Jacksonville Jaguars: 5 Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
The list of veterans who could be camp casualties for the Jacksonville Jaguars is loaded with defensive players. The current roster is bloated at several positions on that side of the ball, particularly the D-line.
There are as many as 14 players currently vying for work in the trenches. Among the likely casualties is a 2010 first-round pick who seems like a poor scheme fit for head coach Gus Bradley's hybrid fronts.
Taking a step back, things at the linebacker level are potentially as complicated. The continuing impressive showings of one of this year's two fifth-round picks is putting pressure on a veteran who only joined the team last season.
Over on the offense, a prospective starter on the line, along with a backup passer, find their positions under threat.
Here's a closer look at the five veterans most at risk of getting the boot once training camp concludes.
Tyson Alualu, DE
There just doesn't seem to be a natural place for Tyson Alualu along this defensive front. When the Jags used a top 10 pick to pluck him off the board in the 2010 NFL draft, Alualu was ticketed to play two-gap tackle in Jack Del Rio's 4-3 system.
But Bradley's arrival brought a scheme that demands very specific and more dynamic skills from each of the men in the trenches. Alualu has a hard time fitting in.
His first attempt was to slide outside from tackle to end to play the "Elephant" role in Bradley's defense. This 5-technique position had some two-gap elements to it, but it demanded a bulkier player.
The 6'3", 295-pound Alualu simply doesn't have the mass to routinely tie up multiple blockers and collapse one side of an offensive formation. An indicator of his failings came when the Jags wasted little time offering a big contract to Red Bryant in this year's free agency.
The search for more mass has also led the front office to giving chances to undrafted players 312-pounder Abry Jones and 315-pound Deandre Coleman. The team has also added Ziggy Hood, a more natural 5-technique than Alualu.
But if Alualu doesn't fit on the edge, then he's got a major problem finding a niche in this defense. He's not an active enough pass-rusher to play the 3-technique role manned by Sen'Derrick Marks. Alualu is certainly not the right build to slide over center and replace Roy Miller at nose tackle.
The Jaguars added five new faces to their line this offseason in the form of Bryant, Hood, Chris Clemons and rookies Coleman and Chris Smith.
With the time to trim numbers fast approaching, expect Alualu's name to be near the top of the cuts list.
Geno Hayes, OLB
Bradley signed Geno Hayes last offseason to provide some much-needed speed and athleticism to the linebacker corps. But just one season later, Bradley may be ready to upgrade Hayes.
It's the performances of rookie Telvin Smith that will likely have Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich thinking change. The former Florida playmaker has been delivering some opportunistic plays in prominent roles during training camp.
ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco detailed Smith's latest positive effort:
Rookie linebacker Telvin Smith, who is up to 219 pounds after reporting to rookie minicamp at 218, flashed his speed with an interception return for a touchdown. Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood tipped Chad Henne’s pass at the line of scrimmage and Smith grabbed the deflection and scored. Smith has been getting reps with the first-team defense in the nickel package to take advantage of his speed. 'We’ll see how that works out with Geno [Hayes],' Bradley said. 'Right now, how we’re doing it is Geno is going with the first and second down, Telvin on third down.'
Bradley's description of the split of reps between Hayes and Smith might not last if the first-year speedster continues to impress. After all, training camp isn't the first time this offseason Smith has turned some heads.
On Friday, the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Smith reacted quickly to a check-down pass, showing off his burst. Later in the practice, he was responsible for second-round pick Marqise Lee in the slot. Quarterback Blake Bortles, the third-overall pick, looked to Lee the whole play while rolling out, but Smith had Lee covered. Bortles kept the ball, running out of bounds. Babich ran 20 yards to go celebrate with Smith.
Bradley's defense is a containment system, one that relies on speed at the second third and levels. Linebackers and defensive backs must be agile and opportunistic to form swarming coverage shells that never give receivers any space.
An active and undersized 'backer like Smith is the perfect fit for this defense. If he continues to wow his coaches with big plays, Smith could leaves Hayes surplus to requirements.
Mike Brewster, C
The script says Mike Brewster is supposed to be this team's starting center. The Jags are counting on the third-year pro to act as the anchor of a reshuffled offensive line.
But the script was ripped up for the first full practice session in pads. That's when the team gave reserve guard Jacques McClendon a chance to impress.
Both players stressed the switch wasn't meaningful, but Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union was far from convinced. There are reasons to believe putting McClendon in ahead of Brewster is, as O'Halloran put it, a "big deal."
For one thing, McClendon offers greater bulk at 324 pounds than the 305-pound Brewster. Size inside could be an important factor this season as new arrival Toby Gerhart leads a power-based running game.
It's also worth noting that the Jaguars have to do everything they can to find solutions along the offensive front. Jacksonville surrendered 50 sacks and averaged just 3.3 yards per rush in 2013, per statistics via the team's NFL.com profile page.
Fixing a unit that weak is going to be a fluid process. The Jags can't stop looking for solutions up front.
If McClendon proves to be one at a position also featuring rookie Luke Bowanko, then Brewster will find himself shoved through the exit door.
Calling a player with just two pro seasons a veteran is a bit of a stretch. However, not many players fit that criteria on a roster so young.
That's an indication of the how much Bradley and general manager David Caldwell have done to overhaul the team since taking over.
Ricky Stanzi, QB
The decision to draft Blake Bortles third overall in the 2014 NFL draft, as well as giving rookie free agent Stephen Morris a chance, puts Ricky Stanzi at risk.
Chad Henne has the starting position locked down for the time being. But Bortles is the franchise quarterback in waiting. The only question mark involves third-string duties.
Morris can beat out Stanzi because of his greater physical attributes. He's extremely raw, but he has a cannon for an arm. Morris also possesses good mobility, something that can always give defenses trouble and expand the playbook for an offensive coordinator.
Stanzi has fared slightly better with his reps in training camp, according to numbers compiled by Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.
However, there isn't enough of a difference to merit keeping Stanzi around ahead of a young passer with potential play-caller Jedd Fisch can develop from scratch.
Chris Prosinski, S
Threadbare numbers at the safety position are the only reason Chris Prosinski is still around. But that situation is unlikely to stay the same once camp concludes.
One of the defining features of the Caldwell-Bradley regime has been finding better athletes and creating greater team speed. Prosinski doesn't quite fit that mold.
He struggled to get on the field last season, making just one start. Prosinski feels like a player tied to the old regime.
The improvement of a player such as Johnathan Cyprien, along with Winston Guy's familiarity with Bradley's schemes, will be enough to push Prosinski right off the roster.
The Jaguars are entering the new season with a very young roster. But there is still work to be done finalizing a new-look team.
That means trusting more dynamic youngsters to fit new schemes and emerge as playmakers during Bradley's second season.