ORLANDO -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has one bit of advice that he hopes newly-signed receiver Donte Moncrief will follow when players return next month for the start of the offseason conditioning program.
Absorb everything receivers coach Keenan McCardell says and does.
After watching what McCardell did with the Jaguars’ young and inexperienced group of receivers in 2017, Marrone believes that Moncrief can finally take the next step in his development and become a consistent big-play threat if he’s willing to commit to the plan.
“I do believe that if Moncrief is open-minded to have a coach like Keenan McCardell, who’s done it before, [he] could reap great benefits, not only for our football team but for him personally because I think we’ve seen what Keenan’s been able to do with younger players,” Marrone said Monday evening at the NFL’s annual meetings. “… If he’s open, which he seems to be, of this relationship with Keenan McCardell, I think great things can happen in that relationship, just like it’s happening with [Keelan] Cole, [Dede] Westbrook, [and] Marqise Lee coming back.”
Moncrief signed with the Jaguars earlier this month after four seasons with Indianapolis. He caught 64 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns in his second season when Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck started a combined 15 games. However, Moncrief caught only 56 passes in the past two seasons combined and battled injuries that cost him 11 games. It didn’t help that Luck missed the 2017 season with a shoulder injury, either.
Still, the Jaguars saw enough potential in the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Moncrief to give him a one-year contract worth $9.6 million guaranteed. Moncrief knows he’s running out of time to prove that he can be one of the NFL’s better receivers, which is where it appeared he was headed after his second season.
“Just having a chip on my shoulder to go out and show what I can actually do, and have another year to come out here and compete and show the league what I’ve got,” Moncrief said. “I know what I’m capable of and I’m going to hold myself to it.
“… Now I’m finally healthy and I know what I’ve got in me. It’s on my shoulders and I’m ready to go.”
If anyone can make Moncrief a consistent playmaker, it’s McCardell. He lost Allen Robinson in the season opener, Allen Hurns for six games late in the season, and saw Lee play through rib and ankle injuries but he turned Cole, who was undrafted after playing at Kentucky Wesleyan, and fourth-round pick Westbrook, who missed nine games after sports hernia surgery, into reliable options for Blake Bortles.
Cole led the Jaguars with 748 receiving yards and Westbrook caught 27 passes in seven games. Even first-year player Jaydon Mickens, who wasn’t promoted from the practice squad until Oct. 21, made a big contribution: two touchdown catches in the Jaguars’ December victory over Houston.
Those unproven players played a large role in the Jaguars’ first playoff appearance since 2007 and first division title since 1999.
“There was one time I looked out there and I saw Cole, I saw Westbrook, and I saw Mickens and I said, ‘Holy s---!’ Marrone said. "'I said, ‘Where the hell did all our receivers go?’
“I’ve been with good receiver coaches but Keenan did an outstanding job [last] year. He really did.”
Marrone is hoping he can do it again with Moncrief.
“I think that’s a potential that could happen and we’re excited for that,” he said.