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2017 offseason: Under the radar, offense

Posted Jul 14, 2017

With 12 days remaining until Jaguars veterans report, senior writer John Oehser examines three offensive players who are under the radar as 2017 Training Camp begins


JACKSONVILLE – Twelve days remain until veterans report for Jaguars 2017 Training Camp.

A slew of storylines will be obvious at that time – from the continuing development of quarterback Blake Bortles, to the first training camp under Head Coach Doug Marrone to the development of young defensive players such as Myles Jack and Dante Fowler Jr.

But those are far from the only Jaguars storylines, and the season nearly as much by several under-the-radar players on both offense and defense.

Offensively, this team will be keyed by players such as Bortles, rookie Leonard Fournette and wide receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee. They are high-profile playmakers who must be productive this season for the team to improve from last season’s 3-13 record.

But other, lesser-discussed players are key to an offense that expects to be more consistent in Nathaniel Hackett’s first full season as coordinator.

Here are three under-the-radar offensive players to watch as ’17 training camp approaches:

*Mychel Rivera, tight end. The Jaguars made headlines in 2017 free agency with three major defensive signings: end Calais Campbell, safety Barry Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye. Those moves overshadowed all else in March, but the signing of Rivera just after free-agency’s first wave shouldn’t be overlooked. And while Rivera doesn’t have the name recognition of last year’s move tight end – since-traded Julius Thomas – the Jaguars like Rivera’s production and versatility. A sixth-round selection by Oakland in the 2013 NFL Draft, Rivera caught 146 passes for 1,413 yards and 10 touchdowns in four seasons with the Raiders with careers highs of 58 receptions for 534 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. Those aren’t Pro Bowl numbers, but they’re enough to show Rivera is a capable receiving tight end who can also block. His presence should allow the Jaguars versatility when they want to play the two-tight end formations that keep an offense balanced.

*Allen Hurns, wide receiver. Hurns? Under the radar? That’s an eyebrow-raiser for a player who caught 16 touchdown passes in his first two NFL seasons. But after a 10-touchdown, 1,031-yard season in 2015, injuries and overall offensive struggles limited Hurns to 35 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdowns last season. Hurns missed the last five games of the 2016 season with a hamstring injury, and Lee continued to emerge as a playmaker at the position during that time. Robinson figures to remain a go-to player, and Lee and rookie Dede Westbrook both possess big-play speed. But Hurns’ reliability and consistency has a way of forcing itself into the lineup, and the guess here is Hurns finds a way of being a big factor in what the team needs to be a resurgent passing game in 2017.

*Chris Ivory, running back. The selection of Fournette at No. 4 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft has made it easy for some to overlook Ivory this offseason. That would be a mistake because the veteran could play a bigger role than many observers believe. One reason is that as much as the Jaguars are going to run this season, they need production from more than one running back. Another reason is that Ivory – a 1,000-yard rusher for the New York Jets in 2015 – is a better runner than his statistics showed in his 432-yard, three-touchdown season. Ivory’s punishing style figures to be a strong complement to Fournette, and also figures to fit well into the power-running game the Jaguars want to establish under Marrone.

 

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