JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It didn’t take long for the Jacksonville Jaguars to miss Justin Blackmon.
The second-year pro is sitting out the first four games because he violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy and the affect his absence has on the Jaguars’ offense was painfully evident in Sunday’s 28-2 loss to Kansas City.
Receivers were targeted 23 times but managed only seven catches for 68 yards. Receivers had three of the team’s five dropped passes, and they had trouble getting separation. That’s not the kind of production the Jaguars were hoping for to make up for the loss of the team’s leading receiver in 2012.
Cecil Shorts, who was second on the team with 55 receptions last season, was a non-factor against the Chiefs. He didn’t catch his first pass until midway through the fourth quarter and finished with just three catches. The Chiefs didn’t do a lot of double-teaming but they did try to bracket him at times.
Shorts had 11 passes thrown his way, but caught only three for 40 yards.
With Shorts essentially taken out of the game, the Jaguars needed help from rookie Ace Sanders and Mike Brown. They didn’t get much. Sanders was targeted nine times but caught just three passes for 14 yards and Brown caught just one pass for 14 yards.
That’s not good enough to make up for not having Blackmon, who caught a team-high 64 passes last season.
"We just didn’t play as a group," quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities with the ball. It starts with me at the quarterback. We have to find ways to execute our offense."
It’s really not fair to have to rely on a rookie in Sanders and a first-year player in Brown, a converted college quarterback who spent 15 weeks on the Jaguars’ practice squad last season before being active for the final two games. Neither had caught a pass in an NFL game until Sunday and Brown seemed to have trouble with the physical play of Kansas City’s defensive backs.
There’s not much help available although the coaching staff does like Stephen Burton, whom the Jaguars claimed off waivers on Sept. 1. But the 6-foot-1, 223-pound third-year player got on the field only on special teams against the Chiefs.
Fifth-round pick Denard Robinson is also a converted quarterback, but he touched the ball only twice as a Wildcat quarterback. He gained 1 yard on two carries and didn’t have a pass thrown his way.
So unless the Jaguars find a way to get Shorts the ball more, it’s going to be a chore moving the ball through the air until Blackmon returns.
"We’ve got to improve and we will," Shorts said. "It’s Week 1. Not giving excuses, but you’ve got to improve."