JACKSONVILLE – Josh Oliver is optimistic, and he is healthy at last.
"I feel 100 percent," he said.
Oliver, the Jaguars' rookie tight end, waited a long time to say that – longer than he imagined waiting when the team selected him in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Oliver, after impressing coaches and observers with his athleticism and playmaking in offseason workouts, missed the entire preseason and first six regular-season games after sustaining a hamstring injury on the first weekend of training camp. The time off was long, and frustrating.
"You never want to be out, never want to be in the position I was in," he said. "Hopefully, I can gain from it. Every day there [was] a different thing to overcome.
"It [the hamstring] feels good now. I tried to put myself in coaches' shoes and try to see from a different perspective. Hopefully, I gained a little bit from my time being out."
His production in his first two NFL games has been limited by opportunity, but Oliver caught his first NFL pass in a victory over the New York Jets last week: a six-yarder on which he took a brutal hit for a first down at the Jets 1.
"I think the first two games have gone well with not playing for 10 weeks," he said. "It's two games I can improve on, and coming into my third I think it's going to be a better game."
Oliver's statistics bely his importance to the offense – and the Jaguars' season. With veterans James O'Shaughnessy (knee) and Geoff Swaim (concussion) out for the season on injured reserve, Oliver may be the team's best remaining chance for a consistent receiving threat in the middle of the field.
Oliver, who said he likes offensive coordinator John DeFilippo's scheme and believes it suits his ability, said he understands the opportunity at hand.
"That's why they drafted me here, so that's definitely something I plan on doing," he said. "There's a lot of football ahead of us; it's a great opportunity."
Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:
*Head Coach Doug Marrone discussed wide receiver Marqise Lee, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, and lauded the veteran's toughness and importance to the wide receiver group overall. Lee, a sixth-year veteran, missed last season with a knee injury that involved a torn anterior cruciate ligament and was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury sustained against the Jets Sunday. "He's such a good football player, and he's tough and he brings an element to that room with toughness," Marrone said. "He's one of those guys that always has a smile on his face, nothing's ever bad. So, he brings a ton of energy. It's the hard part about the game. Unfortunately, injuries are part of it. He and I spoke. He's going to fight his ass off, and come back, and be ready to go, stronger and better than ever." …
*Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., who leads the AFC with six touchdown receptions, caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Jets this past Sunday. That marked a bounce-back game of sorts after Chark was limited to six receptions for 96 yards in two games against the New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals. The Saints limited Chark with heavy man coverage and safety help over the top. Chark said Wednesday while he saw some of that coverage the following week against Cincinnati, the Jets didn't utilize the approach as much. "It depends on the team," Chark said. "We saw a lot of Cover 2 [from the Jets]. We've been working on Cover 2 and it showed this last game with multiple receivers [including Chris Conley and Keelan Cole] making big plays that impacted the game. It's something we've worked on and gotten ready for. If they [defenses] choose to do that, I have no doubt in my mind Chris, Cole and [wide receiver] Dede [Westbrook] are going to have big games, too."
*Marrone on Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, out for the season with a torn pectoral sustained in a victory over Oakland last week: "You're talking about a guy who's a Hall of Fame player, a great football player. They have other players on that defense who are also great players, and I just think they step up and play. I think they'll rally. They'll step up. We'll get the best of what they have to offer. It's unfortunate because you always like to compete against great players." …
*Kicker Josh Lambo missed practice with a groin injury, but Marrone said he is expected to play Sunday. Nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden missed practice with a neck/shoulder injury, and Marrone said he likely will be questionable Sunday. Linebackers Quincy Williams (hamstring) and Leon Jacobs (hamstring) missed practice, with linebacker Najee Goode (toe) practicing limited; all three players missed the Jets game Sunday. Also practicing limited Wednesday: Westbrook (neck/shoulder), Chark (quad) and safety Jarrod Wilson (knee). Center Brandon Linder (shoulder) and defensive end Calais Campbell (back) both missed practice as is the norm for the two veterans on Wednesday. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II was added to the injury report late Wednesday with shoulder soreness; he took 100 percent of repetitions Wednesday, and the issue is not thought serious.