The Jacksonville Jaguars offseason training activities start this week and with that begins the battle for positioning toward the final roster. The NFL only allows 53 players on the final roster and an eight man practice squad. I thought it might be interesting as be begin our position by position breakdown to look back at how many players we carry on our roster for each role.
Teams are required to have their roster at specific levels through training camp. Because NFL Europa ceases to exist, teams have a hard cap of eighty players under contract. On August 26th, the roster must be cut down to 75 players. The final cut date is August 30th where the roster may only have 53 players.
Tracking roster sizes for each position is actually fairly complicated. Players that are multi-functional, particularly on the offensive line, can throw off a count. For the purposes of this analysis, I will treat all offensive linemen together. Cornerbacks and Safeties are separated, but the Free and Strong safeties are counted together.
Offensive Roster Breakdown
You can go out on a limb and assume that on the opening day roster (which is what I used to generate the numbers) that we will have three tight ends, one full back, and four running backs. There is very little variance in the year-by-year breakdown.
The experience of last year at quarterback leads to the assumption that we will carry three on the roster this year, rather than go through the unmitigated disaster of listing Matt Jones as our 3rd QB. Nothing is worse than hearing anyone in the media ponder the use of Matt Jones as the Jaguars signal caller.
Speaking of wide receivers, of the 10 on the Jaguars roster, only five or six can reasonably expect to make the final roster. The position will be explored in a more depth part of this series, but it is obvious that the top three spots are filled. The other three are an open competition of the muddled middle. More on this to come.
Defensive Roster Breakdown
The defensive numbers are a little more tricky. The Safety numbers are artificially inflated in 2004 and 2005 by Nick Sorenson who despite being lights out on special teams, was a safety in name only.
2007 was the only season since 2004 where the defense had the same amount of players as the offense. Gregg Williams is going to have to make some hard choices, especially at cornerback, to trim the roster down to size.
- The Jaguars will only keep five wide receivers on the final roster. Adding another quarterback will limit the slots available, especially with the difficulty of trimming down some of the defensive positions. It simply makes more sense to cut/practice squad a wide receiver rather than a cornerback.
- As mentioned previously, the Jaguars will abandon the two quarterback experiment and hope that we never again have to all upon Todd Bouman. Realistically, were the Jaguars to have a disastrous quarterback meltdown due to injury, Bouman will probably be available, whereas Paul Smith would not clear waivers to make it on the Jaguars practice squad.
- The Tightest Competition will be for the skill position players at receiver and corner, there are clear cut starters and very few open spots.
- Defensive end is another area to watch, as there are nine players fighting for four or five spots. If you speculate that Spicer, Hayward, Groves, and Harvey are sure things, you've actually got five players battling over one possible spot. The Jaguars have only carried five defensive ends once in the last four years.
- Conspicuously absent from this analysis are special teams. Some of the variation in roster spots comes from multi-role players like kick returners, gunners, wedge breakers, etc. The 2008 Jaguars will have a rough time keeping special teams stars with the competition for solid roster spots. Also, the Jaguars are unwaivering in their starting of a long-snapper, kicker, and punter. Those three spots are the most consistent of the analysis.
This the first part in a position by position breakdown of the 2008 Jaguars. With a little thought, it should be clear as to the makeup of the final roster. While a lot can change due to injury, it's already apparant what the top of each position looks like.
Who do you think is a "sure thing" to make the roster. No points if you guess David Garrard, Jerry Porter, Derick Harvey. Who's almost guaranteed to get cut? (bonus points if you say Matt Jones)