With Thomas Out, Jaguars Turn To Shorts, Blackmon
MARK LONG,AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The emergence of receiver Cecil Shorts III made it easy for the Jacksonville Jaguars to part ways with Mike Thomas.
The Jaguars traded Thomas to the Detroit Lions on Tuesday, creating more opportunities for Shorts and rookies Justin Blackmon and Kevin Elliott.
“We’re going to give a couple of other guys some chances to work in there and hopefully get better execution than we’ve been getting,” coach Mike Mularkey said Wednesday. “There’s nothing that he did. It was just a matter of it wasn’t the production we were hoping for. He tried. He did everything we asked him to do.”
Getting rid of Thomas was just part of the team’s tweaks, too.
Mularkey said Shorts will continue to start at the X receiver position, meaning Laurent Robinson could wind up as a well-paid slot receiver. Jacksonville also claimed fourth-year receiver Anthony Armstrong off waivers from the Miami Dolphins.
Armstrong played in five games for the Dolphins this season, catching three passes for 12 yards. He has 54 career receptions for 986 yards and five touchdowns.
Armstrong is unlikely to play Sunday against Detroit.
Robinson, meanwhile, practiced in full Wednesday. But even if he returns against the Lions, he probably won’t be in the starting lineup.
That would be interesting since Robinson signed a five-year contract worth $32.5 million in March. The deal includes $14 million guaranteed and pays him $11.1 million in 2012.
But Robinson has missed the last three games and sat out most of another because of concussions.
“This is my third one this season, so I just got to be smart with it,” said Robinson, whose wife gave birth to their first child last week. “I’ve got a long life after football. I’ve got to be smart. I still want to play, though, so … hopefully this week I’m going to be over the hump.”
Robinson practiced in full Wednesday, but even if he returns Sunday against Detroit, his role could be diminished because the Jaguars (1-6) want to build the passing offense around Shorts and Blackmon.
Shorts has 20 receptions for 400 yards and three touchdowns in his second season. Blackmon, the fifth overall pick in April’s NFL draft, has 18 catches for 193 yards.
“I think I’m doing all right,” said Shorts, who caught eight passes for 116 yards last week at Green Bay. “But I have a lot to work on to get where I’m trying to get. My mind-set is to never be satisfied. I don’t want to be one of those guys who have a good game and you never hear about them again.”
That was Thomas.
He had one 100-yard game in four seasons even though he led the team in receptions in 2010 and 2011. His big game (8 receptions for 149 yards) was the one in which he caught a 50-yard Hail Mary on the final play to beat Houston in 2010. The Jaguars rewarded him with a three-year extension worth $18 million last October.
But Thomas’ effort was called into question late last season and again during the offseason, and he never seemed to gel with Mularkey and receivers coach Jerry Sullivan.
Thomas also got demoted as the team’s punt returner, replaced by Micheal Spurlock.
“We were hoping it was going to work,” Mularkey said. “Even his return ability, but the production just was not where we wanted it to be.”
The timing of the trade was strange, though, since the Jaguars host the Lions this week.
“There’s nothing that he can give away that we don’t already change from week to week in the game plan,” Blackmon said. “We’re not worried about him being a spy or anything like that.”
Mularkey agreed, saying it could be too much insight.
“I’m sure he’s going to fill them full of information, but I think it’s very hard to take it and do anything with it,” Mularkey said. “You tell them everything. Sometimes it’s too much — information overload.”
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