The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed into the bye week with a win under their belt and momentum off which to build. After six games—and 11 to go—where does this team stand? The first five losses painted a picture of a team with lots of places to improve, but some positives that can be taken away as well.
Through this series, we'll examine each unit; what's worked, what hasn't and what grade they've earned thus far. Next up, the tight end group.
Dan Arnold stepped off a plane on a Monday and was helping put the Jaguars in a position to win on Thursday. With little time to absorb the playbook, Arnold relied on natural talent and became a safety blanket for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. This tight end unit was lacking in depth (more on that below) and a reliable pass catching option. Arnold was able to immediately address both. In just three games, the former Carolina Panther (who the Jags received in a trade that sent corner CJ Henderson to Charlotte) is averaging 40 receiving yards per game, third best on the team. He provides Lawrence with an intermediate option, averaging 6.1 yards on depth of target.
Chris Manhertz, signed to be a blocking tight end, has also been a sneaky option in the passing game. He's only been targeted four times, but has hauled in three of those, with two of the three going for a first down or touchdown. He isn't an every down tight end in terms of a receiver, but he can be a decoy, the more he proves himself reliable in the above regard.
After James O'Shaughnessy was placed on Injured Reserve following Week 2, this already desolate unit took a major hit. Between Arnold, Manhertz and the emergence of rookie Luke Farrell, the group is beginning to find its footing in this Jaguars offense.
While the tight end unit has progressed and improved, finding a role in which offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell can use them, they were starting pretty far behind the 8-ball. The coaching staff spent the offseason lamenting the lack of depth within this room, then the front office did little to address it, save the initial Manhertz signing and a training camp hoobaloo with Tim Tebow.
There was an attempt to address the issue, signing Jacob Hollister, but then he was inactive for the first two games and has hauled in only four of his nine targets for 21 yards. Other than Arnold, no active tight end has more than five receptions through the first six games. We've seen what Bevell—and for that matter Lawrence—have done with a capable tight end in this offense, which begs the question, what could they do with more than one? Multiple tight end sets could become more than a gimmick once or twice a game.
Even with that in mind, there are still things on which Dan Arnold can improve. He's had a drop since arriving, and given up a fumble that turned into a scoop-and-score versus the Tennessee Titans.
Overall Grade: C+
As mentioned, this group was behind the 8-ball to begin. Without Arnold, this grade could have feasibly been failing. If Arnold cleans up the drop and turnover, it can be even better. So much now swings on his impact on the group. And as he grows, so should those around him, increasing the overall effectiveness of the entire tight end unit.