JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without their top receiver for the second straight year.
Marqise Lee will have season-ending knee surgery and be placed on injured reserve, coach Doug Marrone said Monday.
Lee, who led the team in receptions in 2017, was carted off the field Saturday night after Atlanta Falcons cornerback Damontae Kazee delivered a helmet-first hit to his knee. Tests confirmed what everyone in the stadium expected after seeing Lee's knee buckle: The injury was clearly severe.
Marrone declined to provide specifics about Lee's injury but said the team has no plans to pursue a free-agent replacement.
"I think we feel comfortable with what we have now," Marrone said.
It's the second time in as many years Jacksonville has been dealt a significant setback at the position. The team lost No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson to a knee injury in last year's regular-season opener. Robinson signed with Chicago in free agency.
Lee is nearly a lock to be back with the Jags since his $7.25 million salary in 2019 is guaranteed.
The Jaguars will miss him this fall, although it's unclear how much considering Marrone's offensive philosophy features a smash-mouth ground attack.
"It's not something that we wanted to happen again this year," second-year receiver Keelan Cole said. "It's the game of football, and things happen. But it was definitely a help last year, and knowing what to do from here is also good. It being the third game of the preseason, we get more time to figure out what we're going to do about that."
Lee had 56 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns last season, showing enough growth to get a four-year, $34 million contract in March that included $16.5 million guaranteed.
A second-round draft pick from USC in 2014, Lee has 171 catches for 2,166 yards and eight touchdowns in four seasons.
Without him, Cole, second-year pro Dede Westbrook, second-round draft pick DJ Chark and veteran Donte Moncrief will be asked to take on expanded roles.
"There are people in that room that I believe will step up," Marrone said.
Although the helmet-lowering hit looked dirty, several Jaguars players said it's part of the game these days.
"You can't be mad at (Kazee)," Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. "You have to be mad at the NFL. Not mad at them, but that is how the rule is. People are scared to tackle normal because I guess they don't want to do helmet-to-helmet and get flagged."
Added Cole: "It's football. You can't get hit high. ... It's the first (year) of it, so you can't really say too much about it. If that rule's been in for three years, then it's something you've got to be like, 'Maybe you did that on purpose.' But it's just football. There's really nothing you can do about that. You've got to hit them somewhere."