Substances Have Abused Jaguars Receivers
By Troy Graham
The Jaguars franchise is notorious for its top-rated wide receivers having more run-ins with the law than the end zone. Without sugarcoating the matter, the team has a history of four first-round receivers that have either been arrested or slapped with suspensions for substance abuse in their Jacksonville tenures. Justin Blackmon, last year's fifth-overall pick, was recently added to that dubious list.
R. Jay Soward started the trend more than a decade ago when he struggled with alcohol abuse. The 29th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft and a former USC speedster, Soward is the second-worst selection in the organization’s draft history, according to NFL.com. He just couldn’t deal with the pressure of being a top pick.
To the dismay of the fans, it has been a domino effect of "here we go again" with first-round pass catchers ever since.
Reggie Williams, the 9th overall pick of the 2004 draft, was hit with drug possession charges after being in the league for two years, and Matt Jones, the 21st pick of the 2005, draft also ran into trouble in 2008 when he was arested for drugs.
Then there is the story of the Jaguars' all-time receiving leader, Jimmy Smith. Ironically, Smith was there during Soward’s brief tenure and the one who set the bar for Jones and Williams.
However, the bar Smith set wasn't anywhere near the field. Smith was arrested for drunk driving in 2001 and suspended four games in 2003 after failing a drug test. Questions lingered about whether the timing of his 2005 retirement had anything to do with legal disputes.
The only athletes in the Hall of Fame with more career receiving yards than Smith are Jerry Rice (22,895), Art Monk (12,721), Steve Largent (13,089), and James Lofton (14,004). Only Monk and Rice have more catches. About as far from the Hall of Fame as you can get, Smith is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for drug and weapon possession.
This wasteland for wideouts is now the culture Blackmon finds himself in. He possesses plenty of potential and is steps from making a splash in the league. He already tallied a better rookie season than Soward, Williams and Jones. The former 5th pick even turned in a better first season than Cowboys WR Dez Bryant, whom he was a protégé of at Oklahoma State before breaking his single-season receptions, touchdowns and yards records there.
Gus Bradley recognizes the type of future that can await Blackmon and gives him nothing but full support as he prepares for the consequences of the four-year suspension.
"I'm not going to change who I am, so I trust him,'' Bradley told Vito Stellino of the Florida Times Union. "He's never done anything wrong with me. It'd be different if I was talking to him and I didn't feel like we were connecting at all. I do feel a connection.''
The Jags just hope there isn't any more of a connection between Blackmon and their long list of troubled former receivers.