Marcedes Stuck in Neutral

Jaguars Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis has had a disappointing start to the season. Lewis is on pace to catch just 27 passes for a little over 300 yards. The poor start is part of the reason Jacksonville is at the bottom of the league in most of the passing categories.

The Jaguars are trying to find a way to get tight end Marcedes Lewis more involved in their passing game.

He made the Pro Bowl last year for the first time while catching 58 passes and signed a five-year $34 million contract after the lockout with $17 million guaranteed.

In his prime at age 27, he had established himself as one of the best tight ends in the league and was poised to become a regular at the Pro Bowl.

"I don't want to miss that again," he said in August.

But the first six games have been a portrait in frustration for Lewis, who missed one game with a calf injury and has just 10 catches in the other five with no touchdowns. Last year, he caught a team record 10 touchdown passes.

With the wide receiver corps in such a state of flux that they brought Mike Sims-Walker back, the Jaguars need Lewis to be a major factor in the passing offense.

"We're looking to him. He had, I think, eight or nine (eight on the stat sheet) targeted plays (against Pittsburgh) where we tried to go to him and we only connected on two of them. So we've got to become more efficient in utilizing him. It's good for us, it's good for him, it's good for the quarterback. The tight end is friendly to the quarterback and we've made our efforts to try to get him involved and we just haven't connected nearly often enough. That's something we'll continue to work on," coach Jack Del Rio said after the Pittsburgh loss.

Lewis remains a good blocker who helps the running game.

Said Del Rio, "He's a good blocker. He remains a good blocker. I think he's got a chance to be a good player overall and I think last year he played as one of the more dominant players at his position in the league. We just haven't quite got him going this year the way we were able to get him going last year and maintain it. That's something we're aware of. We're trying to get it going."

One of the problems appears to be that Lewis' timing with Gabbert is still a bit off. He had worked several years with David Garrard and seemed to be on the same page with him.

For example, Gabbert just missed connecting with Lewis on one third-down pass against Pittsburgh.

"We had Marcedes coming across (the middle) with a little bit of pressure, he (Gabbert) steps up and the ball is an inch too far. It's close. It would have been a spectacular catch that could have been made. The ball's a little high. You're narrowly missing there," Del Rio said.

And then Lewis has missed some plays, like the one in the end zone against Cincinnati when he had it knocked out of his hands while bringing it down.

"I have to do my side and make the big plays," he said.

Of the timing issue, he said, "When you assess all the things that happened, there was the quarterback change, with Blaine coming in and not having the proper offseason."

He added, "I look forward to my number being called. I want to be accountable. I want to get involved early, get some easy catches to get your blood going and feel good early. It's important to get that mojo early."

Jags Illustrated Top Stories