- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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After he exploded for 10 touchdowns in 2010 and got a big new contract before the 2011 season, Jacksonville tight end Marcedes Lewis figured to be a regular in the end zone as he followed up his big season.
Instead, Lewis became invisible as an end-zone threat in a season when struggling rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert really needed one.
On a team lacking receiving weapons, it was a disappearance the Jaguars simply couldn’t survive.
A year later, Lewis says the serious family distractions that hurt his focus and his game will be cleared up before training camp. He’s had the full support of a new coaching staff that’s wanted to help, and everyone expects better things.
“It’s almost done,” Lewis said a few weeks ago of wrapping up the family issues in California that dented his work focus last year. “I’ll be done before camp this year. I think a lot of people sometimes forget that we are human, and it’s hard to compartmentalize certain things. I learned first-hand what that’s like.
“I’ve dealt with it a little bit over a year now, and I am just excited that things will be dealt with before camp.”
During last year’s lockout, Lewis engaged in MMA training in California that was supposed to help his game. But the fruits of that were never super-apparent.
“In the run-game it did help,” Lewis said. “There were so many variables last year that contributed to last year, but it’s last year for a reason.”
Lewis said he’s had healthy conversations with coach Mike Mularkey, and appreciates the team's support. The tight end said he can look Mularkey in the eye and know the coach has no hidden agendas, that “he actually cares about you.”
“We realize he’s had some personal issues, and they are important to us as well,” Mularkey said. “I think these guys are starting to see that we’re interested in what’s happening in their lives off the field, and want them to have success off the field, because they have a lot of life to live when this game’s over with.
“So we do go out of our way to see what we can do to help each and every one of these players. Understanding he did have an issue last year that he’s still working through, and is hopefully coming to a conclusion here very soon. We’re on his side, and we’ll do whatever we can to help him.”
One idea that we shouldn’t expect to get much traction is the thinking that Lewis can be some sort of security blanket for Gabbert. There was some disappointment in the building last season, because the relationship didn’t blossom.
Lewis said he’d like to be that guy for Gabbert.
But Gabbert echoed the sentiment of Mularkey on the idea. They both said the progressions dictate where the quarterback goes with the ball, and it’s about the progressions, not finding a guy that is somehow especially comfortable to throw to. The security blanket is the offense, not one of the guys in the offense.
Still, Lewis should have room more often in those progressions, as an upgrade in threats on the perimeter in the form of Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon will force defenders to worry more about what’s unfolding outside.