Grading the Jacksonville Jaguars' Final 53-Man Roster
Well, Jacksonville Jaguars fans, we’re finally here!
The preseason is over, the cuts have been made, and, for the most part, the 53-man roster is set.
For the Jaguars, this past preseason was important as they tried to identify the right guys to lead them into the future after a rebuilding offseason.
Whether it was Blake Bortles' performance, Allen Hurns' emergence or Telvin Smith's inspirational playing style, the Jaguars should feel good about the core they’ve developed in one offseason.
Now, with the regular season a week away, the roster is set. Let’s take a look at how each position grades out for the upcoming season.
Starter: Chad Henne
Depth: Blake Bortles
It’s hard to have an accurate gauge on this group because the best quarterback isn’t the starter. Rookie Blake Bortles should be starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars, period. He finished the preseason 32 of 51 for 521 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly Bortles looked like a true leader on the field.
Despite all that, Henne will be the opening-day starter. The frustration at the decision isn’t because Henne is incompetent but because of Bortles' enormous potential. Nevertheless, Henne is more than capable of leading this offense. Sure, he lacks an elite skill set, but he’s efficient and manages the offense well.
Overall, I think this position group has great potential, but until Bortles can get comfortable and take the lead, it’ll be a mediocre group when compared to the rest of the league.
Starters: Toby Gerhart, Will Ta’ufo’ou
Depth: Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, Storm Johnson
The running backs had a rough preseason averaging a lowly 3.0 yards per carry—third-worst in the league.
I believe that the acquisition of Toby Gerhart will be a good one—he’s a solid runner with the strength to gain yards after contact. Gerhart should see the bulk of the work and could get almost 300 carries this season.
An X-factor here is Denard Robinson. Robinson is an electric change-of-pace back who can change the game with one touch. He looked strong in the preseason but needs to get more comfortable running between the tackles.
Starters: Cecil Shorts, Marqise Lee
Depth: Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Mike Brown
This year’s wide receiver group is definitely boom or bust. There is immense potential with Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns going into the future, but for now they’re relative unknowns.
The only known commodity the Jaguars have is Cecil Shorts. Shorts is coming off a 66-reception, 777-yard, three-touchdown season in 2013, but he also missed three games due to a sports hernia.
Shorts has the big job of helping coach the young receivers and also being the go-to guy for this offense. It could be a huge year for Shorts, which could create opportunities for others down the line.
Starters: Marcedes Lewis
Depth: Clay Harbor, Mickey Shuler
For the Jaguars, the tight end group heading into the 2014 season is pretty straightforward.
Veteran Marcedes Lewis is the same player he’s always been, a strong blocker who can also be a reliable receiver when needed.
Clay Harbor could be the key player here. Harbor is a dynamic pass-catcher who could be utilized in two-tight end sets. It’ll be exciting to see how the Jaguars implement Harbor into the offense—he could be the future at the position.
Starters: Luke Joeckel, Zane Beadles, Luke Bowanko, Brandon Linder, Austin Pasztor
Depth: Jacques McClendon, Cameron Bradfield, Josh Wells, Sam Young, Tyler Shatley
The offensive line remains the Jaguars' biggest concern heading into the regular season.
With the exception of Luke Joeckel, the rest of the offensive line is new to the starting lineup. Zane Beadles was brought in as a free agent, Luke Bowanko and Brandon Linder were draft picks, and Cameron Bradfield is starting in place of Austin Pasztor who broke his hand during the preseason.
With such inexperience, it’s hard to know what this unit will be capable of—unfortunately it's also the key to success this season. If this unit can’t be consistent, the offense as a whole will suffer.
Starters: Red Bryant, Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Chris Clemons
Depth: Tyson Alualu, Ziggy Hood, Abry Jones, Andre Branch, Chris Smith, Ryan Davis
While the offensive line is the biggest weakness for this team, the defensive line may be its biggest strength.
Led by Chris Clemons and Sen’Derrick Marks, this team has strong pass-rushers from top-to-bottom. The most underrated player on this defense is Red Bryant who will be the run-stopping anchor on a defensive unit full of pass-rushers.
The aggressiveness and potential in this line is ridiculous. There’s no doubt that it could be among the league's best in getting to the quarterback by the end of the season.
Starters: Geno Hayes, Paul Posluszny, LaRoy Reynolds
Depth: Telvin Smith, J.T. Thomas, Dekoda Watson
The way this unit looks, Week 1 will be different than how it will end in Week 17.
While Geno Hayes and LaRoy Reynolds should be the Week 1 starters, it won’t take long for Smith and Dekoda Watson to take those roles.
Watson is only sitting behind Reynolds because he missed most of the preseason with a groin injury. He was brought in this offseason because of his athleticism and fit to Gus Bradley’s “Otto” linebacker role; he should fill those expectations once he’s fully healthy.
Smith has been a lot of fun to watch this preseason. It seemed that on every play he was around the ball. Smith’s speed and instincts make him a dynamic playmaker and one who will force the Jaguars to play him in more than just nickel packages.
Overall, this group is filled with quality players, and each should see the field as the Jaguars rotate players to keep them fresh.
Starters: Dwayne Gratz, Alan Ball, Winston Guy, Johnathan Cyprien
Depth: Will Blackmon, Demetrius McCray, Jeremy Harris, Josh Evans, Chris Prosinski
Based on just potential alone, this is a very strong, young group. Unfortunately, youth also correlates to inexperience, and that’s how I would define this group.
Alan Ball is the seasoned veteran on this team with eight years of NFL experience. Ball has been a career journeyman, however, and has never shown the consistency to be considered a strong defensive back.
The two guys who could turn the corner this year are Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz.
Gratz is coming off a strong rookie season where he started 16 games for the Jaguars—he’s physical, smart and has a legitimate swagger about him. Cyprien is a strong hitter who displayed improvement in his coverage at the end of the season.
Both players could make the jump to the elite tier at their positions.
Starters: Josh Scobee, Bryan Anger, Carson Tinker
Pretty much status quo for the Jaguars here, as all three players were on the team last year. Scobee is a consistent kicker with a big leg, and Anger’s a third-round draft pick whom the Jaguars are committed to for at least the rest of the year.
* All stats courtesy NFL.com unless otherwise noted.