The Jaguars have garnered quite a bit of praise for establishing their running game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the offensive line and running backs deserve a lot of the credit, the Jaguars' tight ends also take ownership in the success.
The team has been force-feeding the likes of first-round rookie running back Leonard Fournette and veteran Chris Ivory for weeks in hopes of setting a consistent tone on offense. On Sunday, the Jaguars ran the ball 18 times in the fourth quarter.
Jacksonville's last pass in the game came with 8:11 left in the third quarter. The Jaguars were able to move the ball downfield with their running game and maintain a lead established by the defense on two interceptions for touchdowns in the third quarter.
The Jaguars' tight ends were among those who helped that plan progress. Tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Ben Koyack were influential in winning the battle at line of scrimmage in the second half.
The duo was involved on the bulk of the snaps late in the game, including the 90-yard touchdown run for Fournette. On that play in particular, the Jaguars employed a 23 personnel look (two running backs, three tight ends) with backup offensive tackle Josh Wells reporting as an eligible receiver.
Lewis lined up on the left side of the line and took on Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, which allowed right guard A.J. Cann to pull to the left side of the line and handle safety Mike Mitchell at the line of scrimmage. The presence of Lewis allowed for the blocking unit to open up a massive hole for Fournette, who set a franchise record with the 90-yard streak to the end zone.
The Jaguars have used their tight ends primarily in a blocking capacity throughout the season. While Lewis caught four passes for 62 yards and three touchdowns in London in Week 3, the majority of his work has been in protection. The veteran has played 271 snaps but has only been targeted 15 times in the passing game.
Koyack is in the same department as he has only been targeted once by Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles through five games. The majority of his 133 snaps have involved blocking as his primary responsibility.
While it is easy to overlook their merit as consistent receiving threats this season, the Jaguars' tight ends have been heavily involved in the team's running game success. With the offensive line continuing to progress, the tight ends have served as added anchors against heavy defensive personnel in the tackle box.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.