JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles stated the obvious, succinctly.
The Jaguars' quarterback on Wednesday was talking about the team's young receiving corps, a group that is now a major storyline with yet another injury to yet another experienced, reliable veteran.
No Allen Robinson.
And after he sustained an ankle injury this past Sunday, no Allen Hurns – at least for the short term.
"What now?" Bortles was asked Wednesday.
"Those guys definitely have to pick up some slack," Bortles said of a group of young, largely unproven wide receivers as the Jaguars (6-3) prepared to play the Cleveland Browns (0-9) at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, Sunday at 1 p.m.
With Robinson (torn anterior cruciate ligament) out for the season and Hurns (ankle) expected to miss at least Sunday's game, the Jaguars are without the duo's 388 career receptions, 5,479 career yards and 43 career touchdowns. In their place:
One player with 153 receptions for 1,957 yards and seven touchdowns in fourth-year veteran Marqise Lee and a possible threesome of rookie Keelan Cole, rookie Dede Westbrook and first-year veteran Jaydon Mickens with a combined 15 career receptions for 230 yards and no touchdowns.
Westbrook, a fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, is expected to be active Sunday for the first time in his NFL career this season after missing the first nine games while on injured reserve after early-season core muscle surgery. The 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's top receiver, Westbrook led the NFL with 288 receiving yards on 13 preseason receptions with two touchdowns.
"I don't think you can say, 'This is what we expect out of him; this is how many catches we expect and yards,''' Bortles said of Westbrook. "I think it's an opportunity for him to go out there and show what he can do. I think he got the chance to do it a little bit in the preseason before he got banged up and I know everybody around here has a lot of confidence in his ability of what he can do, so I'm excited to see that."
Westbrook since returning to practice the last two weeks has worked with the Jaguars' starters and front-line receivers, with Head Coach Doug Marrone saying the team's approach has been to have Westbrook work each of the past two weeks as if he were playing Sunday.
"It's helped a lot, being out there and taking snaps with the first-team guys and seeing how they operate and how they do those things," Westbrook said. "It's a lot different [than preseason and training camp] because I'm in there with the first group. I wasn't with the first group in preseason; I was with the second- and third-team guys trying to make the team along with me. So, it's different."
Notes and observations from Wednesday around EverBank Field:
*Lee and Hurns were among six players missing practice Wednesday, with Lee missing with the knee issue that has limited him in practice much of the last month; he has started the last three games after missing midweek practice time. The other four players out of practice Wednesday: defensive end Dawuane Smoot (knee), right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee), left guard Patrick Omameh (quad) and linebacker Blair Brown (hamstring). Bortles (right wrist/illness) and cornerback Jalen Ramsey (back) practiced full, with wide receiver Arrelious Benn (knee), running back Leonard Fournette (ankle), linebacker Lerentee McCray (foot) and tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee) practicing limited. …
*Bortles late in his Wednesday media availability was asked if he had any advice for Browns rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer, who has thrown four touchdown passes with 12 interceptions. "Try to throw it to your team as much as possible," said Bortles, who led the NFL with 18 interceptions in 2015 and also threw 16 last season. "I mean, it's tough: I've done it for a couple years and I think any quarterback will tell you that's the biggest thing. You watch guys every week that have been playing in the NFL for a long time and still kind of make bad decisions and bad throws. It's something that is a constant battle. The great ones are the ones that do that as little as possible and that's why they're so great. Everybody is trying to eliminate the turnovers and get rid of that." …
*Lewis on being 6-3: "It's different when you're playing for something in November. It hasn't been that way in a while. It's fun coming into the building. The days are flying by, because you're having fun and winning some games. Obviously, we still have a long way to go and we're looking forward to the opportunity." …