When a wide receiver is taken in the top five, he is expected to be an instant impact player. The Jacksonville Jaguars had one of the worst passing games in the league last year, so that goes double No. 5 overall pick Justin Blackmon.
The first-round pick missed the final day of rookie minicamp with a foot injury, but from the sounds of the quotes coming out of Jacksonville's OTAs, Blackmon is more than making up for his absence now that the veterans and rookies are taking the field together.
Laurent Robinson, a big free wide receiver signing for the Jags who will likely start opposite Blackmon, called the rookie a hard worker and good route-runner. He also liked Blackmon's hands and run-after-catch ability, according to long-time NFL writer Vito Stellino from the Florida Times-Union. Stellino also reported praise for Blackmon from another one of the team's veteran wideouts, Lee Evans:
"Physically, he has all the tools so now it’s just about him getting comfortable understanding the playbook and what his role is going to be."
It isn't just Blackmon's fellow pass-catchers talking him up. Jaguars starting middle linebacker called Blackmon "an absolute stud" after watching him in a drill, per Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said Blackmon was "ahead of where you think most rookies would be."
All of this is against the backdrop of a team that had one of the better defenses in the league last year, but they struggled to win because of their impotent offense. Two of the team's defensive starters gushed about the effect of the offensive changes to Ganguli. Strong safety Dawan Landry said the change was "night and day" from last year. Outside linebacker Clint Session called the offense the "greatest show on turf compared to what it was last year."
The 2011 Jaguars set the bar very low for offensive performance, so seeing a dramatic difference this early might not mean that much. If the team can turn it around this year, Blackmon will need to come up big, early and often. So far, his teammates sound like they believe he has the ability to be key to the recovery.