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Training Camp 2019: Westbrook wants more in '19

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JACKSONVILLE – Dede Westbrook has two words for those thinking 2018 was his breakout season.

No way.

"Last year was not a breakout year for me at all," he said.

Not that Westbrook had a bad year in '18. And not that the 2017 fourth-round wide receiver didn't see progress made in his second NFL season.

It's just that Westbrook wants more from himself. A lot more.

"If anybody knows me, they know my expectations – and that wasn't it," Westbrook said Friday following Day 2 practice at Jaguars 2019 Training Camp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.

When Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell discussed Westbrook this week, he talked of a player driven to be not just the good NFL receiver he became in 2018 but the elite wide receiver both believe he can become.

"He's a dynamic playmaker," McCardell said. "He's a guy who when you get the ball in his hands, you get an opportunity to see his dynamic playmaking ability, and you get a chance to see how explosive he is….

"He's a guy you want to get the ball in his hands because he makes good things happen."

The Jaguars did just that last season.

The Jaguars' offense struggled throughout an injury-plagued 2019 season that featured two different starting quarterbacks and a No. 26 ranking in passing yards. But within those struggles, Westbrook built on an injury-shortened rookie season in which he showed promise.

Westbrook, the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's best wide receiver during his final season at Oklahoma (2016), played in all 16 games in 2018 and started nine. After catching 27 passes for 339 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, he caught 66 passes for 717 yards and five touchdowns last season to lead the Jaguars in all three categories.

"This is a year where he can set himself apart from slot receivers within the league," McCardell said. "He can show guys, 'I'm really dynamic at this position. I can take the short catches and take them for long touchdowns, or I can go over the top of you like an outside guy.'

"A lot of people look at him as a slot receiver; I look him as a playmaker at the position – no matter where he's at. I tell him, 'Each year, you've got to keep inventing yourself, because people are going to try to find ways to stop you. And this year's a new year.'''

As important as Westbrook's ability, McCardell said, is his desire.

"He wants to be great, and he has a mindset that he wants to be the best," McCardell said. "His confidence never has been down. That's one thing you never have to doubt: his confidence, putting in the work, buying into what we're doing.

"He knows how much I'm going to push him, and it's my job to make him demand more of himself. I tell him all the time, 'I'm going to demand so much out of you and I want you to demand that out of yourself. He's like, 'I got you.'''

Westbrook on Friday said he indeed welcomes that push, and credited McCardell – who played 17 NFL seasons and who ranks 23rd in NFL history with 883 career receptions – with him improving dramatically as a route-runner in three NFL seasons.

"The man played in the league 17 years," Westbrook said. "I don't have to call out his stats; you guys know them. To me, he's a Hall of Famer every day. … My thing with Coach McCardell is we have those talks. He knows exactly where I want to go, and the steps I need to take to get there.

"He's been a great coach, a great role model. He's helping me try to attain those goals."

And while Westbrook perhaps moved closer to those goals last season, he didn't get nearly as close as he wanted. No way.

"Obviously, it was good – me coming into myself and figuring out some things," he said. "But at the end of the day, that was not my breakout year. If you guys are looking forward to something like that … there's more. A lot more.

"I have really big plans and really big goals this year."

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