my feelings off. I was hoping it would be better than where it’s going but we’ll see. Just like Dave said, we can’t count on him.”
Caldwell had said throughout the offseason the Jaguars were treating Blackmon as a luxury, and that the team would draft as if he would not be available. That meant the team likely needed to find two wide receivers in the draft who could contribute immediately, and after drafting Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles No. 3 overall, Bradley said he and Sullivan spent time watching both Lee and Robinson.
“We watched both those receivers and we were trying to decide between which two,” Bradley said. “It was one of those type deals. What happens if they’re both there, then what?”
Said Sullivan, “I thought we would be fortunate to get one of these guys, not both of them.”
But it’s also a group that’s stronger as of Friday night/Saturday morning, and that was a key objective as the draft approached this week.
Robinson, a former basketball player, ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. While that’s not eye-catching for a receiver, he is an athletic, physical player the Jaguars believe can outmuscle defenders with the ball in the air and be effective after the catch. Caldwell said Robinson can play all three receiver positions, and is a true ‘X’ receiver because of his size.
“This is a big target and big targets are good in this league,” Caldwell said.
Lee brings athleticism and run-after-the-catch ability, too.
“I feel better now at the wide receiver spot,” Bradley said. “We’ll see what happens with these guys. You hear hearsay about Marqise that he should have been a first-round pick, possibility of being a top wide receiver, but I just feel like it’s better. I love that they’re both really competitive and great people.
“Marqise was the bell cow to the room there (at Southern California) and that’s what Allen was at Penn State. So to have two strong personalities like that come in it’s going to add quite a bit to our room.”
If the wide receiver room got significant better early Friday night, the offensive line got deeper and better late. That was when the Jaguars traded a fourth- and sixth-round selection to the New England Patriots to move into the third round and select University of Miami guard Brandon Linder.
The Linder selection capped a whirlwind day in which Caldwell executed two draft-day trades. He had been specific before the draft that trading in either direction was a real possibility.
As it turned out, he was very serious, and by the end of the night, a couple of critical positions got a lot deeper in a hurry on a hectic Friday at EverBank Field.