Justin Blackmon Gives Jacksonville Jaguars' Offense Real Chance to Compete

Brad HillContributor IOctober 13, 2013

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 13:  Wide receiver Justin Blackmon #14 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a first down pass reception as free safety Rahim Moore #26 of the Denver Broncos defends at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 13, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Jaguars 35-19.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Through four games, the Jacksonville Jaguars' offense was historically bad. They scored only 31 points in those four games and were near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories.

The most points Jacksonville scored in one game was 17, most of which was accumulated in garbage time in Seattle at the tail end of a blowout. The Jaguars' offense wasn't even competitive; it was, to put it nicely, a dumpster fire.

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Quarterback Chad Henne #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars hands off to running back Maurice Jones-Drew #32 against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 22, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/G
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Everything was bad, but something specific was missing: a reason for Jaguars opponents to respect the passing game. 

There's a reason the Jaguars' offense was so incredibly bad through Week 4: Those were the four weeks for which wide receiver Justin Blackmon was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The Week 6 matchup with Denver marked the second game the Jaguars have played in 2013 with Blackmon in the lineup, and the difference is stark. Jacksonville has been competitive in both games, and Blackmon's stats through those two games are incredible:

Jacksonville's passing offense now looks like it can help the Jags compete.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has created a game plan that uses Blackmon to the best of his ability. He often lines up in the slot in three-receiver sets, which compensates for his lack of straight-line speed and allows him to get the ball in space and make defenders miss.

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 13:  Wide receiver Justin Blackmon #14 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a reception as cornerback Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos makes the tackle at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 13, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Slants, crossing routes, digs and post routes are Blackmon's bread and butter, and it's refreshing to see the Jaguars' coaching staff use him correctly. Last year's coaching staff insisted on lining Blackmon up as the "X" receiver on the outside and asked him to beat his man one-on-one. That's just not where he's at his best.

Blackmon is at his best when he's not asked to beat his defender in press coverage. When he lines up in the slot, the defensive back can't jam him as easily, giving Blackmon an opportunity to catch the ball in space and make tacklers miss.

The stats for the Jaguars' offense through four weeks without Blackmon and its stats with him in the lineup are as different as night and day:

Those numbers are astounding. Obviously Blackmon is a major difference-maker, and the fact that the Jaguars' offense has taken off since his return just makes that fact crystal clear.

With Blackmon on the field, teams have to account for more weapons than just Shorts. They can't afford to double Cecil and dare Jacksonville to beat them with Clay Harbor and Ace Sanders. Blackmon has the physical ability to be one of the league's most dangerous receivers after the catch, and he's delivered on that promise.

Aug 24, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne (7) congratulates wide receiver Justin Blackmon (14) after he caught a touchdown pass during the first quarter of their game against the Philadelphia Eagles at EverBank Field
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Next year, the Jaguars' rookie quarterback will have the benefit of two fantastic offensive weapons in Blackmon and Shorts. But for this year, Blackmon's presence allows the Jaguars offense to compete. Jacksonville isn't the pushover offense you saw through four weeks, and it's no longer an auto-start opponent for your fantasy defense.

Justin Blackmon is a dangerous offensive weapon, and the difference he makes in Jacksonville's game plan is huge. Hopefully he can stay out of trouble in the future because he provides a major lift to the Jaguars' passing game.