Jaguars TE Lewis hoping to turn season around
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Lewis remembers every dropped pass, every missed assignment and every wrong route. That's because the Pro Bowl tight end is his harshest critic.
He understands the whispers and occasional boos.
He's hopes to silence them, too, beginning this week at Cleveland.
''I put pressure on myself to make the great play,'' Lewis said. ''When it comes down to it, that's how I feel. It's just a matter of time that I start making them plays - regardless if defenders are in the way, regardless if they're getting their arm in there. I'm going to break their arm off and hold onto the ball, period.''
A year after setting career marks with 58 catches for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns, Lewis has 16 receptions for 170 yards and no scores. The most memorable aspect of his season has been several balls thrown in his direction landing on the ground. Some of those have been ripped from his hands, others have simply been dropped.
It's not what anyone expected after Lewis signed a five-year, $35 million contract that included $17 million guaranteed during training camp.
The Jaguars (3-6) had hoped Lewis would be a safety blanket for rookie Blaine Gabbert, a 6-foot-6 target the developing quarterback could rely on under pressure. But their chemistry has been slow to develop, partly because Jacksonville used Lewis mainly as an extra blocker early in the season because of offensive line issues.
And even when Lewis did get out on routes, he found extra attention as the team's top threat in the passing game.
''I take it as respect,'' Lewis said. ''Obviously, guys are paying more attention to me. I think it's cool. ... It shouldn't change anything, though. I believe in what we're doing. We're going to start coming down with those plays. There's a lot of season left. Every day, Blaine and I are getting on the same page. Pretty soon, it's going to be nice.''
Lewis hasn't caught more than four passes in any game this season. Even though it has been frustrating, Lewis hasn't pointed fingers, sulked or showed any discontent.
''You do get frustrated, but he does a great job not showing it,'' running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. ''He continues to work hard. The passing game is dictated off the coverage you get and who's open. At the end of the day, if they make sure he's not open, he's not going to get the ball. It's a simple as that.''
Jones-Drew said opposing defenses are bracketing Lewis and forcing Jacksonville's receivers - a group that includes Mike Thomas and castoffs Jason Hill, Chastin West and Brian Robiskie - beat them elsewhere.
''A lot of people set their fronts to (Lewis) and then put a safety and a linebacker on him, and then the defensive end's chipping him when he goes out,'' Jones-Drew said. ''That's what happens when you come off a year where you're probably the most dominating tight end in the game. People are going to do everything they can to stop you and not allow you to beat them.''
Lewis had his best blocking game of the season Sunday at winless Indianapolis, helping the Jaguars gain for 141 yards on the ground. But some of the talk following the game was about Lewis dropping a third-down pass that would have moved the chains in the first quarter. Coach Jack Del Rio has grown tired of questions about Lewis.
''We've been talking about that same subject quite a bit,'' he said. ''Until we do something about it as a football team, we're going to hear that, and I understand. But I don't have anything that I can tell you sitting here today that's going to help you feel better about it. I think you're going to need to see it.''
Lewis believes it will happen shortly.
''Pretty soon, we're going to be clicking at the right time,'' Lewis said. ''The main thing for us is just believing that what we've been doing every day and how hard we've been working is worth it, and we do. We believe in it and we're going to start seeing the fruits of our labor.''