FOXBOROUGH, Mass. |After the first two weeks of training camp, Jaguars undrafted rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole continues to display ability that could earn him a spot on the 53-man roster.
On Thursday night, he made the biggest catch of the game during the Jaguars’ 31-24 victory against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Backup quarterback Chad Henne tossed a beautiful spiral that Cole caught for a 97-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Cole led the Jaguars’ receivers with two catches for 108 yards. It came after having a solid week of work during two days of joint practices against the Patriots earlier this week.
“Every time the ball comes my way, I have to catch it and score,’’ said Cole, a rookie out of Kentucky Wesleyan. “That’s how you win games.’’
Against the Patriots, Cole caught Henne’s deep throw in stride on a fade route when he was isolated in coverage by third-string cornerback Cyrus Jones. Cole separated from Jones just before he caught the ball and then easily outraced him to the end zone for the final 60 yards.
“It was one-on-one and it was either him or me,’’ Cole said. “I decided it was going to be me.’’
Prior to the start of training camp, Cole appeared to be a long shot at best toward earning a coveted Week 1 roster spot that will be determined on Sept. 2 when the current 90-man roster is trimmed to 53. Now, it appears he is in a battle for the sixth receiver spot with third-year player Rashad Greene.
Greene had only one catch for 11 yards on Thursday night, but he showed his big-play ability on special teams. He returned a punt 41 yards to set up the Jaguars’ opening scoring drive that ended with Jason Myers’ 27-yard field goal.
Although Greene could likely earn his spot as a punt returner, it didn’t help his chances after dropping a wide open pass from quarterback Blake Bortles on the team’s opening drive of the game.
“At the end of the day, I go out there and play hard regardless of the situation,’’ Greene said. “What meant to be will be and that’s how I go out there and play every day. I don’t go out there trying to make something happen. I prepare and let the game come to me and when I’m able to make the play, I make the play. It’s supposed to be that way, you don’t want nothing to be given to you.’’
Still, Greene admits he is facing tough competition at wide receiver, particularly from Cole. Also, rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook, a fourth round pick, caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Brandon Allen during the third quarter.
Cole earned the attention of the coaches during the first week of camp when he raced down the right sideline on a go route as the ball sailed over his shoulder he was able to run under it before pulling it in with his right hand while rookie cornerback Jalen Myrick grabbed at his left arm.
Since then Cole has emerged as a quality deep threat with ability to make highlight-type catches.
However, another tough test is ahead this upcoming week with joint practices against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before Thursday’s preseason game at EverBank Field.
“Everything is about the team and trying to win,’’ Cole said. “If you don’t do your job, then the team can’t win. It’s day by day, we’re getting back to Jacksonville, and then we’ll get ready to practice on Saturday.’’