Jaguars coach calls out receivers in passing game
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
One of the positives from the Jacksonville Jaguars offseason work was a noticeable improvement in the passing game.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was throwing the ball with more confidence, accuracy and zip than he showed as a rookie. A receivers group that included free-agent signees Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, coupled with No. 1 draft pick Justin Blackmon, was significantly better than what the team had in 2011. Throw in an offensive coaching staff that specialized in passing and the Jaguars' last-place team ranking in that category appeared to be a thing of the past.
While it's only the third day of camp, the passing game has not maintained the same sharpness it showed in the spring.
For his part, Gabbert has been pretty efficient. He's looked far more polished than he did a year ago at this time.
Instead, coach Mike Mularkey is calling out the wide receivers, Robinson in particular.
''We've got to do a better job. We've got to make more catches,'' Mularkey said. ''We've had plenty of opportunities to make some catches down the field and we've got to make them.''
He said Robinson has to make plays.
''Maybe he's pressing, I'm not sure,'' Mularkey said.
Robinson acknowledged he has struggled somewhat but feels it's just a matter of time until he and Gabbert get their timing down.
''I'm getting off the line pretty good. I just can't catch the deep ball right now,'' said Robinson, who has 143 receptions for 1,858 yards in five NFL seasons with three different clubs. ''It's a work in progress and it's going to come.
''It's going to take some time with Blaine, but that's why you have training camp so everybody can get on the same page.''
Robinson registered career highs with 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago with the Dallas Cowboys. He signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March with the belief he would become the team's No. 1 receiver.
Some theorized Robinson was pressing to prove he deserved that job.
''I'm trying to make that big play, trying to make it happen,'' he said when asked if he was trying to do too much. ''It's taking a little more time than expected. I've just got to keep working hard and when the ball hits my hands, I've got to make the catch. It's a matter of making the play when it comes your way.''
Mularkey also said Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis needs to be in better shape.
''When you don't train here in the heat - he lives out in California - it's going to take him a little bit to acclimate to this kind of weather,'' Mularkey said.
The passing game wasn't effective again on Monday, the first day the team practiced in shoulder pads. Near the end of the two-hour practice, Gabbert had completed just one pass on 12 pass plays encompassing several series. Seven times he had to pull the ball down and scramble up field. The other four plays resulted in incompletions.
The pass protection drew Mularkey's ire.
''We've got to do a better job (on our blocking and passing),'' he said. ''There's just too much pressure in the pocket and our linebackers are doing a good job.
''They're literally coming through our backs, so we've got to step up and hold the line up at the line of scrimmage.''
NOTES: The Jaguars did receive good news Monday in that three players - Terrance Knighton, Zach Miller and Uche Nwaneri - all came off the physically unable to perform list and can resume normal practice later this week. ... The bad news is that the team incurred its first season-ending injury when reserve CB Reggie Corner was placed on IR due to an ACL injury. ... Jacksonville signed fourth-year CB Trumaine McBride to replace Corner. McBride has played in 47 games with 10 starts since entering the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick of Chicago in 2007. ... The Jaguars will hold their first workout in full pads on Tuesday.