One more look: Tight end still a major topic

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson reacts after making reception during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Northern Illinois, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson reacts after making reception during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Northern Illinois, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

JACKSONVILLE – Tight end remains a major Jaguars pre-draft topic.

Whether the Jaguars will take one in Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft Thursday is anyone’s guess, but Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin offered his most extensive offseason comments on the position on Monday.

One of his comments stated the obvious.

“What you’re looking for is a guy who can do both,” Coughlin said Monday during the team’s 2019 pre-draft luncheon at TIAA Bank Field.

That means finding what Coughlin called a “Superman-type guy” – i.e., a tight end physical enough for the running game and athletic enough to beat safeties and linebackers consistently as a receiver.

Such players are historically difficult to find, and Coughlin said that remains the case. He also on Monday discussed the one prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft considered such a player: Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson.

“He’s a good football player,” Coughlin said. “It’s no secret. Everybody has him in high regard. He can play on the line of scrimmage. He can play flexed. He can block. He can do a lot of the things you want that all-purpose tight end to do.”

Many analysts have projected Hockenson to the Jaguars at No. 7 overall because they currently lack a true all-purpose tight end – and because of new quarterback Nick Foles and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Foles utilized the tight end extensively in Philadelphia the past two seasons, and DeFilippo was quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in 2016-2017.

Coughlin said while he wasn’t sure the position necessarily had increased in importance in recent seasons, he said it unquestionably can be a key element in a balanced offense.

“If you’ve got balance, and you can present people on the outside and on the inside, who is it that’s going to get singled?” Coughlin said. “That’s where these guys with these teams that are very explosive – Kansas City [with Travis Kelce] being an example and Philadelphia [with Zach Ertz] being an example – the tight end because he is able to maneuver in there many times one-on-one becomes a key factor.”

While tight end has been selected in the Top 10 just five times in 24 drafts since 1995, Coughlin discounted the idea that the position wasn’t Top 10-worthy.

“We go so much by, ‘What happened the last time?’’’ Coughlin said. “But it’s an ability thing. If you have an outstanding football player who is high quality, well-thought of and contributing in a lot of different ways, who’s to say they can’t go in the Top 10 because of the contribution they will make?

“I read about all that and hear all that. It’s very difficult to say they should not belong. That kind of riles me up a little bit because there have been a bunch over the course of history that if they weren’t taken in the Top 10 you sure as hell wish they were.”

BALANCING OUT

University of Florida right tackle Jawaan Taylor remains a popular projection to the Jaguars at No. 7. While that once would have been early for a right tackle, the projection reflects a changing perception. Left tackle long was the more important of the tackle positions, routinely selected in the Top 10 because elite pass rushers typically rushed off the right side of the defense. With elite pass rushers increasingly lining up on the right and left sides, right tackle has taken on added importance. “I think right now both sides have to have equal ability,” Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said Monday. “When I’m together with the line coaches and we’re talking at the [NFL Scouting] Combine, pretty much that’s the consensus: You’re going to need both those tackles. You’re seeing those types of edge rushers and pass rushers off both sides, and you’re seeing more of a matchup game where they may move someone over to your right tackle if he’s not getting the job done. In a perfect world, you want both.”

CAM ON THE LEFT

With much Jaguars pre-draft talk focused on right tackle, some have speculated they could select a left tackle at No. 7 and move third-year left tackle Cam Robinson to the right side. Coughlin was asked about this possibility Monday. “We need a healthy Cam Robinson playing left tackle,” Coughlin said. Robinson missed the final 14 games of the 2018 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

QUOTABLE

“I don’t think he’s just necessarily a mauler. We had him in. We visited with him and watched all of his tape. He’s got a little nasty streak in him. He has the ability to be a pass rusher on that side. Against the very good rushers in the draft, he did very well. He has solid evidence of his ability in the run game and pass game. There are obviously things he needs to work on and develop, which they all do at this age. He has the talent and ability to help you at the right tackle position.”

--Coughlin on Taylor

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