Now that the Jacksonville Jaguars training camp is closed and they get ready to head to the pre-season, we'll divy out some awards on who the biggest surprises of camp have been. The good surprises.
Click the jump for your candidates.
Blaine Gabbert, QB: To me, the biggest surprise of Jaguars training camp was how good Blaine Gabbert looked so early. He's a rookie quarterback who came in without OTA's or mini-camp and couldn't talk to his coaching staff at all until the lockout was lifted. He was able to get a playbook, but it's still like reading a book in Chinese without a translator. Gabbert was praised for his knowledge of the playbook immediately, so that shows he's dedicated to his craft. He came in looking like he didn't miss OTA's or mini-camp.
Austen Lane, DE: Lane has always been a fan favorite and it's hard not to be when you're so damn quotable. The "Bringer of Pain" did himself right in the off-season working with veteran Aaron Kampman. Lane looks bigger and quicker off the line, which works well with his relentless nature. If he can put it all together he's got potential star power as a defensive end. He's currently slated as the starting left end, and he's earned it.
Jamar Newsome, WR: In my opinion, Newsome has been by far the most impressive undrafted rookie and I wouldn't be shocked at all to see the team try and force him on the roster. In a group of wide receivers starving to find another guy, Newsome shows the ability to get open and catch the football. His hands were a bit of a worry at UCF, but in the first full week of camp they haven't been an issue. He's got good speed and quickness, as well as solid route running.
Michael Hamlin, S: Hamlin was a mid-season pick up to the practice squad and was activated to the active roster. The safety position last year was a revolving door and the Jaguars may have found at least good depth at the position in Hamlin. He played with the first team at strong safety while Dawan Landry and Courtney Greene were sitting out practice, but held himself well. He should be in the second safety rotation and should make this roster as a back up/special teams player.
Cecil Shorts, WR: When the Jaguars picked Cecil Shorts, I was kind of "meh" on the selection. I saw him in person at the East-West Shrine game practices and he didn't look like anything special. He was pulled two days in with an injury after being the most hyped receiver coming in and that was that. Entering camp however, he looks like a polished slot receiver who catches everything, night and day from what I saw before.
Aaron Morgan, DE:I admittedly have a bit of a camp "crush" on Morgan and it started last year in camp with his flashes of pass rushing potential. Morgan bulked himself up in the off season, mostly muscle, and his hard work is paying off. He's worked himself up the defensive end rotation and has had a very nice training camp. Gene Smith might have unearthed a gem of a pass rusher from the pool of undrafted's.
Rashean Mathis, CB: Mathis took a lot of heat last year for playing poorly, though he didn't play as poorly as he's given credit for. So far in training camp however, Mathis has played fantastic. Unless he's getting an interception with his patented "baiting" move on the shorter routes, you don't notice him. That's a great thing. If the safety play is upgraded to the point that Mathis can just play his game and not worry if he's going to have the help he should over the top, he could be poised for a big season.
Who's been the biggest surprise to you?