Six Players to Watch!
As we start training camp tomorrow, It's a good idea to identify who and what to watch for!
Marcades Lewis, TE : Second year first round picks are supposed to perform, and Marcades is no exception. Training camp observers should pay close attention to how he runs, gets out of his blocks and how well he adjusts on the fly. The most important thing is that he stays healthy, of course, but this is when we see how Lewis fits into a system that emphasizes a pass catching TE. Let's not forget that we acquired Jermaine Wiggins from the Vikings (a player that worked with Assistant Coach Tice), and that Greg Estandia performed really well in mini-camp. I'm not going so far as to imply that Marcades has his job on the line or anything, just that it's time that we get to see what he did at UCLA show up on the field.
Charles Sharon, WR : This guy went from being a criminal that I predicted would be cut to the all-star of Mini-Camp. What does that tell you about his consistency? Charles needs to prove that he can get through press coverage and catch in traffic if he wants to make the team and make an impact. He's looked good when the defensive backs aren't hitting or pressing, but it's a whole different game when the pads go on. I'm expecting him to practice at both starting WR positions, as well as in the slot (despite Dennis Northcutt's obvious lock as the slot guy). If Del Rio is serious about an open competition at wide receiver, we'll see Charles and Mike Walker with the first team as much as Reggie Williams and Matt Jones.
Reggie Hayward, DE : Reggie's number one job is to stay healthy. Other than that it's critical to see how his Achilles Tendon holds up at full speed. A big part of recovery is re-developing the confidence in the leg and twisting and planting the same way pre injury. If he's "scared", and I mean that with all due respect, to use it, he'll lose a step and be ineffective. I imagine Del Rio will slowly bring Reggie to full speed and limit his exposure to injury. The Jags defense was nearly perfect, save for the absence of constant pressure on the quarterback. Reggie Hayward was brought in to be our Dwight Freeney or Julius Peppers, but last years injury cost us a chance to see that.
Justin Durant, LB : The "lost" second round pick is most likely the heir apparent to Mike Peterson. I'm curious to see how we use him this year. Don't be surprised to see Justin in all three LB roles, as our defense expects their linebackers to cover each position, to add flexablity and show different looks. While I'd never suggest that Peterson won't be the starter, if Durant has a fast start, we might see him in the rotation, though probably at OLB.
Adam Podlesh, P : Yeah, I'm putting a punter on the list. Jacksonville SUCKED at punting last season. And when you have an ineffective passing game, you tend to punt a lot. If Jacksonville regresses to a "caretaker" passing game (relying on the Run Game), Adam is going to get a whole lot of action. Watch and see how many punts he puts inside the twenty. I'm a believer in special teams as a "difference maker", if the Jags can get it together here, they get that much harder to bear.
Joe Zelenka, LS : Ok, this is a joke. Joe's a good long snapper. I put him here just to see how many people are searching for Joe Zelenka and training camp. He'll make the team, no doubt about it. The reason you've never heard of him is because he never botches snaps, and long snappers don't get any attention until they screw up. That said, he's occasionally played Tight End in "Big" packages. I love it when offenses put players in unusual roles, it confuses the defense and gives you a fleeting advantage.