AFC South: Rob Boras

Productive Lewis demanding attention

October, 14, 2010
We could say Marcedes Lewis’ production is up in part because it’s a contract year.

[+] EnlargeMercedes Lewis
AP Photo/Eric BakkeJacksonville's Marcedes Lewis (right) has blossomed into a complete tight end.
But it’s not as if offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is calling passes to him trying to crank up his value or David Garrard is looking to him in big situations because he wants to help the tight end get a raise.

With Mike Tice gone and Rob Boras in as the tight ends coach, Lewis is blossoming.

He’s grown to be a huge factor in the team’s run game since his arrival as a first-rounder out of UCLA in 2006. And that was always a bit odd since he came into the league rated as a great pass catcher.

He’s never had more than two touchdown catches in a season and he’s had stretches with drop issues. But he’s got five in five games for the Jaguars now. Only Antonio Gates (seven) has more.

Why are things so different?

Both Jack Del Rio and Lewis point to Lewis’ larger commitment to the offseason program and staying in Jacksonville, where he got a lot of work in with Garrard and gained stock as a locker-room leader.

“I just want to be in position regardless of if I’m blocking or catching the ball,” Lewis said. “There’s stuff designed for me now, that’s been one of the big differences ... Now it’s my time and I am seizing the moment.”

More on Lewis from three who are pretty familiar with him:

Maurice Jones-Drew: “He has always been a weapon. Obviously, he is a big target and he has slimmed up a little bit. He is much faster than he was and he is healthier. The last couple of years he has been banged up a little bit. He is just flying around. I think he is one of the best all-around tight ends in the game. You have a lot of tight ends that can catch the ball. You have a lot of tight ends that can block. You don’t have too many that can do both. He is a dominant blocker in the run game and then he is a great weapon in the passing game. He kind of opens it up for myself, Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas and other guys to catch the ball.

Jack Del Rio: “He’s matured some; I think he’s more comfortable in his role and what we’re asking of him. I think the time he has spent in the offseason here, the last couple of offseasons building rapport with David (Garrard) and building confidence with the staff in ways that we can utilize him. I think that’s all kind of come together for him. He really had a great camp and it’s carried over to a great start to the season for us.”

Jeff Fisher: “Well he’s catching a touchdown pass every three times he catches the ball, basically. He’s off to a great start, I think more so than that he’s blocking extremely well. He’s developed into a very productive tight end.”
Dirk KoetterAP Photo/Phil CoaleWith two strong-willed assistants gone, Dirk Koetter may be more assertive but says he still has to tailor things to the strengths of his players.
He’s heading into his fourth season. Two strong-willed veteran offensive assistants have departed. His team needs to make a leap with several second-year guys in key roles.

So Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, regarded as a creative offensive mind as a head coach at Arizona State and Boise State, is about to show us how clever he is, right?

While the coordinator is aware of the labels he might have carried when he came into the league in 2007, he’s even more aware of the realities of the NFL.

“Shoot, when I was a college coach, I was supposedly one of the most innovative college coaches there was,” Koetter said. “In the NFL, you’re not showing defensive coaches and defensive players something they haven’t seen before. So that whole creativity thing -- it’s not like you’re going to break out the veer and go up to Tennessee and fool Jeff Fisher because he’s never seen it before.

“I think the best teams in the NFL are more about execution than they are about creativity."

Koetter said he never felt overshadowed by the departed assistants. He values the time he gets with good coaches and that he learned a lot from Kennedy Pola, who handled running backs, and Mike Tice, who oversaw tight ends. Their replacements, Earnest Byner and Rob Boras, respectively, won’t rank as weaker members of the offensive staff.

Koetter feels the Jags have a valuable asset in improving execution: experience.

Last season, he had six rookies on the field at once during the team’s 41-0 loss at Seattle .

But now, players like tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton and receivers like Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Tiquan Underwood and tight end Zach Miller all have a better understanding of what they are being asked to do and how the league works.

“Am I saying to Dirk, ‘Hey, let’s put the pedal down, let’s be as good as we can be and be yourself and do things you want to do?’” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think he naturally feels a little more free to do that because we had a couple strong coaches, really good coaches, that were here before he got here in Kennedy Pola and Mike Tice and they’re both gone.

“He probably deferred to them a little bit more. Now that they're not here, he’s not going to defer to them. I think he’ll work closely with [offensive line coach] Andy Heck and the rest of the staff and put together a plan. But I think he’ll have a chance to push some of his thoughts to the forefront and I’ve encouraged him to do that.”

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