Each day for the next two weeks we’ll review how each position group performed in 2013, and take an early look at 2014. Today we’ll examine the wide receivers. We did quarterbacks on Monday, running backs on Tuesday, tight ends on Wednesday, and we will do the offensive line on Friday.
Recap: For four games -- the only four in which Blackmon played -- the Jaguars were in pretty good shape. It was a little rougher in the other 12, however, especially after Shorts went on IR with a groin injury. By the end of the season, though, there were a few pleasant surprises.
Shorts still led the team with 66 catches for 777 yards and three touchdowns despite battling shoulder and groin injuries throughout the season. He struggled in the role as the team’s No. 1 receiver when Blackmon was suspended for the first four games but handled it much better during Blackmon’s second suspension.
He was the only other proven receiver on the roster when the season began but fourth-round draft pick Ace Sanders and first-year player Mike Brown developed into solid complementary receivers. Sanders, drafted mainly to be the team’s punt returner, got more work early because of Blackmon’s suspension and a back injury that kept Brown off the field for four of the first five weeks. His 51 catches were the third-highest among rookie receivers this season.
Brown (32 catches, 446 yards, 2 touchdowns) had the best per-catch average (13.9 yards) among the Jaguars’ wide receivers. He was impressive in his return to the lineup after a four-week absence due to a broken vertebra, catching five passes for 120 yards in his second game back, making him the only receiver beside Blackmon to have a 100-yard receiving game.
Taylor was perhaps the most pleasant surprise. He was signed Nov. 4 and caught 16 passes for 162 yards in the last three games.
Looking ahead to 2014
The skinny: Shorts will be in the final year of his contract so he’ll have that as some added motivation to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Sanders, Brown and Taylor will go into camp as the Nos. 2-4 receivers and should be improved in their second season in the offense.
The wildcard is Blackmon. He can apply for reinstatement before the season begins. If he is reinstated, the Jaguars have to decide whether to cut or keep him, knowing that if they do keep him they run the risk of him failing another drug test and being suspended again.
It’s likely the Jaguars also will draft a receiver or try to add one in free agency. It’s also likely that whoever they add will be a bigger, physical receiver, which is something they do not have on the roster. They need a receiver that can go up and win the 50-50 battles for balls, especially in the red zone. Right now tight end Marcedes Lewis is the only player on the roster who has proven he can do that.