Blackmon Falling Behind
This offseason the Jaguars recognized that their wide receiver position needed major upgrades. After signing Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans in free agency, the team decided to make a long-term fix by trading up in the first round to select two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, Justin Blackmon.
Although Robinson and Evans are currently making life a little easier for quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the team is still waiting on Blackmon to sign, as he is the lone unsigned first-round draft pick. While the team is looking for contract protection due to Blackmon’s off the field indiscretions, both sides continue to have “healthy communication,” according to Jaguars general manager Gene Smith.
Rarely do rookie wide receivers contribute at a high level, and the Jaguars experience with early picks at the position has been poor (R. Jay Soward, Reggie Williams and Matt Jones). With Justin Blackmon missing valuable practice time it’s likely that he will not have the opportunity to develop cohesion with Blaine Gabbert which could set both players behind.
Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey feels that Blackmon is falling “way behind,” according to CBS Sports Pete Prisco.
Even if the Jaguars and Blackmon were to agree to terms as early as today, it would be nearly impossible for Blackmon to see any action on the field when the team plays its preseason opener Friday night against the New York Giants.
Jennings Could Be A Viable Replacement
Although the Jaguars have contract situations to deal with involving first-round pick Justin Blackmon and holdout running back Maurice Jones-Drew, things may not seem so gloomy in North Florida. Maurice Jones-Drew is clearly a Top 5 running back in the league, but the team doesn’t seem to be missing him all that much.
Backup turned interim starter Rashad Jennings has been carrying the rock very well during this training camp and a Jaguars source said that the third-year back “is a viable starter in this league.”
At 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, Jennings has more size than MJD and he catches the ball out of the backfield just as well. With only three career starts all coming in 2010, the former seventh-round pick is far from a sure thing, but his career yards per carry average of 5.4 should give Jaguars fans confidence.
It’s not likely that Rashad Jennings can lead the NFL in rushing as Maurice Jones-Drew did in 2011, but he’s running well enough to give the Jaguars front office confidence in their stance of not re-negotiating MJD’s contract.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for SportsTalkFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie