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Thursday, June 11, 2009
After many WR misses, can Holt boost Jaguars?


 
  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  Torry Holt is drawing rave reviews from those in the Jacksonville organization.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Defenses may be able to contain Torry Holt better than they used to.

A 160-character limit on a text message, however, cannot box him in.

"We had a little string a couple weeks ago," Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "He sent me a text and I sent him a text back. [Then] it took seven texts for one response to a question I asked him in response to one of his texts. So, he's into it. Torry is all about ball."

Think Matt Jones, Jerry Porter or Reggie Williams were having a lot of extensive text conversations with their coordinator last May? Me neither.

Is Holt poised to be a hero or a savior? Probably not. Does the Jaguars' new veteran receiver bring the team its best receiver resume since Jimmy Smith, and bring the potential for production from the position the team has craved for years? Absolutely.

The seven-time Pro Bowler, who was an instrumental piece of "The Greatest Show on Turf," was let go by the rebuilding Rams. But his 64 catches, 796 yards, 12.4-yard average and three touchdowns last season hardly amounted to a bad stat line -- certainly not in Jacksonville. Jones had 65 catches in a season cut short by a suspension; Holt's numbers would have led the Jags in the other three departments.

 
  Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
  In 2008, Torry Holt was held to less than 800 receiving yards for the first time since 1999.

Here are three assessments from those who are now working with him:

Koetter: "A proven entity and a veteran presence. In everything that I've seen, he's the consummate pro. ... Someone said, and I think they were right, 'This guy's got to be the quietest seven-time Pro Bowler that's ever existed.' Just look at the numbers. I think it's eight years over 80 catches and 1,000 yards. We haven't had a guy like that, and that's no knock on anybody, that's just fact. ... We have young guys who can soak up his experience. When you just watch Torry as a route-runner, whether the word is crafty or experienced, Torry knows all the little tricks to get himself open and he's got really good hands on top of that."

GM Gene Smith: "He's come in and given us tremendous veteran presence. He's like a player-coach. He's constantly talking to the other players at his position. He has a strong passion for football and so he's probably not the elite guy he once was in terms of earning his opportunity to go to seven Pro Bowls, but he's certainly got the ability to play at a winning level. We felt like adding him to our group not just as a player but as a person, he'd certainly be an asset. So far, so good."

Quarterback David Garrard: "Just his mind is amazing. Listening to a guy that's been around and been doing the right thing for a long time is a breath of fresh air, really."

And one thought from an outsider whose team will play Holt twice:

Colts president Bill Polian: "I think he's got some good football left and he's a very reliable target for David Garrard. That's a good thing. It helps Garrard."

Holt heads a group that includes holdovers Mike Walker, Dennis Northcutt and Troy Williamson, and three draft picks -- Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Tiquan Underwood. Garrard feels it's the best bunch he's had to work with.

Hopefully the kid wideouts won't get confused if Holt's pointing them to a spot -- the middle finger on his left hand is bent sideways, a badge he said will stay with him for life.

"This is my trophy, this is what I work for," he said. "So I'll keep it this way."

It freaks people out, but could have a beneficial side effect.

"It's definitely the weirdest thing I've ever seen, but it almost gives him kind of a glove effect," Garrard said. "It helps him catch the ball better, I guess."

Torry Holt Fantasy Forecast
2009 Projected Stats
Holt

Receptions: 68
Yards: 811
Yards per catch: 11.9
Touchdowns: 5
Points: 111

Holt simply wasn't good in 2008, but let's not call him completely finished. He was still an NFL team's leading receiver when opposing defenses knew the Rams couldn't count on anyone else and when the offensive line was so bad that Marc Bulger could rarely get his feet set to throw.

By the same token, he's no one's idea of a deep threat any longer, and he often appeared disinterested in 2008. He got 30 fewer targets in '08 than in '07 and had 29 fewer catches. You do the math. The Jags signed him to what amounts to a one-year deal to play in a run-first offense on grass. Holt's upside is probably around 900 yards and six scores.

-- Christopher Har
ris

Complete 2009 wide receiver
projections and profiles

At a recent minicamp session, when Holt wasn't in on offense, he stood off to the side, getting a better view and some room. He chirped at some guys about how plays unfolded.

"When everybody walks up, it gets cluttered," he said of the typical way a position group watches practice. "I kind of get a view, ask coach what the call is, then run the play through my head, kind of get a feel for how they are playing things, try to get a feel for the quarterback and what they are looking at. So it's not that I am alienating myself from everybody. I'm getting more of a mental rep. I'm definitely involved."

The focus and the leadership can help fill a void for a team that got a lot younger and put a new emphasis on character with Smith at the controls for the first time.

What are the potential downsides to this marriage?

Holt just turned 33, and with his age and release by the Rams, questions automatically pop up about his health, durability and productivity.

But of the 172 regular-season and playoff games in his career, he's missed just two -- because of a 2005 knee injury.

"Don't look at offseason surgeries or anything; look at what transpires during the course of a season," he said.

St. Louis was a bad team the past two years, the two least productive of Holt's career. Does that mean he's faded or was it more a result of banged-up quarterback Marc Bulger not having the protection or time to throw?

Financially, it's nearly a risk-free year for Jacksonville: Holt is slated for $13 million in base salaries over three seasons, and could earn $7 million more with incentives. But he will only cost $4 million if this is just a one-year relationship.

By comparison, Porter negotiated a six-year, $30.4 million deal in 2008 and collected all $10 million guaranteed for his one year of going through the motions.

The Jaguars have every reason to expect a lot more from Holt than they got from Porter. He's a better player and a better guy. But expectations in June are great everywhere, for everyone.

As for the seven-screen text message, you can be sure Holt and Koetter are on the same wavelength regarding the seven-stop route.

"I like running things by Torry; either things we haven't done or that I don't have great experience with and I'll say, 'How'd you do this?" Koetter said. "Everybody runs a seven-route [a corner route by an outside receiver]. This is a variation of the seven-route. Torry was giving me a clinic out on the seven-stop route."

Mark Schlereth discusses how Torry Holt will impact the Jaguars' offense.