Jaguars take baby steps in the right direction
Laurent Robinson came out of nowhere to be one of the breakout stars of 2011. (Getty Images)
At some point during the 2012 season, there's a definite possibility that Jacksonville will have Chad Henne tossing a pass out to Laurent Robinson. Does that potential make the Jaguars any more dangerous? They have no choice but to hope that it does.
Wednesday -- in addition to re-signing DE Jeremy Mincey, a huge keep for the defense -- the Jaguars plucked Robinson and Henne out of free agency.
Robinson's the higher-profile pickup of the two, mostly because the Jaguars will be asking their new $32.5 million man to take the lead in saving the team's receiving corps. Jacksonville threw for just 136.2 yards per game last season, by far the lowest number in the league. The team's leading receiver, Mike Thomas, topped out at 44 catches and 415 yards.
The Jaguars' receiver spot was a complete and total wasteland. Robinson has the potential to help, but it's a risky proposition.
Why? Well, in his five injury-plagued years in the NFL, Robinson has bounced around between three teams and struggled to find consistent playing time. Only once he arrived in Dallas last season did he excel, coming out of nowhere to catch 54 passes and 11 touchdowns.
The difference between playing for the 'Boys and the Jags is that Jacksonville cannot provide Robinson the protection of guys like Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin, nor does it have Tony Romo slinging the ball around.
And that's where Henne comes in.
The former four-year starter at Michigan never took off during his time in Miami, with his 2011 season ending due to a shoulder injury just four weeks into the schedule. Henne ended his Dolphins days with 31 touchdowns and 37 interceptions -- hardly what Miami had in mind when it used a second-round pick on him in 2008.
But Henne found a surprising amount of teams interested in his services once he hit free agency, an indication that the league as a whole thinks there's still some talent there. He now enters a situation in Jacksonville that looks primed for a backup QB to swoop in and take over.
Thus far, the Jaguars have thrown their support behind Blaine Gabbert, who endured a miserable rookie season filled with terrible reads and even worse decision-making. Gabbert will enter 2012 as Jacksonville's No. 1 QB, but how much room for error does he have?
The signing of Henne, who has two-plus seasons of starting experience under his belt, hints that there could be a quick pull if Gabbert stumbles.
Robinson's presence will heighten the urgency too, fairly or not. Jacksonville has put a lot of faith in Robinson to pick up where he left off in Dallas, but we may not know until Week 1 or 2 -- and even longer, if Gabbert can't make the requisite throws -- if Robinson is capable of taking over as a lead receiver. Instead of slipping under the radar against man coverage, he may now draw bracket looks and opposing defenses' top cornerbacks. That will take some time to adjust to, assuming Robinson even succeeds against those obstacles.
Jacksonville had to give this a shot, though, thanks to the combination of its 2011 nightmarish production at receiver and the speed with which the free-agent options came off the board.
The expectations won't be quite as high for Henne now that he's in Jacksonville, but that may change if Gabbert struggles out of the gate. The Jaguars' offense really has nowhere to go but up after a dismal 2011 season. Robinson and Henne may not have all the answers, but at least it's a step in the right direction for a team that had been standing still.