Chad Henne and Marcedes Lewis Help Each Other, Make Jaguars Better
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: November 28, 2012
Jacksonville tight end Marcedes Lewis is in the second year of a five year, $35 million contract. Until the past two weeks, he has had little occasion to being earning that kind of money. In 26 games since his 58 catch, ten touchdown 2010 season, Lewis has caught 72 passes for four touchdowns. Even with the recent dawn of the tight end, the Jaguars (and second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert) have often left Lewis on the outside, looking in.
Enter Chad Henne. The former Miami Dolphin took over for Gabbert during a November 18th road game in Houston and proceeded to nearly unseat the undefeated-in-the-AFC-South Texans. Henne's success in the game (which Jacksonville ultimately lost in overtime) could be heavily attributed to his attention to the tight end. Lewis and Henne demonstrated near-instant chemistry, connecting on three passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns. In a win over Tennessee (Jacksonville's second on the season), Lewis was targeted four times for 56 yards. Although the number of Lewis targets was relatively consistent with Gabbert's presence, in two games with Henne, the tight end has been used more efficiently. He has posted nearly 30% of his season-long yardage and his two highest yards per catch of 2012 in his time with Henne. His two touchdown targets also came on critical third downs.
So why has Lewis been so underutilized up until this point? Head coach Mike Mularkey, a former tight end himself, insists his lack of inclusion hasn't been a conscious decision. In fact, Lewis has even said that “each game, each practice, I’ve learned more having a head coach who has played my position.” But he has been primarily used as a run blocker and pass protector, aiding an offensive line that has struggled mightily this season. And that absolutely makes sense. An additional able body helping keep a young quarterback upright is a vital part of the offense. As Lewis himself explains, “if I’m not a good blocker and we can’t run the ball, then I won’t be able to go downfield and run routes.”
But could Lewis have been helping Gabbert develop his passing game? Think about how often you've heard a tight end referred to as a "security blanket". It happens all the time, and not just with young, inexperienced quarterbacks. Where would Tony Romo be without Jason Witten (every year until 2012)? Would Ben Roethlisberger have such a sensational third down conversion rate without Heath Miller? Perhaps Lewis could have been used in that security blanket role, helping Gabbert bolster his confidence while moving the ball down the field. Establishing his tight end as an additional receiving thread would leave rookie Justin Blackmon and second year sensation Cecil Shorts III with a bit more wiggle room, not only to catch passes, but to develop as NFL players.
But it's too late for coulda woulda shoulda's. Henne is now the man in Jacksonville, and it looks like he'll be making the most of his talented tight end. Consequently, things haven't looked so bright for the Jaguars in quite some time.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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