JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) When two-time Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas broke his right hand in the preseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars anticipated a drop-off at the position.
They didn't expect the backups to essentially drop out of sight.
But through two games, tight ends Marcedes Lewis, Clay Harbor and Nic Jacobs have no catches.
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Zip. Zero. Zilch.
The Jaguars (1-1) are one of two NFL teams with no receptions from the tight end position. The New York Jets are the other. It's a trend Jacksonville would like to reverse beginning at New England (2-0) on Sunday.
''It's a little surprising,'' Jacobs said Wednesday. ''The progressions just haven't come the way we wanted them to. It's not a lack of production on our part, but the plays just didn't pan out like we wanted them to. Eventually I think we'll get incorporated more and everything will fall into place.
''It's not like they're trying not to throw us the ball.''
Indeed, Blake Bortles threw two passes to Lewis in a win against Miami on Sunday. Lewis dropped one and the other got batted down at the line of scrimmage.
The biggest contribution the Jaguars have gotten from a tight end this season was the unnecessary roughness penalty Harbor drew in the final minute against the Dolphins. Harbor said he purposely - and convincingly - fell to the ground when Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon pushed him at the end of a running play.
Vernon was flagged for 15 yards, which gave Jacksonville a first down inside the Miami 20-yard line and helped set up Jason Myers' game-winning field goal.
''The opportunity presented itself to maybe get some extra yards for us, get us in better field-goal range,'' Harbor said. ''Who am I not to take it? Definitely did a little flop there and acted my way to 15 extra yards. If it helps us win, I'll do it.''
Harbor and his fellow tight ends would welcome a few catches, too.
They were targeted a combined six times against Carolina and Miami - about one-fourth as many as Patriots star Rob Gronkowski has seen in two games.
''I don't know if frustration is the word,'' Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. ''We've had them involved. We had plays designed for them in these first two games, and for whatever reason, it didn't come out that way. Certainly you feel (for them) because you know the work that those guys have put in and they're also talented players for us.
''We'll continue to find ways to get them involved. That's part of the game. It doesn't always work out that way, but certainly we're very confident in their skill set and their abilities, so we'll continue to look at ways to get them the ball.''
Thomas, who caught 108 passes and 24 touchdowns the last two years in Denver and signed a five-year, $46 million contract with Jacksonville, broke a bone in the back of his hand in the Aug. 14 preseason opener against Pittsburgh. He had surgery Sept. 1 and will be evaluated early next week, giving the Jaguars a timetable for his return.
In the meantime, Lewis, Harbor and Jacobs will continue to share the positional workload.
Bortles believes receiver Allen Robinson's emergence on the outside - the second-year pro caught six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins - could open up more space and opportunities for the tight ends in the middle of the field.
''I think it will allow Marcedes and Clay Harbor maybe to get a little more separation,'' Bortles said. ''Week 1, they did a good job taking Marcedes out of the game plan and last week we had some more things for him. ... He is a big part of our game plan. It just hasn't happened to work out to where he's gotten multiple throws his way.''
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