Jaguars dealing with tight end turmoil for 2nd straight year
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone introduced himself to two more tight ends this week, continuing the team’s unsettling trend at the position.
The Jaguars (4-6) have their top three tight ends — James O’Shaughnessy, Geoff Swaim and rookie Josh Oliver — on injured reserve and have another one unlikely to play this week because of injury.
It’s the second straight season that Marrone has endured turmoil at the spot that’s become increasingly important to NFL offenses.
“Usually when that happens, you are not going to win a lot of games and you are in trouble,” Marrone said Wednesday. “It is tough to have that run and be successful.”
The lack of continuity at the tight end position has been a big part of Jacksonville’s offensive inconsistency, second only to quarterback play. Ten tight ends have caught passes for the Jags over the last two seasons, and none of them made a significant impact in any game.
A combination of poor planning and even worse luck landed Jacksonville in this predicament.
Personnel chief Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell talked about trying to upgrade the position in 2017 — they cut oft-injured veteran Julius Thomas and believed Marcedes Lewis was nearing the end of his career — but nothing materialized in the draft or in free agency.
They stuck with Lewis, who started every game and caught 24 passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns at age 33 in 2017. He had another score in the AFC title game against New England.
Not much has gone right for the Jags at tight end since.
They signed free agent Austin Seferian-Jenkins to a two-year, $10 million contract in 2018 and added fellow veteran Niles Paul. Coughlin cut Lewis less than a week later, parting ways after the player’s agent balked at the money committed to Seferian-Jenkins.
Lewis signed with Green Bay later that month and has played in all 26 games for the Packers since.
Seferian-Jenkins and Paul, meanwhile, landed on injured reserve by the middle of October 2018 and haven’t played in the league since. The Jaguars ended up going with David Grinnage, O’Shaughnessy and Blake Bell down the stretch last year.
They’ve already used five tight ends this season, with two more likely to make their Jacksonville debuts Sunday at Tennessee (5-5).
They signed Swaim in free agency and selected Oliver in the third round of the NFL draft, taking two swings to fix the team’s least-productive position.
But Oliver pulled a hamstring in training camp, missed two months, struggled in four games and landed on IR with a back issue Monday. O’Shaughnessy (knee) and Geoff Swaim (concussion/ankle) have been there for weeks.
Seth DeValve, claimed off waivers from Cleveland in early September, would be the next in line. But he missed last week’s game with an oblique injury and hasn’t practice this week, either. That leaves Ben Koyack as the only familiar face available to Nick Foles.
Jacksonville responded by signing former Buffalo and Miami tight end Nick O’Leary off the street, promoting rookie Charles Jones from the practice squad and adding Matt Sokol to the practice squad. The additions meant more meet-and-greets for Marrone.
“When you’re going through that position, guys coming up or coming off the street and things like that, it’s challenging offensively,” Marrone said. “It’s a challenge for us as coaches.
“These are the guys that we have, and we have to put them in the best position. It might not be a comfort level for us or it might be some out-of-the-box thinking, but we’ve got to find a way to put these guys in good position where we can get the most out of the guys that are around them and what we can do with the guys that are here.”