Ever since Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee signed a new contract with the team in the 2018 offseason, it doesn’t seem like much has gone right for the veteran wideout.
First he tore his ACL before the 2018 season began, ending his entire year and putting him on a long road back to recovery. And this year, the sixth-year receiver battled through a number of injuries before a shoulder injury finally landed him on the team/s reserve/injured list on Tuesday.
In general, Lee has not a pass-catching factor for the Jaguars ever since he signed a four-year contract worth $38 million ($18 million guaranteed) in March 2018. The 2018 ACL injury took away any chance he had to produce, and this year he only totaled three catches for 18 yards in six games.
So while the loss of Lee will have little to no ramifications on the passing game, his absence is still going to be felt. He is one of the most respected players in the building at TIAA Bank Field and is considered a valuable piece of the team, despite his poor production, simply because of the role he has on and off of the field as a veteran leader.
“Guys rally around him and guys listen to him, so when you lose a guy like that you lose a big chunk of your offense in terms of morale and everything,” wide receiver Chris Conley said. “Marqise is a guy that we have really leaned on, not only for leadership but to do some things at receiver that not everybody wants to do”
The things Lee has done that Conley is referencing are things like Lee being asked to become a faux tight end at times, with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo motioning utilizing him often as both an inline blocker and a lead blocker in space.
That willingness to take essentially the No. 4 receiver spot and instead focus on the more physical aspects of the position that many don’t dedicate themselves to went a long way for Lee in the locker room. Sure he wasn’t targeted much as a receiver, but his teammates saw the things he did to help the team, and those are things they will have to replace.
“He definitely this year took on a role that he doesn’t really get as much credit for, definitely when it comes to blocking and getting dirty and things like that,” wide receiver DJ Chark said. “He means a lot (to the receivers room). He helped me out a lot since I have been here these two years. One of the most positive people you can be around.”
Jaguars Head coach Doug Marrone echoed the sentiments of toughness, blocking and leadership that Conley and Chark expressed. For him, Lee’s injury is a tough situation considering what the veteran wideout went through in 2018.
“He’s such a good football player, and he’s tough and he brings an element to that room with toughness. He’s one of those guys that always has a smile on his face, nothing’s ever bad,” Marrone said Wednesday. “So, he brings a ton of energy, and it’s just hard. It’s the hard part about the game. Unfortunately, injuries are part of it, and this is his second one. But he and I spoke, he’s going to fight his ass off, and come back, and be ready to go, stronger and better than ever.”
“So, he’s got a great mentality [and] we’re here for his support, because I’m sure it will be hard. It’s hard on all these guys that get injured and [are] not able to contribute, so it’s always difficult. I always feel bad.”
The Jaguars have already received more valuable receiving production from depth receiver Keelan Cole (two touchdowns over last two games), but make no mistake that the Jaguars coaching staff and the locker room is going to miss their tough and positive leader.
The hope moving forward is the veteran presence of Conley and growth of guys like Chark, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole, all in their second or third seasons, can offset the things Lee brought to the Jaguars. But for now, the team feels for their fallen locker room leader.