SHORTS EARNS ROLE
Cecil Shorts is staying on the outside.
Shorts, the second-year veteran who has emerged as the Jaguars' most productive wide receiver in the last two games, will remain at the team's "X" receiver position on the outside, Head Coach Mike Mularkey said Wednesday.
Mularkey said how the Jaguars lineup elsewhere will be decided this week, with rookie Justin Blackmon, veteran Laurent Robinson, rookie Kevin Elliott and veteran Micheal Spurlock all possibilities to move inside to the "slot" position.
"We're going to find that out this week," Mularkey said as the Jaguars (1-6) prepared to play the Detroit Lions (3-4) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. "We're going to work a couple of guys in there. We're going to work all five and see which one is the best for us."
Robinson, who signed as a free agent before the season, started the season at the X, but missed the last three games with a concussion. He practiced Wednesday, but Mularkey said even if Robinson is full go Shorts will remain outside.
"We're going to see how practice goes this week," Robinson said. "You'll have to talk to them about how my role is going to be coming back. I'm just trying to get through this week with no symptoms, no headaches and just trying to get back to my old self. . . .
"I'm anxious. It's been a frustrating year for me so far, having the concussions and not being out there with my teammates to help us win. The passing game's rolling. I'm excited to get back out there."
Robinson heard of the Jaguars' decision to trade Mike Thomas Tuesday, and called it, "shocking."
"He was here yesterday, gone today – it's a cold world," Robinson said.
But while many Jaguars players on Wednesday expressed a similar feeling – that they were surprised to learn the veteran wide receiver had been traded to Detroit – Mularkey said the circumstances dictated a move that could be good for the player.
"I talked to Mike Thomas last night after the trade was made official, the signing of it," Mularkey said. "I talked to him about it being a fresh start for him. It will give some of our younger guys a chance to maybe play a bigger role, and that's what I said to the team this morning: 'We need some guys to step up and play a little better than they have in the last couple of weeks.'''
Thomas, a fourth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, caught 171 passes for 1,768 yards and six touchdowns for the Jaguars, starting 31 games. He led the team in receptions in 2010 and 2011, but had 13 receptions for 80 yards this season. In recent weeks, with the emergence of Shorts, he had moved into a reduced role offensively. He also had been moved into a backup kick and punt return role after starting the season as the return specialist.
Mularkey on Wednesday said Shorts' development along with Robinson returning and Elliott showing potential contributed to the timing of the trade.
And while Mularkey acknowledged that Thomas' knowledge of the Jaguars' offense could benefit the Lions this week, the head coach said that factor shouldn't be significant.
"I'm sure he's going to fill them full of information but I think it's very hard to take it and do anything with it," Mularkey said, while Shorts added, "I'm sure he can go over there and tell them stuff, but we still have to execute. If we do our job we will be fine, it's all on us. "
The Jaguars on Wednesday were awarded wide receiver Anthony Armstrong on waivers from Miami.
Armstrong, who originally signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2008, has spent time with Miami and Washington in the NFL, as well as with the Dallas Desperadoes of the Arena Football League.
He has 54 receptions for 986 yards and five touchdowns in three NFL seasons.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and safety Dwight Lowery (ankle) missed practice Wednesday, having been declared out for Sunday's game against Detroit.
Jones-Drew and Lowery were two of four players listed on the injury report as not practicing, with fullbacks Montell Owens (shoulder) and Greg Jones (hip) also not practicing and cornerbacks Derek Cox (back) and Rashean Mathis (groin) participating on a limited basis.
Robinson and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) each practiced full, with center Brad Meester not participating as has been the norm on Wednesdays this season.
"(We're) glad to be home this week. I think our players are glad to be home and give our fans a chance to see what we're capable of doing – kind of play off of our Green Bay progress. We've got a good opponent coming in here. Obviously, the Lions have put some big numbers rankings with their offense and defense. It will be a good challenge for us."
"It's not even an inch; it's a matter of centimeters. So many plays out there that are so close we just have to find ways to execute when those plays present themselves. Like I've said all along there is going to be one, two, three maybe four plays a game that are going to dictate the outcome of it, and you don't know when they are going to come but you got to be ready. And when they do come we can't find ways to not make a play."
"I didn't see it coming. The last thing I'm thinking about is someone getting traded. It's not the NBA, not a lot of mass trades at the deadline, so I was shocked. I wish him (Thomas) the best in Detroit. I think he'll do fine over there, too."
"It's pretty weird, but I talked to him yesterday and he's excited about the opportunity moving forward. His head going to be spinning a little bit because it's kind of a shock when you do get traded. It's going to be tough for him, but I'm excited for him too."
The Jaguars' running game has struggled at times in recent games, but Mularkey said Wednesday the opportunities remain for the area to be effective. He said that was particularly true against Green Bay last week, a game in which Mularkey said, "We left a lot of yards on the field." Mularkey said he believed that was true coming out of the game, and he confirmed watching the tape that the Jaguars' running backs in that game missed some cuts that could have led to big runs. "We missed a couple of them in all games, but last week I felt we missed some runs," he said. Rashad Jennings started in place of Jones-Drew last week, and he said considering the experience difference between the two, simulating game situations in practice is critical. "That's why it's so important the way we practice some of things we do in practice that they understand," Mularkey said. "We need to see exactly what it's going to be like in games, especially the backs. That's like our nine-on-seven period; we don't have receivers in there. We have safeties, but we don't want the safeties to get up in there because somebody's going to block them. I don't want the back to get the false impression that that hole is going to be clogged on Wednesday so Sunday when it's not he already knows where it's going to come from."
The Jaguars will hold a non-padded practice Thursday and another Friday as they prepare to play the Detroit Lions Sunday in Jacksonville.
*While Robinson said he is excited to get back in the lineup, he also said considering he has sustained three concussions this season he must be aware of that situation. "You have to be smart with it," Robinson said. "You have a long life after football, so you have to be smart, but I still want to play, though. I have to try to get better as fast as I can and hopefully this week I get over the hump. I have to do a good job of anticipating hits so my brain can brace for it."
*Rookie Mike Brewster's move into the starting left guard position moved veteran Eben Britton to a backup role. While Britton started at right tackle in 2009 and 2010, Mularkey said there are no plans to work the 2009 second-round selection at tackle. "He sees some of the same things we're seeing, and he just handled it extremely well," Mularkey said. "It's not an easy decision. I know he's handling it better than he probably feels."