Jaguars can't afford for Shorts to struggle

The Jaguars need Cecil Shorts to bounce back from a rough day against the Colts. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It was a rough day for Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts on Sunday, and that’s something the Jaguars can’t afford.

Shorts is the Jaguars’ only playmaker in the passing game, so when he struggles it virtually dooms their chances of having any kind of success. Shorts led the Jaguars with seven catches for 61 yards but he also had three drops, including one in which the ball bounced off his hands and was intercepted.

"It’s frustrating," said Shorts, who was targeted 12 times in the Jaguars’ 37-3 loss to Indianapolis. "I didn’t have the day I wanted today, but bad days happen and that’s just part of the game. So I’m going to come back with my head high and ready to go this week and get ready to go to St. Louis Sunday."

The Jaguars were hurting at receiver on Sunday because of injuries to Mike Brown (back) and Stephen Burton (concussion-like symptoms) and the suspension of Justin Blackmon. That left the Jaguars with just two healthy receivers: Shorts and rookie Ace Sanders. The team signed Jeremy Ebert and Tobais Palmer from the practice squad on Saturday and used fifth-round pick Denard Robinson at receiver as well.

Sanders, Ebert, Palmer and Robinson entered the game with a combined 11 career receptions. Other than Sanders (10 catches), the only other player with a catch was Ebert. Palmer was making his NFL debut.

Shorts had to carry the load, and he pretty much had to be perfect, too. That’s a lot of pressure for a third-year player who had only started nine games entering the 2013 season, and it’s a role he has been forced into maybe before he was ready because of the Blackmon suspension.

"He’s competing and going out there and made some plays," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "I think that he’s going to feel like teams know who I am and they’re going to say, ‘One thing we know is we need to know where Cecil Shorts is,’ but he’s up for that.

"I think he has to understand when you do well in games in the NFL that’s going to come, and it can’t slow you down. That’s the challenge for him and to be consistently playing high at that level."

Shorts wasn’t sure if he was trying to do too much, but he admits that he knows how much pressure he was under to perform because of the limitations at receiver.

"That’s a good question," he said. "That’s something I have to sit back and think about. Not sure. I need to watch the film.

"I don’t necessarily feel like I’m pressing, but I could be. I could be."

That’s something the Jaguars offense can’t afford, even when Blackmon returns next week.