JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - During his first two years in the league, Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee's most consistent output was on the injury report.
In Year 3, that's been far from the case.
Lee is now the second-leading receiver on the Jaguars roster and has already produced more catches (20) and yardage (233) than he did in all of last season.
On top of his production on offense, his improved availability has led to new roles. Lee was the primary kick and punt returner for the Jaguars in the team's 17-16 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 6.
Lee has been a key cog in the Jacksonville offense this season, something he's aspired to be for three years.
"Just being in the mix and just being out there honestly - I feel like the first two years that's what I missed," Lee said.
"It's not about making plays and doing things like that. Just being out there and being able to make a change, whether you're a decoy or not. My thing is I'm healthy. That's the biggest thing and the biggest factor for me coming out of my last two years."
Lee caught all six of his targets against the Bears, producing six catches for 61 yards. He was influential in the team's massive fourth quarter comeback.
"I've been healthy so I can show what I actually can do," Lee said.
With added playing time and added responsibility, it appears the coaching staff has finally taken all restraints off the oft-injured receiver.
"I believe the coaches always believed in me, I never said they lost faith in me at all, honestly," Lee said.
"This injury that came up, you just need to make exceptions for it. You don't know if [a player] is going to go down or what. Still to this day - no matter how good I've done in the first six games - I know it's still in the back of their heads. 'You've still got to have somebody ready.'"
The "next man up" adage has been felt hard in the Jaguars locker room this season. Players have had to fill roles due to injury. Lee is now doing the fill-in work that others had to do for him.
"That's the NFL in general, but that's not my thought process," Lee said. "My thought process is that I'm going to be out there for the next 11 games and be fine."
Lee was a surprise addition to the special teams unit against the Bears. However, the USC product had been asking to return kicks for quite some time.
"I actually did kickoff return in college," Lee said.
"I actually did pretty good at it and was a punt returner my last year in college, so I've always wanted the opportunity to do it here. Due to injuries, I was never allowed to. Now that I'm actually healthy and can get back there, they try to throw me back there 'here and there.' Not to take nothing from Corey [Grant] and Rashad [Greene], but I'm sure when they come back I'll be right there behind them. I'll always be ready to do it if I'm asked to do it."
The former second-round pick didn't get many opportunities to advance the ball but was happy to at least get a shot at making more plays.
"That was really frustrating because my main focus was to go there - I know what I can do as far as kickoff returns - I did it in college and even with the one [return], I felt comfortable."
Along with Lee's catches and special teams contributions, the receiver also drew some beneficial penalties as well.
"I feel the penalties are more important," Lee said.
"We don't really care about the catch, everybody wants the catch but just to get the ball to move forward, that's the biggest thing for us. The big thing is getting the first down and a sense of moving forward as an offense it's positive, regardless if it's a [pass interference] on them, we'll take anything we can get."
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.