Rookie wide receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook were both given an opportunity on Sunday to emerge as big-play threats against the Indianapolis Colts.
And they both took full advantage, along with Marqise Lee and tight end Marcedes Lewis.
In front of 61,207 at EverBank Stadium, the Jaguars opened up their passing game and relied more on Blake Bortles’ accuracy than Leonard Fournette’s punishing runs in their impressive 30-10 victory that improved their record to 8-4.
Instead of using two tight end sets to help spring the run game against eight defenders in the box, the Jaguars came out in three-receiver alignments and Bortles repeatedly fired passes down field.
Last week at Arizona, Cole had two costly drops and Lee was held to one catch for 13 yards. They both had their way against Indianapolis.
In the second quarter against the Colts, Cole hauled in a perfectly thrown spiral from Bortles in the back of the end zone for his first career touchdown.
“Every day and every practice you have to make sure that you are progressing and if you had a drop the last game, you have to make sure that you have zero drops the next game,” said Cole, who had three catches for 49 yards and no drops. “We just knew we had to step up. We just got to make sure that we get reps and touches, you see me getting touches with Blake on the sidelines on third down.”
Lee was targeted a team-high 10 times before making seven catches for 86 yards, which included an impressive one-handed grab and a 4-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
Relying on his speed, Westbrook easily got separation against the Colts’ over-matched secondary. Westbrook had 78 yards receiving on nine catches after averaging 13.0 yards a catch. Westbrook, who came off the injured list on Nov. 18 for a core muscle injury that required surgery, was playing in just his third game. Westbrook has needed to develop quickly with wide receiver Allen Hurns missing his third consecutive game with an ankle. Top receiver Allen Robinson suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury during Week 1.
“It pretty much shows the depth that we have at receiver and only that I can get the job done but Keelan can get the job done as well,” Westbrook said. “That’s always good to have both rookies that are not scared to go out and make a play whenever their numbers are called.”
They were called frequently because the Colts came into Sunday’s game allowing 266.3 yards per passing per game, which ranked 30th among the league’s 32 teams.
The Jaguars not only exposed Colts’ poor coverage skills, but they also took advantage of the Colts’ vulnerability to get caught off guard on a successful fake punt pass play. It came on Jacksonville’s opening drive when punter Brad Nortman completed a 29-yard pass to tight end James O’Shaughnessy, who was opened the across the middle of the field. The play set up Lee’s touchdown catch.
It is the Jaguars’ third fake punt this season, which have all led to touchdowns.
“I think it says we’re prepared and that our coaches do really good job scheming,” Nortman said. ”I think it says that they’re confident in us being able to execute. I just think that it shows that we’re a team able and willing to run fakes and try to put our offense and defense in good spots.”
Indianapolis also had a problem covering Lewis, who caught four passes for 46 yards. Before Sunday, Lewis had made two catches or less in seven of the Jaguars’ last eight games despite a team-high five touchdown catches.
Bortles was extremely accurate throughout the game. He completed 26-of-35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to seven different receivers in the first half.
“I thought the quarterback put the ball in some good spots today,” Coach Doug Marrone said. “I thought the receivers made some really strong catches, good hand catches, which was good to see. I think it’s definitely something to build on, just keep going.”