The expectations were high for Jaguars rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook when he was activated off injured reserve last month.
After producing several big plays during his college career and offering up highlight after highlight during his first preseason, Westbrook was expected by many to be the deep-threat playmaker the Jaguars were missing in the passing game.
Instead, he has offered relief in another very important role.
In his first three NFL games, Westbrook has dropped the deep-threat designation and become a reliable possession receiver for the Jaguars.
With veteran Allen Hurns out of the lineup due to an ankle injury, the Jaguars needed a receiver to move the chains and make consistent catches.
Westbrook has been that player as of late.
The rookie has caught 15 passes for 154 receiving yards (10.5 YPC) on 25 targets. His stat lines and overall performances have improved every week.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has been pleased with Westbrook's progress since returning from September core surgery.
"He's making strides and he's doing a good job," Marrone said on a conference call with local reporters Monday.
"We're excited because obviously we've had injuries at [the wide receiver] position and he's come back from injury, which is a credit to him, where he didn't have a lot of practice time, so [he's] being thrown out there in the fire and he's responding well."
Westbrook has become a dependable target for quarterback Blake Bortles.
Against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13, Westbrook produced six catches for 78 receiving yards on nine targets. The rookie played a big role in Bortles' stellar overall performance against Indianapolis.
"He’s still kind of figuring it out," Bortles said about Westbrook after the game. "But I think [Westbrook and fellow rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole] are both doing an unbelievable job,”
Westbrook's upside is encouraging.
With four games left in the regular season, he has plenty of time to make his mark before a potential playoff run. Westbrook will be counted on heavily as the team looks to make a major postseason push.
With his play trending upward, Westbrook could be the key to finding consistency in the Jaguars' passing game.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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