JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars have help on the way — at least on the offensive side of the ball.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis has returned from a nine-week stint on short-term injured reserve and will be back in the starting lineup Sunday at Indianapolis.
Lewis caught eight passes for 106 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown reception at Washington, in the first two games of the season. But he sustained a high-ankle sprain in the third quarter against the Redskins and hasn't played since.
The Jaguars (1-9) played it safe by putting the 30-year-old veteran on the sideline for two months, giving him plenty of time to heal and lessening the chance of a setback.
Now, he's back and eager to make plays for an offense that ranks 27th in the league in yards and 31st in scoring.
"Just ready to play," Lewis said Wednesday. "I'm just looking forward to getting in there and making some things happen."
Lewis missed five games last season because of a calf injury. But he was one of the team's top targets down the stretch, catching touchdown passes in four consecutive weeks. He followed that with what he called the best offseason of his career, losing weight, adding muscle and expecting to top the 58-catch, 700-yard, 10-touchdown season he delivered in 2010.
He got off to a solid start, but then badly sprained his left ankle.
Watching from the sideline wasn't much fun, especially as the offense sputtered behind rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. But he healed relatively quickly and was back running full speed weeks before he was able to return to practice under NFL rules.
He made a leaping, one-handed catch for the scout team during practice in London two weeks ago that caught everyone's attention.
"He's obviously a dominant force in pass protection and in the run blocking, but the target that he gives us in the passing game is something that we don't have," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "We don't have someone with that kind of size and range, so to be able to get him back is huge for us. I think that he can really help us in all phases of the offense."
Lewis hopes to form a quick bond with Bortles. Since Bortles got mostly second-team repetitions during the offseason, training camp, preseason and the first two regular-season games, he and Lewis haven't gotten much of a feel for each other's styles or abilities.
But Bortles has seen enough to know what to expect.
"He's a huge target, super athletic," Bortles said. "He's the kid that you never watch him do anything and you pick him first in backyard or whatever. I think you always like your chances with him. There aren't a whole lot of 6-7 guys playing defense. It's usually a good matchup.
"I know he'll work hard to do whatever he can to get open."
Getting open has never been Lewis' issue.
A first-round draft pick from UCLA in 2006, Lewis has 305 receptions for 3,689 yards and 26 touchdowns in nine seasons. His best attribute might be in the run game, where he's considered one of the NFL's premier blocking tight ends.
Lewis believes he could have played after Week 6, a loss at Tennessee, but that the Jaguars "treated me right" by giving him a chance to fully heal.
"It's not going to be 100 percent until the season's over, and I know that," Lewis said. "But it's good enough for me to do what I have to do and do it at a high level."
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