TE Paul sa­vors shot in new role

Could pile up catches with more tar­gets in un­der­manned group

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND - By Phillip Heilman

JACK­SONVILLE — It didn’t take long ear­lier this week for Jaguars tight end Niles Paul to re­count each touch­down catch he has made since en­ter­ing the NFL seven years ago. All two of them. A 29-yard flag route off a play­ac­tion fake at Dal­las in 2012 and a 2-yard fade route against the Jaguars in 2014 were Paul’s only re­ceiv­ing scores in 82 ca­reer games with the Wash­ing­ton Redskins.

“I found my­self in D.C. in sit­u­a­tions where I was be­hind Chris Coo­ley, Fred Davis, Jor­dan Reed, Ver­non Davis, all these Pro Bowl-cal­iber play­ers, all these Pro Bowl-cal­iber tight ends,” Paul ex­plained. “I’m just try­ing to get in where I fit in, and I’ve just tried to make the most of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that I’ve had.”

Be­gin­ning Sun­day when the Jaguars (3-2) are at Dal­las (2-3), Paul could have his best op­por­tu­nity yet to fi­nally get in the end zone with some reg­u­lar­ity. The Jaguars cer­tainly hope he can.

Start­ing tight end Austin Se­fe­rian-Jenk­ins (core mus­cle in­jury that re­quired surgery) is on in­jured re­serve and won’t be back un­til De­cem­ber at the ear­li­est. With­out him, Paul seems to be the like­li­est op­tion to emerge de­spite hav­ing all of 68 ca­reer catches be­fore this sea­son. He has 10 catches this year for the Jaguars.

Also on the Jaguars’ ros­ter at the po­si­tion are James O’Shaugh­nessy and David Grin­nage. Pro­moted from the prac­tice squad on Tues­day, Grin­nage is in line to make his NFL de­but against the Cow­boys.

No doubt, it’s an un­der­manned group and one that would ben­e­fit from in­clud­ing some­one like Marcedes Lewis, who is now in Green Bay af­ter the Jaguars re­leased him in March fol­low­ing 12 sea­sons with the team. But at least for now, it’s what the Jaguars have, and Paul is the most in­trigu­ing op­tion.

“He’s a guy we’re still try­ing to fig­ure out things he’s good at and what he likes to do,” quar­ter­back Blake Bor­tles said. “He’s ob­vi­ously a dude that can flat-out run. He’s fast. I would say each week there’s more and more stuff for him. It’s just a mat­ter of bust­ing out one game, and I think he’s due to have a big game.”

On the field for a sea­son-high 35 snaps last week at Kansas City, the 29-year-old Paul took on a big­ger role in the of­fense af­ter Se­fe­rian-Jenk­ins went out. He had seven catches (on nine tar­gets) for 65 yards, most of which came when the Jaguars trailed big in the sec­ond half and Bor­tles was forced to throw.

On his nine tar­gets, Paul typ­i­cally be­gan each play ei­ther in the slot or as part of a trips pack­age. Those looks led to shal­low routes, which might not change much Sun­day as the Jaguars — down to third-string left tackle Josh Walker — try to neu­tral­ize a Cow­boys pass rush that is led by fe­ro­cious de­fen­sive end De­Mar­cus Lawrence (5.5 sacks, fourth in the NFL).

That’s fine with Paul, who has waited pa­tiently for this type of mo­ment.

“What­ever they ask me to do, I do,” Paul said. “Just hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to get more and more com­fort­able with Blake is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity. I can feel that he’s a get­ting a lit­tle more com­fort­able with putting the ball in there for me and me mak­ing the play for him. Hope­fully we can build on that from here.”

Whether it’s Paul, O’Shaugh­nessy or Grin­nage in the game, just as im­por­tant will be how the tight ends block.

When left tackle Josh Wells re­placed an in­jured Cam Robin­son in Week 2 against New Eng­land, the Jaguars con­sis­tently had Se­fe­rian-Jenk­ins line up on Wells’ out­side hip to help with pass pro­tec­tion. The play­ers will be dif­fer­ent, but a sim­i­lar game plan would make sense against Dal­las, par­tic­u­larly if it turns out to be a low-scor­ing game.

“We’ve all just got to go out there and be fight­ers,” said O’Shaugh­nessy, who has six catches for 72 yards this sea­son. “I think it’s in­stilled in us from our coach and in­stilled in us from our of­fen­sive staff. Be­tween me, Niles and Dave, we all kind of have that fight­ing men­tal­ity, that scrappy men­tal­ity that we’re just go­ing to do what­ever it takes to get our job done to the best of our abil­ity.”

Back in the pre­sea­son, the Jaguars were glad to have Paul as a spe­cial-teams con­trib­u­tor who pro­vided depth on of­fense. That’s no longer a lux­ury they are af­forded. They need him to be pre­pared to add to their pass­ing game.

And that might fi­nally trans­late to a few more touch­downs.

“If they needed me to play full­back, I could do that,” Paul said. “If they needed me to split out wide, I could do that.”

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