The Titans are on the road against a dangerous 2-0 Jacksonville Jaguars team. As expected, the defense is too much to handle...again, but the offense is coming off an impressive 31-20 performance against the Patriots. Blake Bortles is coming off perhaps the best game of his career, so who knows what this offense brings Sunday.
The issue for the Titans is that they have to plan for a solid group of skill players as well. Players like Dede Westbrook, Corey Grant, and T.J. Yeldon have emerged this season, and the offensive line has played really well (though losing left tackle Cam Robinson for the season is a crushing blow).
But the big story for the Jaguars receiving corps is the undrafted Keelan Cole, in his sophomore season. Cole emerged in the second half of 2017 as a vertical threat, and has been entrusted as the #1 receiver for the Jaguars. Cole currently has 10 catches for 170 yards (17.0 yards per catch) and a touchdown, proving his 2017 emergence was no fluke.
Cole is arguably the best skill player on the Jaguars’ offense, and the Titans defense could have their hands full with him.
The Jaguars were thought to have one of the league’s worst receiving corps after letting both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns walk in the offseason, but the emergence of Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook have proven otherwise. What makes Cole so enticing is how natural of a vertical receiver he is.
On this play, Cole is one-on-one with Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. He runs a simple o route with an inside cut, and Jenkins expects to have help over the top. Bortles’ throw forces Cole to make a slight adjustment, but it’s a catchable ball for Cole.
What’s important to note is how strong and aggressive Cole’s hands are. He’s able to quickly contort his body and bring the ball in for a 31-yard gain.
In case you’ve been living under a rock—which is impossible—you missed Cole making the best catch of the season. Words can’t describe how good this catch is, but I’ll do my best anyway.
Here, Cole plants his feet and accelerates outside toward the sideline in tight one-on-one coverage. Bortles’ pass is under thrown, but Cole manages to attack the ball with one hand as he’s somehow able to snag the ball in and secure it. Immediately after grabbing the ball, Cole pulls it back to him and to his left hand, where he cradles the ball as he hits the ground. It’s an otherworldly play that ranks as one of this season’s absolute best.
Cole can also pull off the double move, as shown in the GIF below.
Cole manages to sell this route well, faking a post route and instead running a corner. Cole isn’t the flashiest route runner (to this point, anyway), but he has the fundamentals down and can create separation without much trouble.
Finally, this pass is accurate enough, but the coverage is great and the catch could very easily be disrupted. Cole’s concentration and consistency at the catch point have both been excellent, and he displays perfect timing while holding the ball tightly for the touchdown.
Keelan Cole has become a really good receiver. He’s a refined route runner with a good break, displays great receiving acumen, and flashes phenomenal ball skills from time to time. He also may just be the Jaguars’ best skill player, so it’s on the Titans’ secondary to attempt to shut him down.