Jaguars forced to improvise at tight end in win over the Colts

LONDON - Adversity seems to surround the Jaguars, even when the team wins

On Sunday, the team won its first game of the season in London and did so without its top three tight ends.

Jacksonville came into the game missing starting tight end Julius Thomas (elbow) and backup Ben Koyack (knee) due to injury. The team started veteran Marcedes Lewis in place of Thomas, but he suffered a hip injury during a second quarter scoring drive.

Neal Sterling, who converted from wide receiver to tight end this summer, was the only player left at the position. Sterling has played almost all of his snaps on special teams in the first 12 games of his career.

Game 13 offered Sterling an opportunity to play on offense, even if his lack of experience provided some issues. The Jaguars used Sterling throughout the majority of the game. He was called for a holding penalty early on but later picked up a first down off his first career reception.

“It’s pretty tough,” Sterling said. “You really need to be on your game and know the plays well, especially when you haven’t [received reps] at all during the week. But I think me and [Arrelious Benn] did a pretty good job of stepping up and just going in that role.”

The Jaguars offense features plenty of two tight end sets, so Sterling needed a teammates to help him carry the load. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson didn't change the plan and used veteran wide receiver Arrelious Benn at the position. A big-bodied wide receiver, Benn was capable of inline blocking against the Colts.

“It was something I’m not afraid to do and I have the size to do it and hold my own,” Benn said. “They plugged me in – that’s the name of the game – we have to get plugged in, next guy up to go get the job done. It wasn’t something I was shocked about, I feel as though I could play both [wide receiver and tight end]. I just plugged in there and did my job.”

The Jaguars may sign another tight end if injuries to Lewis and Thomas persist - but for one game - the team made due with what it had through the use of improvisation.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.


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