Marqise Lee was the 39th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, which showed just how much promise scouts believed he had. The team that selected Lee, however, has struggled mightily for much of the last decade.
So, what were his expectations heading into his rookie season?
“I didn’t really set many (individual) goals,” the Jaguars wide receiver said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “My main focus was just to be reliable at the end of the day, just be a person that the team can rely on when they need somebody to go out there and produce.”
Lately, Lee has been just that. He had just 13 catches for 141 yards through 10 games but has come alive in each of the last two weeks, combining for nine catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Why the uptick in productivity?
“I just feel like I got a better understanding of the league,” Lee said. “A lot has changed. There’s a lot of things that you did in college that you can’t do in the NFL. At the beginning coming in, yeah, I was fighting injuries, but then again, I was trying to do some things that I learned in college that really didn’t work. Then I (saw) new defenses that (shook me) up as I was coming in and out of my routes and things like that. It was hard to adjust.
“But week-by-week, as I gradually started playing and getting more practice, I started getting better and better at it. I’m getting more comfortable as the (year) goes on.”
One of the biggest differences between college and the NFL, Lee said, is your ability – or lack thereof – to make moves after a catch.
“In college, I was pretty successful after the catch,” he said. “You catch the ball, you got time to make somebody miss. There’s not too much of that (in the NFL). You don’t have time to go east and west. Everything is north. As I went through preseason, I was catching things and I was going more east and west rather than north and south – and it didn’t work. Now I understand (what I have to do). I just try to get vertical.”
Lee, of course, isn’t Jacksonville’s only skill-position rookie; the Jaguars are hoping that Blake Bortles will be their quarterback for the next decade and beyond – and he’s certainly showed flashes this season, despite the team’s 2-10 record. Bortles has completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 2261 yards, nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 296 yards and has five runs of 20+ yards.
“I think Blake’s doing great,” Lee said. “It’s his first year. He’s just getting his feet wet as far as trying to understand the game, read defenses and things like that. Every team wants the first-rounder to come in and produce, and I feel like Blake has done that. He’s learning a lot.”
Lee said Bortles has become much more of a vocal leader as the season has progressed.
“From a rookie quarterback in the NFL, you don’t really expect that,” Lee said. “But coming from him, it means a lot. You can see how much he’s progressed from when we first started to now. You know he’s going to become that great leader we’re looking for.”
Jacksonville hosts Houston (6-6) this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.