Jaguars Positional Analysis: Wideouts

In the 2006 season, the Jaguars wide receiver play was a microcosm for the Jaguars season, good to great one week, below average to poor the next week. Most of the Jaguars current group of wide receivers have been "home grown".

Reggie Williams and Matt   Jones were first round picks (2004, 2005), and Ernest Wilford was a fourth round pick (2004). This group showed flashes of greatness early in the '06 season, and also showed the ability to be non-existent at times.

Reggie Williams
may be the toughest wide receiver in the NFL. Reggie is a fantastic blocker and has no fear of going over the middle. Reggie has the ability to break tackles and make plays, and has the best hands on the team. In the first five games of the season (before Leftwich's injury), Reggie had 24 receptions for 297 yards and four touchdowns. With Garrard playing the bulk of the snaps for the rest of the season, Williams ended up with just 28 more receptions for 319 yards and zero touchdowns in the season's final 11 games.

Matt Jones has shown an ability to be a play-maker in his short career. With limited opportunities (only starting five games in two years), Jones has nine career touchdown receptions. Matt has game-breaking speed in the open field and his 6'6", 240 lb. frame gives him the ability to get in position to make catches.

Ernest Wilford is your standard number three receiver, even though he played the number two role in 2006. Wilford adjusts to the ball in air better than any of the other Jaguars receivers, and is a great community guy. Wilford has 11 touchdowns in his young career, and is a restricted free agent, but at this point hasn't received any real looks or offers from any other employers. Dennis Northcutt was acquired by the Jaguars via free agency to give the team an extra dimension of quickness and suddenness, amongst the very tall wide receivers (all above 6'4") that the team currently employs.

The Jaguars wide receivers have quite a few weaknesses that the front office hopes will correct themselves with time. The biggest weakness is probably sharp route running. In 2006 it took the Jaguars receivers quite a long time to get open from the snap of the ball. This forces the quarterback to hold the ball longer which forces the quarterback to take bigger hits, or if you have a quarterback who can't go through his progressions quickly (David Garrard), this can lead to broken plays. Another weakness is the lack of a deep threat. Reggie Williams doesn't adjust well to the ball in air, Matt Jones' advertised 4.38/40 speed doesn't translate to the football field, and Ernest Wilford isn't fast enough to beat most corner/safety combos, or even your average grandmother. Another problem the Jaguars receivers have had over the last few years has been drops. The Jaguars receivers have one of the highest drop rates in the league, and have been that way for some time. Some blame the drops on concentration, some blame it on courage, either way, the drops need to stop. Matt Jones has a problem with contact, he doesn't like it at all. Jones tends to give up on plays when he thinks he's going to get hit. Jones also appears to have a lack of passion for the game, and from time to time he appears to be lacking in effort.

Overall 2006 season grade: D.
I'm tempted to give the receivers a grape of I, for incomplete due to the lack of a pocket passer. In the beginning of the season, the Jaguars receivers were playing well, especially Reggie Williams. When Garrard took over at quarterback, the passing game suffered mightily due to many reasons. The Jaguars focused more on running the football and took the ball out of Garrard's hands. When Garrard did have his chances to throw, the timing was definitely off with the receivers, and the quarterbacks inability to go through the progressions definitely hurt the receivers productivity.

Are changes necessary?
Definitely, yes. Reggie Williams showed great promise in the beginning of the year, and he showed that he could be a very good receiver. It's too early to give up on Matt Jones, but I'm not sure if you can coach a guy into being tough. Wilford is solid, but he's just a guy. The Jaguars are hoping that Dennis Northcutt is the deep threat they've been looking for to open up the underneath for Williams and Jones. This years' draft is stocked with receivers, and it is likely that the Jaguars will pluck someone, even if it isn't early on. Something must be done to help out the quarterback, whether it be the current group progressing, or a veteran brought in, something must be done.

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