- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars being unable to add an experienced slot receiver in free agency isn’t a huge issue.
In fact, general manager David Caldwell said he’s perfectly comfortable going into the season with a relatively inexperienced group of receivers. He’s confident that second-year players Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee and veteran receivers coach Jerry Sullivan will more than make up for the fact that there isn’t a single receiver on the roster with more than 59 career catches.
"We have basically a Hall of Fame receiver coach," Caldwell said. "I think the other thing, too, is that those guys all had 40-some catches. It’s not like they didn’t produce at all or missed a whole year. They did some good things where you’re like, ‘OK, Allen Robinson played 10 games. Hurnsy played 16 games. Marqise played 10 games or whatever it was.’ They got some experience.
"… They’re no longer young guys. They have to be our veterans."
That’s certainly a relative term on this roster. Seven of the 12 receivers on the roster have fewer than 30 career catches, including five players that have yet to record a catch. The most experienced receiver is Arrelious Benn, who has 59 catches for 862 yards and five touchdowns. However, he hasn’t played in a game since the 2012 season.
Ace Sanders has 57 catches in his two NFL seasons, but he had just six in 2014 after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. The only other player on the roster with more than 50 catches is Hurns, who caught 51 passes for a team-high 667 yards and a team-high six touchdowns as a rookie in 2014.
The Jaguars were interested in adding a veteran receiver because they didn’t re-sign Cecil Shorts III, who caught 176 passes in four seasons with the Jaguars. Shorts had trouble staying healthy, missing 14 games from 2011-14 and never played a complete season.
Caldwell said the Jaguars planned to target Randall Cobb in free agency but he agreed to a contract extension with Green Bay three days before free agency began. The Jaguars also played host to Greg Jennings in mid-April but he opted to sign with Miami.
The Jaguars drafted former Florida State standout Rashad Greene in the fifth round and while he can play inside and outside, the plan is to put him in the slot and use Lee, Robinson and Hurns outside.
While that isn’t the most experienced lineup, Sullivan isn’t concerned because the latter three proved they could be relied upon in 2014. Those three battled through injuries, learning a new system, and adjusting to the NFL game to become productive players.
"It’s good because the stage doesn’t bother them," Sullivan said. "If you look at the guys we had last year, we had Hurns from Miami, Marqise from Southern California and A-Rob from Penn State playing in front of 100,000 people, so those guys have been on the big stage and now they just have to get used to the competition level."
The biggest issue of not having an experienced veteran on the roster is leadership in the meeting room. Shorts was the unit’s leader in 2014, but now that he’s gone Benn is the most experienced (four seasons). Benn, though, has just four catches since 2011 and didn’t play football in 2014.
"We’re going to miss him for sure," Lee said of Shorts. "… It’s going to be rough. He helped me a lot. He helped me grow as a player, him and Mike [Brown]. I’m going to miss him.
"He’s the one who kept my mind focused. When I got down on myself he was the one who brought me up, who helped me get my mind right and just let me know it was going to be OK. He helped me throughout my second half of the season staying focused and doing what I need to do."
Sullivan said he’s sure someone will emerge as the unit’s leader, but it won’t necessarily be done vocally.
"I don’t know if we have a guy who, quote, will jump up and down on the table," he said. "From Year 1 to Year 2 you should make a significant jump and I hope they’re leaders by how they play and not how they talk. In this league you’re judged by how you play."
Regardless of age.
Second-year receivers Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson each showed growth last season.