Jaguars need wide receivers to step up in place of injured Jamal Agnew
Jaguars wide receiver Jamal Agnew was a playmaker that Urban Meyer and his offensive coaching staff coveted.
He had the speed to break on a dime, get open, and gain significant yardage after the catch. However, the Jaguars won't have Agnew to lean on when they play the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.
On Monday, Agnew joined running back Travis Etienne and wide receiver DJ Chark on season-ending injured reserve. Agnew suffered a severe hip injury when he got twisted around after a 3-yard catch in Sunday's 30-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last week.
To help fill the void, the Jaguars signed wide receiver Jaydon Mickens to the active roster Wednesday from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad. Mickens played for the Jaguars from 2017-18, returning 39 punts for 346 yards and one touchdown and catching 13 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers last season.
Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Mickens would probably handle returning punts Sunday, but he was unsure if can get up to speed in time to draw snaps at wide receiver.
''This is a real short notice, probably three-quarters of the game plan is already in,'' Bevell said. ''But there probably be enough where if we had to go with him, he could get in, and everything from there would be a bonus. Our guys have done a great job in the past in getting guys ready.''
Agnew, a converted cornerback, was the Jaguars' fourth-leading receiver with 24 catches for 229 yards and one touchdown. In Week 10 against the Indianapolis Colts, Agnew scored on a 66-yard run. In Week 2, Agnew returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, and during Week 3 against the Cardinals, he returned a missed 68-yard field goal attempt for a 102-yard return.
''That's a tough break for us,'' Bevell said. ''You know, I love Ag, I'm grateful that he's going to be able to come back from it. He was an explosive part of the offense, and you know he could do the little things with them, so other guys have to step up, and that's always the case in the NFL. We'll find those guys and we'll put people in different places and try to move the ball.''
With his team reeling from a two-game losing streak and stagnant offensive production in the past four games, Meyer says at this point of the season, they will have to make do with what they have on their roster.
“Yeah, we still have good players,'' Meyer said. ''You’ll never hear me say that the—it’s obvious that the three fast guys, Etienne [Jr.], Chark , and now Agnew are [out]. Those guys are all legitimate fast, but we have all we need, we have to be creative in game planning and make some plays. Execute, and it’s a great challenge this week to do that.”
The Jaguars could get more targets to wide receiver Laviska Shenault or look more to veteran wide receiver John Brown, who was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 12 and was elevated to the active roster last week. Brown, a former third-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, has caught 320 passes for 4,748 yards in 99 career games with four different teams before his arrival in Jacksonville.
In his debut game with the Jaguars, Brown was targeted once against the 49ers on a deep route, but Trevor Lawrence's pass sailed incomplete.
It has not been easy for Lawrence to build chemistry with the Jaguars' new additions at a moment's notice because of the team's rash of injuries.
''It takes a little bit of extra work,'' Lawrence said. ''In practice, you have to get used to seeing a bunch of different guys in there at different times and really just to communicate well if you want something a certain way of if you need to correct something.''
The Jaguars are desperate for explosive plays, especially from their receivers. Their longest passing play against San Francisco went for 22 yards to Marvin Jones. Laviska Shenault was the Jaguars' leading receiver in the game with five catches for 50 yards, but his longest catch was 16 yards. Shenault also lost a fumble in the second quarter after a 6-yard catch.
''As a receiver you want to get the ball but you have to trust the process,'' Shenault said. ''We have guys that can make plays to fill the holes, but we just got to make it work."