On to '19: Wide receivers

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) and wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) run their routes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) and wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) run their routes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars’ wide receiver position in this look at the ’19 offseason

Position: Wide receiver.

2018 starters: Donte Moncrief (14), Keelan Cole (11), Dede Westbrook (9), Rashad Greene Sr. (1).

Others: Marqise Lee, DJ Chark Jr., Jaydon Mickens, Andre Levrone, C.J. Board.

2018 at a glance: Westbrook led the Jaguars with 66 receptions for 717 yards and five touchdowns, with Moncrief catching 48 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns. Cole caught 38 passes for 491 yards and a touchdown, and Chark caught 14 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Greene had six receptions for 60 yards and no touchdowns. Mickens, after making a major impact as a returner in 2017, missed the last 10 games of the 2018 season with a fractured ankle.

Offseason storyline: Moncrief figures to depart as an unrestricted free agent, with Lee expected to return after missing 2018 with a serious preseason knee injury; Lee said during Super Bowl LIII week he expected to be ready by next season. Westbrook figures to enter ’18 as a starter after emerging as perhaps the Jaguars’ best offensive player last season. Chark, a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, missed five games late in the season with a quadriceps injury – but the team had a first-round grade on him entering the 2018 NFL Draft and the Jaguars like his potential; he should play a larger role next season.

Free agents as of March 13: Moncrief, Greene, Mickens.

Oehser analysis: A major question entering the ’19 offseason is just how much the Jaguars will do to address receiver. Will the Jaguars address the position early in the 2019 NFL Draft, or do they believe Lee’s return and the expected development of Chark along with further improvement by the promising Westbrook will be enough at the position? The Jaguars’ reality is there may be too much to attain at other positions to invest early draft selections or big free-agency dollars at wide receiver. Elite production is often overly pricey at this position, and finding the right free-agent fit at the position proved difficult last season with Moncrief mostly disappointing in what likely will be his lone season with the team. The guess here is that the Jaguars will do less at this spot than many expect, perhaps signing a middle-tier free agent and addressing the position later in the draft. If that’s their route, they will need a full recovery and return to form from Lee, and major development from Chark in his second season. That scenario also would require Westbrook continuing to emerge as a big-play threat and Cole fulfilling the potential he showed as a rookie and respond after a disappointing second NFL season in 2018. Bottom line: this could be a tougher position to effectively address than many observers believe.

Sexton analysis: When 2018 came to a close, the decrepit state of the passing game made it seem as if the cupboard was bare at wide receiver. That’s not exactly true. Westbrook stepped onto the stage with the injury to Lee and showed why so many were excited by his potential coming out of Oklahoma. Westbrook was an effective threat down the field, across the field and as a back on jet screens. The second-year receiver looked like a legitimate big-play threat despite not having anyone to take any attention away anywhere else on the field. Imagine if Chark can translate what we were told were outstanding practice sessions before the quad injury to the game field on Sunday? He has a professional wide receiver’s body with a big, wide frame, long arms, huge hands and blends all that with top-end speed. A dropped touchdown pass in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in London left a bad taste about the rookie from LSU but he’s a determined kid and very bright. The right quarterback could turn his fortunes around overnight. The only other guy who figures to have a chance in Jacksonville in 2019 is Cole, who was a big-play revelation as an undrafted rookie from Kentucky Wesleyan in 2017 but was nowhere to be found in 2018. He’s tall, fast and has good hands but little of that went with him from Year One to Year Two. Still, he’s a talented guy and should be able to redeem himself, especially if the Jags bring in a veteran quarterback. This is a position screaming for attention this spring and the 2019 NFL Draft in April will offer plenty of talented players from which to choose.

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