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2014 Training Camp: Lee could be bright light

Posted Aug 6, 2014

Editorial: WR Marqise Lee showing early flashes of being dynamic player Jaguars receiving corps has wanted for a long time.


JACKSONVILLE – He’s talented, he’s energetic and electric, and he’s all about potential.

And in a lot of the Jaguars’ 2014 Training Camp practices so far, all of those traits have burst from Marqise Lee. Yeah, he’s a rookie. Yeah, rookie receivers take time to develop.

And no doubt Lee has growing to do, but make no mistake:

There have been times during the last week and a half – more times than it maybe is reasonable to have expected – where you watch the second-round draft selection from the University of Southern California, and think, “This guy has … it.”

And about that “it…”

What is it? Star quality? Something special? Whatever it is, it seems like it’s there.

That’s a good thing for the Jaguars’ wide receiver corps – a group that has needed a big-time, No. 1, dynamic playmaker for a long, long time – but maybe the best thing about Lee is something he said early Wednesday afternoon after the Jaguars’ 11th 2014 training camp practice.

Lee, speaking at his locker at EverBank Field, was asked if there had been a turning moment so far in camp, a time he knew beyond question he could play at the NFL level, a time he knew he had at least kinda, sorta arrived.

“It hasn’t clicked for me yet, to tell you the truth,” he said.

No?

“I’m not there yet,” Lee said. “I can honestly tell you that.”

That’s good stuff, important stuff. Because while it may seem logical that a rookie wide receiver with 11 training camp practices on his resume hasn’t achieved anything, logic isn’t always the domain of rookie receivers. To have Lee saying that, and believing it …

That bodes well for his future, and it’s not only the sort of thing experienced heads around the Jaguars’ receivers like to hear, it’s the sort of thing the Jaguars need to hear. If you’ve been following this team the last several months, you know that there are a lot of high hopes for Lee and his fellow rookie second-round wide receiver Allen Robinson. You know both players have looked very good – uncommonly good for rookies – when healthy. You also know that Robinson, a bigger, more physical player who complements Lee’s strengths well, is out again with a hamstring injury.

Lee, who missed much of the offseason with an ankle injury, is unique among the Jaguars’ front-line receivers in that he thus far in camp has avoided being out with injuries. That has given him significant repetitions – and significant time to work with Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan.

Sullivan, widely considered one of the NFL’s best receiver coaches, spends extensive time with young receivers on details and fundamentals. He half-joked Wednesday morning that it sometimes takes young receivers longer to grasp what he teaches “because I’m a little more anal than most” coaches.

Sullivan on Wednesday discussed Lee’s “excellent running skills,” and said without question he has special talent.

Sullivan was also asked how Lee was coming with learning the fundamentals and route-running details.

“He’s getting there,” Sullivan said, adding, “I see him making strides at different intervals. Monday, he was ordinary. I thought (Tuesday) he was really good. One of the things that college guys find out about pro football is that pro football guys are much more ready to play on an everyday level because of the nature of the intensity of camp. He’s starting to find that out.”

Sullivan went on to talk about “process,” and said the things he wants Lee to learn aren’t things that are learned in two weeks. Consistency – that’s the hallmark of an elite NFL receiver, and consistency is what Sullivan will push Lee and Robinson toward in the coming weeks and months.

Jaguars fourth-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts III on Wednesday echoed many of Sullivan’s thoughts on Lee, how the rookie has shown eye-catching potential, how the ability is there to be special. Really special.

“You see flashes of why he was so coveted coming out,” Shorts said.

Shorts also said that a key to Lee’s development – and any receiver working with Sullivan, for that matter – should come in the future, when he trusts what Sullivan is teaching on a level that goes beyond the mind, when the trust in the techniques and approach isn’t something he’s thinking, but something innate and natural.

“He’s getting close,” Shorts said of Lee. “He has work to do. With Jerry, you have to trust him. You have to trust what he’s teaching. When you start believing in what he’s doing, then you’ll see your game progress.

“It might take a half a year, then he’ll do something in a game and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m open. It works.’ Then, it will click. It might be three games. It might be the first of the season. But he’s going to have to believe and trust.”

Lee is in the middle of that process now.

“He’s been in the league for a long period of time, and he obviously knows what he’s talking about,” Lee said of Sullivan. “For me coming in as a rookie, my main focus with him being my coach is to pay attention. The things that he says, I have to put that in my game. That’s my focus, to make sure I have everything down pat.”

How long the process will take is anyone’s guess. What matters to the Jaguars isn’t how long, but that he’s doing those things. And if the flashes of the last two weeks are any indication, the light that comes when things click may be very bright indeed.

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