One of the more curious aspects of the Jacksonville Jaguars' season-opening 20-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was the almost total lack of involvement of the team's tight ends in the offense.
The Jaguars, who were playing without Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, targeted his replacements, Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor just one time, on a throw intended for Harbor late in the fourth quarter. And it's not as though Jacksonville didn't throw the ball. Quarterback Blake Bortles attempted 40 passes in the game.
"We had a lot of stuff in the game plan for Marcedes and myself this week," Harbor said, per the Florida Times-Union. "We just didn't execute as an offense. We had a lot of three and outs. We couldn't get to our calls. In second-and-long and third-and-long, that keeps you in three-and-four receiver sets, because they know you aren't running the ball or using play action."
Lewis agreed, saying the overall lack of offensive production provided limited opportunities for him and Harbor to contribute.
"I feel like we never could get to those calls, because we had so many three-and-outs," Lewis said. "We have to stay on the field more to be able to open up the playbook more."
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said after the game he wasn't quite certain why the tight ends weren't involved more.
"That's what we'll take a look at," Bradley said. "I don't know the answer right now. I know (Lewis) was involved in some protection and chipping on the way out to help out and when you do that, sometimes he's not as big a part of the game as usual. I'll have a better answer (Monday).
Bortles credited Carolina's defense with taking the tight ends away.
"(Carolina) did some good stuff," Bortles said. "Marcedes got combo'ed a couple of times. We had a lot of things in for him and they did a good job of taking him away. He's obviously a guy we have to get the ball to, but when they're taking him away, you can't force it.
Lewis and Harbor are Jacksonville's current options at tight end with Thomas out after undergoing hand surgery earlier this month.
Thomas, who caught 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons for the Denver Broncos, signed a five-year, $46-million contract with the Jaguars in March and is expected to be a key part of the Jacksonville offense.
(h/t Florida Times-Union)
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