Justin Blackmon’s Suspension Means a Big Opportunity For Stephen Burton


Sep 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Stephen Burton (15) makes a reception against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Burton wasn’t exactly having a good year. After several seasons as a marginal receiver with the Vikings, the former 7th round pick finally ran out of chances in Minnesota this preseason and found himself on the street. The talent-starved Jacksonville Jaguars came calling for Burton, but things went off the rails quickly with Burton suffering a concussion. Burton has spent the last five games on the sidelines waiting to get back in.

But things may now be looking up for Burton. Not only is he ready to return from his concussion, but Jacksonville has a gaping hole in its receiver corps after the suspension of Justin Blackmon for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. An opportunity has opened up for Stephen Burton, the last good opportunity he may ever get in the NFL.

The Jaguars can’t be thrilled about the loss of Blackmon of course, but in typical NFL spin machine fashion they are putting a happy face on the situation. So by the magic of spin doctoring, Stephen Burton is not a marginal talent who already washed out of one organization and is barely hanging on with another, he is an untapped talent who is now expected to step up and fill the shoes of a former 1st round draft pick.

“We’ve always been intrigued by him,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said of Burton. “He’s 6-1, 220 pounds and [runs a] 4.4. We’ve been really developing him to see what he can do. Can a guy like Stephen Burton make strides? That’s our objective as a coaching staff. What we’d like to see is let’s see how he progresses and can he help continue the offense in the right direction?”

How intrigued can you really be by a receiver who in his NFL career has caught exactly 14 passes for 138 yards and 1 fluke tipped-ball touchdown? A guy who wasn’t even good enough to beat out Joe Webb?

I guess that depends on how desperate you are. But in Burton’s defense, he did catch 7 passes this season – doubling his career total in just three games – before going down with the concussion. So perhaps there is some untapped potential there? Some unknown something that the Vikings were never able to bring out but Jacksonville believes it can?

All Burton can ask for is the opportunity to show what he can do. He wasn’t going to get that this year in Minnesota with Cordarrelle Patterson coming in and Jarius Wright presumably becoming a bigger part of the offense. He wasn’t really going to get it in Jacksonville either until Blackmon went and got himself suspended.

Blackmon’s stupidity has led directly to Burton getting his big shot.  It will be interesting to see what he does with it, if anything. This could be another case of a former Viking finding second life with a different organization.

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