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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Jacksonville Jaguars

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Momentum is building in Jacksonville after a long stretch of ineptitude. That's thanks to a very busy offseason in which Gus Bradley's crew turned over the roster and brought in a slew of new players via free agency and the draft. It should help turn the Jaguars into a contender ... eventually.

The biggest splash was the drafting of quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in the draft. The Jaguars insist they'll bring him along slowly, so his impact might not be felt until the second half of the upcoming season. But the impact of veteran rusher Toby Gerhart and rookie wideouts Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee should be felt much sooner. Jacksonville also beefed up its offensive line with the signing of guard Zane Beadles. Defensively they brought in ex-Seahawks Red Bryant and Chris Clemons along with Steelers castoff Ziggy Hood to help re-populate the defensive line. Linebacker Dekoda Watson also should help.

But not everything is coming up jaguar-spotted roses. Justin Blackmon, arguably the team's top weapon, remains suspended for a substance abuse violation. Even though he sat out the final eight games of last season, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell has said he does not expect Blackmon to contribute this year. He backed up that statement by drafting a pair of receivers within his first three picks. But only one selection was made to help a slumping secondary that ranked 25th against the pass and 21st in passing touchdowns allowed last season. That suggests that the Jaguars are hoping that coaching can help turn an inexperienced secondary around.

So it's probably going to be another year full of growing pains. Worse yet, the team might finish in the basement of the AFC South this season -- last year they finished in third (thank you, Houston). That difference meant games against the Chargers and Dolphins instead of the Raiders and Bills this season. Would have helped this growing team.

Late-round flier ... Cecil Shorts

As prepared as we might be to say something strong on Toby Gerhart, our focus here is on Cecil Shorts. He's become sort of an afterthought after tanking last season despite posting a career-high 66 catches. Should he be? If the Jaguars can cultivate outside receivers then Shorts could move into the slot, or at least move all over the field. We've always fancied Shorts as a Victor Cruz clone and if the team can get him in a position to be that guy then he'll perform well, if only because he's the most reliable outlet for the quarterbacks. A calf injury continues to hamper him, but assuming he heals up and participates in training camp, he'll be worth a pick as a capable reserve and Top 50 Fantasy receiver.

Late-round flier ... Allen Robinson

If you're in a dynasty league, Allen Robinson should be on your rank list as a potential second-round choice in your rookie-only draft. If you're in a more traditional Fantasy league, Robinson should be on your late-round pick wish list. As the roster stands now in Jacksonville, Robinson will be the only receiver with size -- he's 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, the same height and nearly the same size as Houston's Andre Johnson. He doesn't have bursting speed but he's got hops (42-inch vertical) and enough muscle to box-out smaller defensive backs for end-zone jump balls and third-down seam routes. Playing in Bill O'Brien's pro-style offense at Penn State last year, Robinson caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards, setting Big Ten Conference records. He's a perfect target for an inconsistent quarterback like Chad Henne or an inexperienced passer like Blake Bortles to target. Expect him to start right away.

Dynasty-league target ... Marqise Lee

2013 Touches Leaders
727 total touches
Maurice Jones-Drew 277 (234 car., 43 rec.) 38.1%
Jordan Todman 80 (76 car., 14 rec.) 11.0%
Cecil Shorts 66 rec. 9.1%
Ace Sanders 53 (51 rec., 2 car.) 7.3%
All Others 251 34.5%

Lee is a polarizing Fantasy rookie. In 2012 he was a monster for Southern Cal, posting 1,721 yards on 118 catches (14.6 avg.) with 14 touchdowns. In 2013 he had 57 catches for 791 yards (13.8 avg.) and four touchdowns along with a left knee injury. Which Lee will show up in Jacksonville? Might depend entirely on the kind of playing time he earns in training camp. If Lee can stay healthy and show he can get what's being asked of him, he definitely has the potential to help Fantasy owners out this year. But it's probably more likely that he struggles this season and doesn't play as much as his rookie counterpart does. That's why we're not expecting Lee to be worth taking in a 2014 Fantasy draft. But if we're talking long term, it's clear Lee has major potential, making him worthy of an early-round pick in rookie-only formats.

Schedule analysis

The first five games the Jags have are against strong offenses. That's bad for the defense but it should force the offense's hand to throw the ball. That might mean competitive games or it might mean garbage time, but that's the kind of stuff that leads to good in-game experience for a team with young receivers. Matchups that might better benefit Gerhart come right after that with the Titans, Browns and Dolphins on the slate around the halfway point. Their Thursday game comes in Week 16 vs. Tennessee, a late-season tilt that should make for a huge game for Gerhart, assuming he's healthy and productive that late into the season. Two showdowns against the Texans in their last four (including at Houston in Week 17) punctuate what is otherwise a tough but not unbearable schedule for the Jaguars.

