JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With Doug Marrone saying he doesn’t anticipate receiver Allen Hurns playing on Sunday because of an ankle injury and the uncertain status of receiver Arrelious Benn because of a knee injury, the Jacksonville Jaguars are approaching crisis mode at the position.
The Jaguars have only three healthy receivers on the active roster, including Marqise Lee (153 career catches).
So, what can they do? They don’t have a lot of options.
The Jaguars’ second-most experienced receiver behind Lee is third-year player Jaelen Strong, whom the Jaguars claimed off waivers from Houston on Sept. 19. He injured his hamstring in his first practice with the Jaguars and hasn’t been active, yet but he does have 28 career catches.
The rest of the Jaguars’ receives have little experience. Rookie Keelan Cole has 14 career catches and first-year player Jaydon Mickens has just one, which came on the play immediately following Hurns’ injury.
The Jaguars’ two practice squad receivers — Larry Pinkard and Montay Crockett — don’t have any catches, either.
There are few free agents available that could provide much help, but the team could re-sign Max McCaffrey off the Green Bay Packers‘ practice squad. McCaffrey played in five games with the Jaguars before being released Oct. 21 to make room for Mickens on the active roster.
One option is activating rookie Dede Westbrook, who has been on injured reserve since the season began because of a core muscle injury. The team has until Nov. 21 to sign him to the active roster or he remains on IR for the rest of the season. If they want him to play against the Browns on Sunday they have to sign him to the active roster by 4 p.m. ET Saturday.
However, it would be irresponsible to expect Westbrook to make a significant difference. He does have very good speed and can stretch the defense, which would certainly help, but he’s not going to be a big part of the team’s game plan. It will take him a while to adjust to the speed of the game, learn how to read coverages, and figure out how to beat press coverage (which gave him trouble in training camp).
“We’ve been trying to get him, even when he was injured, we’ve been having him work like he’s playing each week,” Marrone said. “We do that, the same with [safety] Calvin Pryor. … Once it became a point where Dede could be active then we’ve been giving him snaps on the offensive side of the ball.”
If the Jaguars do activate Westbrook, it’s likely going to be Strong that’s going to be cut to make room.
The hope is that Benn’s injury doesn’t keep him out for an extended period of time because he can fill in if Hurns’ injury lingers. If not, expect even more work for Cole and especially Mickens against Cleveland. Westbrook will get a few targets if he plays, too, but with the weather forecast calling for snow flurries and 20- to 30-mph winds, it’s likely the Jaguars are going to rely on running back Leonard Fournette even more than they have.
If Hurns’ injury keeps him out longer than a week, the Jaguars will have to hope their inexperienced receivers can find a way to be productive for what is expected to be a playoff push.