JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Week 1 loss of Allen Robinson weighed heavily on the Jaguars' offense in the first quarter of the season.
In the past, Robinson commanded heavier coverage, allowing Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns to take advantage of one-on-one opportunities.
Without Robinson, the two veterans failed to get separation against better coverage in the early going. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' inconsistencies didn't help matters either.
However, over the last few games, both Lee and Hurns have been able to make plays and impress Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone.
Lee has caught 17 passes for 230 passing yards and a touchdown over the last three games. Marrone believes Lee is capable of more big plays.
The fourth-year wide receiver battled through a knee injury in Week 9. It didn't seem to stop him from producing against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
“I think [Lee has] been playing well and I think that once we can get him more practice time during the week, which we haven’t been able to do due to limitations from injury, I think we can get more out of him. I really do," Marrone said during a conference call on Monday.
"That’s what I’m excited about. Everything looks better for this upcoming week. We’ll see how that goes when he gets back but I think we can get more out of him and I’m looking forward to it.”
Hurns has been used as a possession receiver this season. While his targets have been inconsistent, the veteran wide receiver has done his best to take advantage of his allotted opportunities.
“He’s been Mr. Consistent for us right now," Marrone said regarding Hurns. "In the way he’s running his routes and what he’s doing, he’s done an outstanding job as far as when he’s targeted, obviously, from a third-down standpoint in getting first downs. I’m very pleased with the way he’s playing. I think he’s playing at a very good level right now.”
The Jaguars are also seeing production from rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole, who made a circus catch for a 28-yard gain against the Bengals. The rookie has been a mainstay of three-wide receiver sets.
Hurns, Lee and Cole may soon joined by rookie Dede Westbrook, who is currently on injured reserve but is eligible to return during the next two weeks. Westbrook will give the Jaguars another weapon moving forward.
"It’s always a tough decision to see who comes out for him to come in and basically we’re waiting for him to be ready to go at the level that we think he can get on the field and produce and help us," Marrone said regarding Westbrook.
"So it’s not a matter of – right now, he’s just not ready – so we’ll go through this week, see where he is early on in the week, get him on the field, make sure we have no setbacks and see if we can get him at a 100 percent because we don’t want to bring him back too early if he’s not ready and we’ve got time on our side as far as to make that move. A lot of it is up to how he does, so that’s what we’re just watching."
With Westbrook's inevitable return and Bortles' improvement over the last few weeks, the Jaguars could surprise opposing defenses with the passing game during the second half of the season.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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