It may have been something small in terms of what was going on during the first day of Jaguars OTA’s, but if you were part of the media in attendance on Tuesday morning, you got to see Marqise Lee run off to the side of the practice field.
After a season missed with a horrific ACL injury he suffered against the Atlanta Falcons during the preseason, the sixth-year wide receiver is being counted on to return to action and lead this group of wide receivers by example. A few catches and touchdowns would be welcomed as well.
The Jaguars made no secret about the fact they were happy with the players in the wide receiver room prior to the NFL draft. The only addition was free agent Chris Conley. If this core of pass catchers can duplicate the success they had two seasons ago, then maybe this becomes one of the more underrated groups on the roster.
Receivers coach Keenan McCardell had his hands full last year with players who led the NFL in dropped passes. There are many ways to place the blame on the lack of success, which includes poor quarterback play. Having Lee back, who took a step forward as the leader of this unheralded group in 2017, along with the addition of Nick Foles under center, should make a weakness last season a potential strength this coming year.
According to head coach Doug Marrone, Lee isn’t expected back to the latter part of the preseason. But by all accounts, judging from how he looked and moved on Tuesday, he appears to be ahead of schedule. He ran without a brace on his knee, which is even more breathtaking.
That doesn’t mean the Jaguars are going to rush him back onto the field anytime soon. What it does mean is that when he is fully healthy, he becomes another weapon in this offense.
Dede Westbrook picked up the slack in Lee’s absence last year. I suspect he will once again become the primary target in John DeFilippo’s game plan. Given the erratic play by both Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler last year, anything in the way of consistency from number center will be beneficial not only to this wide receiver corps but also to the entire roster.
Lee was the second player drafted by the Jaguars in the 2014 class that included Bortles, Allen Robinson and undrafted free agent wide receiver Allen Hurns. He is the only player remaining on the roster of that quartet. He was drafted 39th overall out of USC.