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2014 offseason: Sanders likes WR corps

Posted May 23, 2014

Jaguars second-year WR Ace Sanders on receiving corps: “It’s a great situation we have going on, because we have so many weapons now.”


JACKSONVILLE – Ace Sanders loved the Jaguars’ draft.

Note the wording there: Sanders didn’t just *like* the 2014 NFL Draft. Neither was he lukewarm about it. And the Jaguars’ second-year wide receiver said he didn’t spend time wondering what it might mean for his role.

No, Sanders said he knew immediately and without doubt: Drafting two wide receivers? Getting a couple of more guys at the position who can really make plays?

Sanders didn’t figure that was a *good* thing for the team and for him.

He knew darned well it was a great thing.

“Oh, yeah – this is wa-a-a-a-y better,” Sanders said with a wide smile late this week as the Jaguars prepared for 2014 organized team activities, which are scheduled to begin at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields Tuesday.

Sanders said a lot more and a lot more will be covered in this story, but make no mistake: That first part? The wa-a-a-a-a-y better part?

It covers the gist of how Sanders feels about the moves the Jaguars made offensively in the draft, particularly the early selections at the wide receiver position.

The position, partly because of the uncertainty around third-year veteran Justin Blackmon, was considered a need entering the draft .The prevailing wisdom was the Jaguars would probably select at least one starting-level player, and perhaps two.

They addressed the first possibility early on the second night of the draft, using their first selection of the second round – the No. 39 selection overall – on Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee. They quickly addressed the selection shortly thereafter, trading up into the back half of the second round, using the No. 61 selection on Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson.

Two second-round selections …

Two wide receivers …

As Sanders sees it, there’s not only nothing wrong with that, there’s a whole lot right.

“It’s a great situation we have going on, because we have so many weapons now,” he said. “We can rotate in. We can go all out. If someone’s coming in – me, (second-year veteran) Mike (Brown) or any of the young guys, the rookies coming in – they can all fill the void. It’s a great situation.”

It is the tendency among NFL fans and observers to want specific players to fill specific roles. Player A must be the X receiver, and Player B must play the slot. That’s not necessarily the case in Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s offense.

“Everyone’s doing everything,” Sanders said.

While Sanders said that makes the offensive tricky to learn at first, it gives a significant advantage as players become more comfortable in the scheme.

“Z, X … that’s not how our offense is,” Sanders said. “We don’t want to be stuck being a one-dimensional team. Maybe one play we might like this matchup better, so we need you to read this route. We need you to know what’s going on. The way we set it up is perfect. It’s perfect.”

Sanders, a fourth-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft from South Carolina, played a larger role than  expected last season far sooner than the Jaguars hoped. Originally a punt returner/slot wide receiver, he played well in the offseason, and with Blackmon suspended the first game of the season, Sanders opened the season starting on the outside.

Sanders finished the season playing a role at times out of the backfield, with the Jaguars utilizing his quickness there and out of the slot. He caught 51 passes for 484 yards and a touchdown last season.

Sanders doesn’t know his role exactly next season. He does know he expects to be “at 100 percent, full speed.”

“I’m really holding myself accountable,” he said. “I should know this stuff. I know what to expect now. I have a head start on stuff. The coaches are working with us. We have all this time to work together. I’m expecting to just build off that last season.”

Sanders said he could see a scenario in which he played multiple roles as last season, and said that’s particularly true with the added weapons. And having those weapons? Having a player such has Lee, who has significant big-play ability?

And Robinson, whose size makes him a weapon all over the field?

Well, as Sanders might say, that could make things “w-a-a-a-a-y” better for him and anyone else playing receiver for the Jaguars.

“That’s the fun part, actually,” Sanders said. “Defenses are like, ‘Man, I’ve got this guy here and this guy over here, and now he’s lining up over here.’ There is a lot of stuff that creates mismatches for us, so I love it.”

And that’s sort of how Sanders said he feels about everything right now.

“It’s really exciting,” he said with a laugh. “I know what I’m doing. These picks that we got, I remember being in their position not long ago. They’re eager to play. I like the excitement.

“They’re coming and ready to go. All it does is fuel me up. I’m like, ‘If you’re ready to go, I’m ready to go.’ Let’s go.”

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