Justin Blackmon poised to be Jaguars' No. 2 receiver


Training camp is finally almost here. They allow tackling there and everything. Around the League will count down the top 30 position battles to watch throughout the preseason.

No. 14. Jaguars: No. 2 wideout

Top 30 training camp position battles

No. 30: Seahawks running backs
No. 29: Packers No. 3 receiver
No. 28: Broncos backup running back
No. 27: Bengals cornerbacks
No. 26: Raiders backup quarterback
No. 25: Cardinals receiver
No. 24: Jets right tackle
No. 23: Jets linebacker
No. 22: Redskins running back
No. 21: Giants No. 3 receiver
No. 20: Patriots receiver
No. 19: Colts tight end
No. 18: Rams receivers
No. 17: Jaguars quarterbacks
No. 16: Bears wide receivers
No. 15: NFL safety battles
No. 14: Jaguars No. 2 receiver
No. 13: Bears left tackle
No. 12: Randy Moss vs. Father time
No. 11: Lions receivers
No. 10: Cardinals running back
No. 9: Ravens pass rusher
No. 8: Dolphins quarterback
No. 7: Buccaneers running back
No. 6: Steelers defensive end
No. 5: Dolphins wide receiver
No. 4: Cardinals quarterback
No. 3: The Oakland Raiders
No. 2: Titans quarterback
No. 1: Seahawks quarterback

• The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jimmy Smith achieved the feat in 2005. Last year's team especially was anemic through the air, ranking No. 25 in passing and frequently looking worse. Part of the problem was the jittery play of then-rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but the lack of talent at receiver didn't help.

• After tight end Marcedes Lewis, who led the Jaguars with 460 yards, Mike Thomas was Jacksonville's most productive wideout with 415 yards through the air. There have been whispers that Thomas, a 2009 fourth-round draft pick, could hit the cutting-room floor before the season. With Laurent Robinson locked in as the team's No. 1 wideout, the battle for No. 2 shapes up as an interesting competition.

• The obvious challenger to Thomas is rookie receiver Justin Blackmon, who -- despite pleading guilty to drunken driving Tuesday -- gives the Jaguars a big-bodied pass-catcher for the first time in years. On paper, this is the position group's purest talent, but rookie receivers traditionally start slow. Blackmon's off-field troubles are disconcerting, but that won't play a part in this race. This is Blackmon's job to lose.

• The dark horse here is Lee Evans, signed in the offseason after a marginally productive season with the Baltimore Ravens. Evans isn't a long-term answer for the Jaguars, but his experience could lead to a starting role if Blackmon's development is stunted. Four seasons removed from his last 1,000-yard outing, Evans has played his best football. He's a patch for a team sorely in need of depth.

• Projected Winner: Blackmon was drafted to change this offense. He'll play early and often. Jaguars fans suffered through last season, but Mike Mularkey & Co. were aggressive in their efforts to upgrade at wideout. We've mentioned this a few times, but teams have moved away from the concept of a No. 1 and 2 receiver. Three or four wideouts are on the field play after play in today's NFL. The Jaguars were behind the curve on this front last season, but they have a better chance to produce through the air in 2012.