Jaguars WR Marqise Lee's top priority in 2018: Be a better leader

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Marqise Lee is returning to the Jacksonville Jaguars in pretty much the same role he had in 2017, but he believes his bigger paycheck means he has bigger responsibilities.

Topping that list is being a better leader.

Lee said he tried to do that last season when the team was forced to rely on rookie receiver Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook because of injuries, but it's even more important now because of expectations that the passing game will be significantly better in the second full season under coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

Part of that includes raising the level of his own play.

"[I need] just to be the leader in the room like I should be," Lee said shortly after signing a four-year extension worth $34 million with $16.5 million guaranteed. "I've got a personal goal for myself as far as just being there for the guys in every situation as far as regardless if I'm out there or not.

"My thing is, my main focus is making sure that everybody on that team as far as my teammates, know that when I step out there they can rely on me just to get the job done."

Lee has been the Jaguars' best receiver over the past two seasons (119 receptions for 1,553 yards and six touchdowns) while fighting through some nagging injuries. However, he had just two 100-yard games, no multiple-touchdown games, and dropped the third-most passes in the NFL (12) over that span.

He also only caught seven passes for 69 yards and no touchdowns in the Jaguars' three playoff games.

Lee was the Jaguars' de facto No. 1 receiver in 2017 because of injuries to Allen Robinson (torn left ACL) and Allen Hurns (high ankle sprain), but he'll officially assume that role in 2018 now that Robinson signed with Chicago and Hurns is battling back from consecutive disappointing seasons. It's more than just catching the most passes, because he also has to continue to mentor Cole and Westbrook and help newly signed free agent Donte Moncrief adjust to the offense and carve out a role as the team's downfield playmaker.

"They're growing up," Lee said of Cole and Westbrook, who caught a combined 69 passes for 1,087 yards and four touchdowns as rookies. "They understand what they've got to do this second year and how much we're depending on them as far as getting their jobs done. We're going to do the same thing we do every year: just stay on top of each other, make sure we compete, and get after it."

Jaguars wide receivers ranked in the upper or middle third of the NFL in pretty much every statistical category last season. They also posted 13 catches of 30 or more yards (13) but only one of those resulted in a touchdown, the second-fewest in the league. That's an area Lee says will be one of his main focuses for the group in 2018.

"I feel like one thing we need to grow on is bigger plays as far as receiving," he said. "I feel like we left some plays out there, as far as us dropped passes, me included a lot. Just situations we can have better situations and things like that. I know it's going to take time. And it's not a rush for anything.

"Obviously you see that we want to get the run game going and that took time and we finally got that going, so it's all a process in which we’re going to get there."