Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon -- perhaps as much as any rookie in this year's class outside of a handful of quarterbacks -- is being asked to step in and solve problems for his new team right away. At the very least, the expectation is that Blackmon will give quarterback Blaine Gabbert a legitimate weapon to throw to starting in Week 1.
History tells us that receivers, however, often struggle in their first seasons. (Our very own Daniel Jeremiah points out that A.J. Green last season was the first rookie wideout to earn a Pro Bowl bid since Anquan Boldin in 2003).
"When he knows what he's doing, he's very good," Mularkey told WTEV-TV on Tuesday. "When he doesn't, he's lost."
Mularkey was quick to point out that Blackmon could improve by asking more questions of the coaching staff.
"The one thing I tell players the very first day, 'If you're unclear of what to do when you come out of the huddle, please don't go to the line of scrimmage without knowing what to do,' " Mularkey told the team's official website. "That's not a good thing. I would prefer you say, 'Hey, I'm not sure what to do' and ask, so the play doesn't get totally blown out of proportion. ... He's not the only one, but those are things I think he can get better at and he will."
Mularkey acknowledged that "some guys are prideful" and want to believe they can process a new scheme on the fly, but only a handful of first-year pass-catchers have shown that instinct. The reality here in May is that Blackmon is among hundreds of rookies and undrafted free agents being introduced to the pro game.
Jaguars fans can take heart in the fact that in years past, under the old CBA, a player like Blackmon might have been in store for a lengthy, painful holdout that kept him from the team. We aren't seeing that anymore, one beautiful aspect of the new deal. Blackmon will be expected to contribute early to a passing attack that's already under the microscope.