With minicamp this weekend, Collin and I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the direct competition to watch for as you observe the practices. Our first matchup comes at the hyper-competitive Wide Receiver position, where two speedsters go head to head for the same roster spot. When you look at position battles, it's not just a matter of numbers, but rather an examination of role. Sometimes a battle develops due to the similar roles two players fill are very similar. For example, Defensive Tackles Derek Landri and Theo Horrocks play the same position, but would not be considered battling over the same role because the former is a faster pass-rushing DT, where the other is a more traditional run-stuffer.
In this case, the Jaguars have a pair of wide receivers both destined to fill the role of speedy deep threat that's designed to stretch defenses and draw coverage. Their value is measured in both long passing receptions and also in plays where safeties and cornerbacks are drawn deep, opening up underneath routes and the running game.
Both also suffer major criticisms that hinder their competition for a roster spot. Williamson was nothing more than an absolute flop in Minnesota, dropping many a sure thing touchdown pass. Broussard shows flashes of greatness, but his body size is dangerously thin for the NFL and he is hindered by nagging injuries.
Collin is defending Broussard, I'm taking Williamson. It's up to you to decide!
Troy Williamson: Diamond in the Rough
One teams trash is another ones treasure, that's how the saying goes. Troy Williamson had about as hard of a deal as you can get since he was drafted in 2005. He's had a constant string of coaches, quarterbacks, offensive coordinators, and a fanbase that expected far too much from a first round pick in his first season. He's increadbly fast, so much so that he loses focus on the ball in the air as he works on blowing past his coverage.
He comes to Jacksonville with the lowest of expectations. A 6th round pick for the Jaguars might have been a wasted pick anyhow, and his contract is tiny compared to other first round receivers. There is simply no risk for the Jaguars, other than upside. Troy is now reunited with the coach who selected him in Mike Tice, he's got a stable situation at quarterback, and he's in an offense that won't be depending on him to produce right out of the gates. He can ease into the offense and focus on concentration.
Remember this, you can't coach speed. Williamson is also built a little more soundly than Broussard, and has more experience, albeit tainted with Vikings nonsense. I completely disagree with my partner-in-crime in claiming that Broussard is tougher over the middle. Sure he might lack any fear, but his body simply won't sustain an NFL season if used that way. Troy's got 18 pounds (203) to John's 185, and that's a big difference considering how similar they are in game speed.
Don't get me wrong, I love what John Broussard can do, but he's not built (yet) to handle a full season. Troy has all the un-coachables, and he's got the motivation to perform far beyond our expectations. I predict that Troy makes the starting roster and John spends the year on the practice squad.
John Broussard: Speed over Size:
Sorry Chris, but the speed-demon role in our WR corps is going to be Johnny "B-B-Big Play" Broussard, not Troy Williamson. John will be on the final roster when the season begins for a variety of reasons. First, Troy couldn't catch malaria on a month long safari as he's proven to be a perennial ball dropper. Make no mistake he was a bust in Minnesota and likely he'll be a bust here. For that reason alone he's got more to prove in camp than Broussard. Troy's got to show he can catch in the NFL while Broussard's only requirements are improving his route running and beating press coverage more.
John can catch; he took advantage of his few opportunities and came up big time last year. That's what it's all about, making the most of your chances on the field. He's undersized and was re-routed way too often last season, something he'll have to address in order to play often this year. His quickness is comparable to that of Williamson. They both possess real speed that translates well into the NFL, but Broussard has shown he'll catch it when he wins deep. He was a seventh round pick and is due far less money than Williamson, and although it can't be ignored I doubt that'll play into account because the Jags have plenty of cap-room.
Let me say that I hope Troy wins the camp-battle. He is a more versatile option and could go over the middle, unlike Broussard who would promptly be broken by an opposing LB after the catch. However, despite his one-dimensional approach in the pass game he has show to have helped indirectly in the run-game by forcing one more defender to stay out of the "box". This pseudo-versatility is what got him onto the field so often as it made up for his abhorrent blocking.
Size and speed are major pluses, but what is of the utmost importance is the ability to catch. It takes more that just speed, which Broussard has demonstrated to have while Troy hasn't proven to be anything more than one fast cat. The only reason Troy has gotten so many chances is the same reason Matt Jones has gotten so many chances. Their first-round pedigree saves their head from the chopping block year after year. Not this time... this is a battle between a sixth-round pick (via trade) in Troy and a seventh rounder in Johnny B. It's going to be brutal because they know they can't both make the squad. Let's not forget about Mike Walker, he's got Troy's body and John's hands which means he likely will make the team this season.
Johnny Big Play will never be a number one, but he has shown to have the talent to compete at this level. If he doesn't make it on the team it won't be due to his regression, it'll be due Troy's ascension. John will continue to play at the NFL level even if it's for another team. He needs to learn to compensate for his lack of size by perfecting his route running, a much easier task than learning to catch. Let's hope Broussard's ankle surgery from February doesn't linger and limit his speed in camp so the best man can truly win.
Who makes the roster? You can take the easy route and vote in the poll. Or be aggressive and comment! If you think we're both wrong, tell us why. If you think I'm a brilliant analyst and Collin is just silly, say that too, but defend it! If you think Collin has it nailed and I'm so jaded from following our wide receivers that I'm blind, say that too!