Training camp battles

Can Bortles win? We know the Jaguars' plan is to let Blake Bortles watch Chad Henne play quarterback and develop slowly. But we're not buying that Bortles will sit for the entire season. Remember, Jags coach Gus Bradley was with the Seahawks when Russell Wilson catapulted from third string to starter in one camp, and general manager David Caldwell was an executive on the Falcons when they drafted and started Matt Ryan and a scout for the Colts when they made Peyton Manning their starter right away. Maybe it's not fair to put Bortles in the same class as Wilson, Ryan and Manning, but the team has enough brains to know that if the rookie is legit they might as well start him.

Who's backing up Gerhart? The Jaguars asked for Denard Robinson to put on weight this offseason and he has. But the Jags also have Jordan Todman coming back and drafted a nice runner in Storm Johnson, who played with Bortles at Central Florida. This competition should not only bear out who's backing up Gerhart but who also can work third downs, which is a role many anticipate the Jaguars filling so that Gerhart's not on the field for every down.

Who's starting at receiver? As intriguing as the rookie wideouts are, neither one is promised anything in terms of work. Cecil Shorts is still the best receiver on the team, Ace Sanders is a good slot option and Mike Brown showed some flashes as an outside receiver last year. The Jaguars are going to use training camp to figure out who will play where.

Bold prediction

There's a lot of skepticism about Gerhart becoming a capable, productive starting running back after being a backup behind Adrian Peterson for four seasons. But the guy is a human bowling ball, knocking over defenders and running with the fierce, violent style that fans love to watch. The coaching staff has stuck behind Gerhart since signing him and envision him as their primary workhorse. Judging by the lack of other backs they brought in, Gerhart should get a great opportunity in Jacksonville. Moreover, the team finally has a back they trust at the goal line -- last year they called just 12 handoffs from inside the 5-yard line out of 35 opportunities. Gerhart will be gone before the middle of Round 5 and get over 1,200 total yards and score at least seven times.

Injury report

Cecil Shorts (calf), probable for start of training camp. ... Clay Harbor (leg), questionable for start of training camp. ... Luke Joeckel (leg), questionable for start of training camp. ... Roy Miller (shoulder), questionable for start of training camp. ... Geno Hayes (knee), probable for start of training camp. ... Mike Brewster (leg), probable for start of training camp.

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Player News
Giants pulling long-term contract offer to Jason Pierre-Paul
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:25 pm ET) In the wake of a Fourth of July fireworks mishap, the Giants on Monday pulled their long-term contract offer to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who remains hospitalized in Miami, per NFL.com insider Ian Rapaport. 

The Giants had applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the player has not yet signed it, technically leaving him not under contract with the team. The Giants move to yank the longer deal is a bit of gamesmanship, since according to Rapoport, Pierre-Paul was not going to sign the $60 million deal anyway. 


Bills sign veteran tackle Wayne Hunter
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:45 am ET) The Bills took another step to shore up their offensive line, signing veteran tackle Wayne Hunter to a one-year deal Monday, per the National Football Post. 

Hunter, who has not played in the NFL since 2012, did spend three years with the Jets under new Bills coach Rex Ryan from 2009-2011. 

Hunter's deal is reportedly worth $870,000.


RB Khiry Robinson could be odd man out in Saints backfield
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:20 am ET) Running back Khiry Robinson is a fan favorite with the Saints, but the third-year pro, who once was viewed as a breakout candidate for the team, may find his role squeezed by the presence of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, per ESPN.com. 

Robinson dealt with a broken arm last season, which limited him to 12 carries and 32 yards over the final 10 weeks of the year. The Saints then re-upped with Ingram and brought in Spiller to replace Pierre Thomas, meaning Robinson will have to fight hard in training camp to establish a role. 

"I just gotta keep working," Robinson said. "It's all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it's a good thing we've got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we've got another player right up there to do the same thing."


Report: Giants Jason Pierre-Paul hurt in fireworks accident
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul reportedly hurt his hand in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in Miami, according to the Daily News

The paper reports that the injury is not considered career-threatening, but that varying accounts of what happened have been reported. The Giants have not confirmed nor denied the incident. 

The Giants applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the 26-year-old has not yet signed it as he seeks a long-term deal, meaning that he technically is not under contract. 

Pierre-Paul had 53 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks last year for New York. 


Report: Torn pectoral sidelines Vikings CB Josh Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The Vikings secondary took a hit last month when cornerback Josh Robinson sustained a partially torn pectoral muscle, a league source has told ESPN.

The nickel back played in 690 snaps last season and was expected to battle several others for playing time. The injury could sideline him from training camp and land him on the PUP list.


Report: Packers' Andrew Quarless arrested on gun charges
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was arrested for firing a gun twice in Miami on Saturday, per the Miami New Times.

Quarless was involved in a fight at South Beach and fired the gun into the ground. 


Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Skins LB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery -- not just for football, but it makes my everyday life feel better, so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


 
 
 
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