It seems counter-intuitive to say that a player will have a breakout season with a four-game suspension looming to begin said campaign, but Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon is fully capable of doing just that. There is plenty of potential still untapped in this top five overall selection from the 2012 NFL Draft, and despite his off-field issues, Jacksonville can’t give up hope yet.
Obviously much of Blackmon’s potential to break out depends upon who is under center for the Jags in 2013. The quarterback play has been a big topic of conversation with the team for a number of years, and this season will be no different with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne coming into camp on level ground with the new coaching staff. If Blackmon has any say in the quarterback competition, chances are he will side with the veteran.
When Henne was under center in 2012, Blackmon averaged 87.9 yards per game receiving. For a rookie, that’s a super number and was highlighted by a Week 11 236 yard performance against the Houston Texans. Still, four of Blackmon’s five touchdown catches last season came with Henne calling the shots. His yards per game under Gabbert’s direction were a paltry 27.7 showing the disparity between the two in terms of their ability to get the team’s number one weapon involved.
Blackmon’s potential also hinges on the continued development of fellow wide receiver Cecil Shorts who really excelled down the stretch last season. Although he missed some action late in the year, Shorts saw double-digit targets in six of the final nine games he played in. Interestingly enough, Blackmon had double-digit targets in five of his last seven games of the season showing that these two are very complementary pieces for the Jacksonville offense.
A strong running game won’t hurt the Jags either in the coming year. Maurice Jones-Drew missed the final 10 games of the season after getting injured in Week 6 against the Oakland Raiders. Jacksonville was anything but balanced after losing their top rusher and that certainly had a negative impact on the predictability of their offense. A healthy MoJo will be vital to Blackmon seeing one-on-one coverages which he will routinely feast on.
Much will depend on just how Blackmon looks in the preseason since he will be out for the first month of the regular season due to his suspension, but if he shows growth from year one when the games don’t count, expect that to continue once the real action begins. This kid is the definition of a game-breaking receiver with the potential to take the ball the distance any time he gets his hands on it. Still at just 23 years of age, Blackmon has some serious production ahead of him in the coming years.