JACKSONVILLE – Josh Oliver could see a bigger role soon.
That was the vibe from Head Coach Doug Marrone early this week, and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo on Thursday sent the same message regarding the rookie tight end.
Oliver, a third-round selection from San Jose State who missed the first six games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, played his first NFL game last Sunday. He didn't have a catch and he wasn't targeted.
Don't expect that to last.
"I think you'll see more of Josh this week," DeFilippo said as the Jaguars (3-4) prepared to play the New York Jets (1-5) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Oliver is a critical story around the Jaguars' offense because injuries have hurt the tight-end position in recent weeks, with starter James O'Shaughnessy out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Geoff Swaim out at least eight weeks after sustaining a concussion and ankle injury in Week 6 against New Orleans.
O'Shaughnessy had been the team's primary receiving target at tight end with 14 receptions for 153 yards in the first five games of the season. Jaguars tight ends have caught one pass for 16 yards in the last two games since O'Shaughnessy's injury.
Oliver, who had been out since sustaining a hamstring injury early in training camp, played 25 plays in a 27-17 victory over Cincinnati with no targets – and no Jaguars tight end caught a pass.
"I talked about the unknown [involving Oliver] last week, and I think some of the unknown was clarified for us," DeFilippo said. "He held his own and did well. He got knocked in the face a few times and knocked some people in the face a few times – and came back.
"It wasn't perfect. It's never going to be perfect. But I think he's the type of athlete that has the skillset to where the more playing time he gets, I think the better he's going to get."
DeFilippo on Thursday discussed the challenge of getting Oliver targets.
"You have a hard time as a coordinator to have too many plays when you're on the road in a must-win game to say, 'We're going to put too much on a guy we don't know much about,''' DeFilippo said. "Now, does that mean he wasn't in the second or third progression – or first progression some plays? No, he was. The ball just didn't go there.
"It's a comfort level. The more he plays and shows us what he can do, and separate and block at the point of attack, I think you'll see him more involved in the passing game."
The Jaguars' tight-end issues are perhaps one reason the team has struggled in the red zone this season, and DeFilippo also addressed that area when speaking to the media Thursday.
The Jaguars scored just one touchdown on six trips inside the Bengals' 20 this past week, with running back Leonard Fournette getting stopped on 4th-and-goal from the 1 after an impressive drive on the game's opening possession. The Jaguars also settled for four field goals by Josh Lambo when drives stalled inside the 20, with a two-yard pass from quarterback Gardner Minshew to wide receiver Keelan Cole early in the fourth quarter the team's lone red-zone touchdown.
The Jaguars this season have a league-low 33.3 percent percentage scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
"Obviously we have to be better in the red zone than we were," DeFilippo said. "It's a weird game, to have 300-some yards at halftime and six points. I've never been part of a game like that before. We moved the football well, obviously. But we need to do a better job in the red zone.
"I need to do a better helping our guys get open and we need to do a better job executing it, being more detailed and throwing the ball on time and all of those things. All of that starts with me and I'll do a better job this week at that."