JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t exactly have a storied history of wide receivers.
It’s Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell … and not much else.
Smith and McCardell are one-two in franchise records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. In fact, you have to get to ninth on the all-time receptions list before you can find another receiver (Cecil Shorts, 176). Nos. 3-8 are running backs and tight ends.
Smith and McCardell also are the only players in franchise history to record a 1,000-yard season. Smith, who has nine, was the last Jaguars player to do it, catching 70 passes for 1,023 yards in 2005.
Since then, every NFL team but the Jaguars and Oakland Raiders have had a wide receiver record a 1,000-yard season. Can the Jaguars break the streak in 2015?
The top candidate would be Allen Robinson, who was the Jaguars’ leading receiver at the point when he went down with a stress fracture in his foot and missed the final six games of 2014. He caught 48 passes for 548 yards and two touchdowns before the injury and was on pace to catch 77 passes for 877 yards.
That’s impressive considering the rookie missed most of organized team activities and all of August.
Robinson missed more than half of this spring’s OTAs, as the Jaguars brought him slowly back from the foot injury, but once he was healthy, it was quickly evident he is the Jaguars’ best receiver. Though the media was not allowed to report specifics about what we saw in OTAs, Robinson had numerous “wow” catches and was the most impressive offensive player on the field.
Robinson’s chances of reaching 1,000 yards in 2015 depends on several factors: an improved offensive line (NFL-high 71 sacks allowed in 2014), the development of second-year quarterback Blake Bortles and the presence of other playmakers to keep defenses from focusing on him.
The third factor is already in place thanks to the signing of tight end Julius Thomas, who caught 24 touchdown passes the past two seasons in Denver. He’s an elite pass-catcher, and the Jaguars are going to line him up in various spots. Defenses can’t stop both players, and Thomas will be the focal point early in the season.
We’ll know more about the offensive line when the pads go on in training camp, but the unit has more options than the past several seasons, and Doug Marrone has a reputation as one of the league’s better offensive line coaches.
Bortles has made strides with his mechanics, shortening his delivery and lengthening his follow-through. He said he has done a good job sticking with those changes during drills but needs to become more consistent when working in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 situations.
If those numerous things fall in place and Robinson remains healthy, he has a chance to become the next 1,000-yard receiver in Jaguars' history.