The Jacksonville Jaguars lost a significant part of their offense in their Week 2 loss against the Denver Broncos, with starting tight end James O'Shaughnessy officially being placed on injured reserve on Wednesday.
O'Shaughnessy sustained a high ankle sprain against the Broncos in the 23-13 loss, with the veteran tight end playing just three snaps. While O'Shaughnessy hasn't had great production throughout his career, he is by far the Jaguars' most talented pass-catching tight end, and has thus seen the bulk of the work there among the Jaguars' pass-catchers.
With O'Shaughnessy now set to miss the next several weeks, the Jaguars have some big questions to answer at tight end. Here is how we se the next few weeks playing out, as well as what else O'Shaughnessy's injury means for the offense.
Expect a heavy dosage of Jacob Hollister over the next month
The Jaguars had to essentially throw out their entire game plan at tight end when O'Shaughnessy was injured on the first drive, largely the result of the Jaguars carrying just three tight ends on the active game-day roster. With recent free agent addition Jacob Hollister as a healthy scratch on Sunday, the Jaguars gave O'Shaughnessy's role to fifth-round rookie tight end Luke Farrell following O'Shaughnessy's injury. Farrell had a poor outing on 20 routes ran (compared to just 11 for Chris Manhertz), so it is unlikely the Jaguars go back to the well with Farrell in Week 3.
As a result, look for Hollister to do more than simply just play a small role on Sunday. Instead, it should be expected for Hollister to immediately step into a starting role -- O'Shaughnessy's role. The Jaguars can't ask Farrell to run 20+ routes and expect to see any production from tight end, and it has become clear that the Jaguars don't see Manhertz as much of a receiving threat. As a result, this means Hollister's stock is rising.
The Jaguars' tight end room was potentially the worst in the NFL with a healthy O'Shaughnessy; now, it has become a critical issue and shouldn't be expected to make much of an impact in the passing game
While Hollister had solid production in Seattle over the last two seasons, he is a far cry from a game-changing tight end. If he was one, the Buffalo Bills likely would have never released him. As a result, it is past time for the Jaguars to expect their tight ends to play a big role in the passing game, even with Hollister stepping into O'Shaughnessy's role.
The Jaguars already had arguably the worst tight end room in the NFL in terms of established pass-catchers entering the season, and O'Shaughnessy was genuinely the only somewhat salvable option in the passing game. With him now on injured reserve, the Jaguars would be wise to incorporate their running backs more into the passing game, while using Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones to attack the middle of the field.
Jacksonville's tight ends will still play an important role, but it has eventually become panic mode at tight end for the Jaguars. O'Shaughnessy commanded the entire duties of the Jaguars' passing game at tight end over the first two weeks. With him gone, the Jaguars are likely better off forgetting the position exists for the most part.
If this leads to more Chris Manhertz snaps, the Jaguars will need their receivers to start winning their battles more consistently
If the Jaguars are going to still emphasize the tight end position moving forward (they rank 12th in targets thrown to tight ends through two weeks, per Sports Info Solutions), then they will need better play from the rest of the offense. This is in large part because of the way the Jaguars use Manhertz, who is still blocking even when he is used as a route-runner.
Manhertz chips on the vast majority of his routes, leading to his routes coming into play much slower than the rest of the skill players. And while this helps with pass protection, it does help take away one target in the passing game. If he is going to run more routes with O'Shaughnessy out, the Jaguars will need their wide receivers to win more one-on-one battles and provide easy targets for Lawrence.