JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the tight end position in this post-2019 NFL Draft look at the Jaguars’ roster…
Position: Tight end (6).
Projected starters: Josh Oliver/Geoff Swaim.
Others: James O’Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack, Pharoah McKever, Carson Meier.
Arrivals: Oliver (2019 NFL Draft, Round 3), Swaim (unrestricted free agent, Dallas Cowboys), Meier (undrafted free agent).
Departures: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (unrestricted free agent, New England Patriots), Blake Bell (unrestricted free agent).
Offseason breakdown: The Jaguars reworked the tight end position in recent months, first allowing Seferian-Jenkins – a starter in the first five games last season before season-ending core muscle surgery – and Bell to leave as free agents, then signing Swaim as an unrestricted free agent and re-signing O’Shaughnessy after he briefly became a free agent. The major move came in the recent draft, with the Jaguars selecting Oliver No. 69 overall from San Jose State University. They then shortly after the draft added Meier as a collegiate free agent; he has a legitimate chance to make the roster.
Oehser analysis: This position remains an unknown, and we won’t know until the regular season if the Jaguars adequately addressed it in the offseason. Either way, they must get significantly more production from this position this season than last. They opted against pursuing a pass-catching tight end from another team in unrestricted free agency, instead re-signing Shaughnessy to help in that role and also signing Swaim – who fills more of a run-blocking role. They then entered the draft strongly considering Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, widely considered the draft’s most versatile tight end. They opted instead to take pass rusher Josh Allen, then circled back and selected Oliver two rounds later. Oliver primarily is considered a pass-receiving tight end, having caught 56 passes for 709 yards and four touchdowns on a struggling team this past season. Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo have a reputation for heavily utilizing this position. That means this group – while young and comparatively unknown – will have a major opportunity to dramatically increase the unit’s production. How much they can do so could go a long way to determining the overall improvement of a passing offense that must improve.
Sexton analysis: Who is Josh Oliver? The answer to that question more than any other will tell us how efficient the Jaguars’ offense is in 2019. The third-round draft pick from San Jose State isn’t an unknown to coaches and scouts; they watch Mountain West football – or at least a lot more Mountain West football than I see. Oliver has the measurables with height, length and speed to play up the seams and in the middle of the field. He must be the guy because the Jaguars didn’t land a proven veteran in free agency and didn’t spend an early pick on Hockenson, Noah Fant or any of the better-known names at the position available in the draft. Foles doesn’t throw exclusively to tight ends but he sure seemed to find Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert in recent seasons in Philadelphia when he needed them or when it counted. The Jags will ask Oliver to be that guy who moves the chains and keeps defenses off balance in the middle of the field. The knock on Oliver that he doesn’t block very well doesn’t faze me. In 2006, Marcedes Lewis was thought to be the same guy coming off a 58-catch, 10-touchdown senior season at UCLA – but for most of his NFL career, he was known as one of the league’s best blocking tight ends. Oliver doesn’t have to be Lewis, just capable enough so that when Swaim is in the game there is the threat of going his way. Swaim, Koyack, and O’Shaughnessy all fill the role of multi-dimensional tight ends. None have great size or blazing speed or incredible hands but all three are good enough players who can get the job done. One intriguing prospect is McKever (6-feet-6, 260 pounds), who looks like a first-round pick and who joined the Jaguars as a practice-squad player last fall. He has all the physical tools you could ask for.