With less than 2 days until training camp, football season is upon us. The big news of EverBank purchasing the naming rights of the Jaguars home field will be quickly overshadowed by Oklahoma drills and preseason games. By early September the roster will be cut down to just 53 players. So starting on Friday the battles to earn one of those 53 spots will begin along with the battles for starting positions.
As of today, there are 40 offensive players on roster. When all is said and done, about 15 of those 40 will be cut from the team and only 11 will earn starting spots. Some are locks, but for most that cannot be said. Here's a look at some of the battles to keep a close eye on in the month of August.
Backup RB Spot:
While there's clearly no question that Maurice Jones-Drew is the running back and superstar for the Jaguars there is some doubt as to who can step up and take some pressure off of MJD. The battle for the #2 spot will be headlined by a pair of Gene Smith draft picks, Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim. The huge underdog in all of this is Chad Kackert who would have to be the world beater in order to earn the spot.
In my opinion the frontrunner of the group is Jennings due to the fact that he already has one year of development under his belt and has no role other than running back. Karim has been given a lot of praise by Vic Ketchman and as such, expectations have skyrocketed, but until he shows his stuff with pads on Jennings is #2 in pencil. Although I will say that I'm really rooting for Chad Kackert.
After the 2009 season, few doubt that Mike Sims-Walker will be the #1 receiver heading into the regular season. However, the spot opposite him is definitely up for grabs. The 2009 draft brought the Jaguars Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard in consecutive rounds and they will likely be the top two competitors for the #2 spot. Troy Williamson has the been the underwear champion his entire career and the fact that he wasn't as impressive this year isn't a good sign in his pursuit for a roster spot, let alone the starting spot, so needless to say, he's an underdog in this battle.
The favorite is probably Mike Thomas due to his production in 2009. In the ideal scenario, Thomas would be able to play in the slot position where his size and speed could be best utilized so for that reason, Dillard has a slight advantage. If Dillard can return at full speed from a leg injury that ended his season in 2009 he may have the ability to beat out Thomas and allow the Arizona alum to take over in the slot.
Roster Spot Receivers:
As of today there are 11 receivers on the roster and as far as I'm concerned they all have a chance at a spot. If you've been offered a chance to compete on this competitive roster by Gene Smith and you've survived the first wave of cuts, you have as good a chance as any. The locks for spots in my opinion are Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Kassim Osgood. I consider Osgood, because if nothing else, he's proven to be one of the league's best special teamers. So that leaves 7 players competing for 1 or 2 spots.
Frontrunners? You tell me. The final seven left are Clarence Denmark, Jason Harmon, Nate Hughes, John Matthews, Roren Thomas, Tiquan Underwood and Troy Williamson.
3rd Tight End:
Few would argue that Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller aren't assured roster spots, but the 3rd spot is set up for a three man battle between Ernest Wilford, Mike Caussin and Zach Potter. The three all offer completely different styles of the tight end positon.
Wilford, the incumbent for the position and a former receiver, provides a receiving target for Garrard but does little to help in blocking situations. Potter provides the antithesis of Wilford in that he is a gigantic, blocking tight end that provides very little in the passing game. Caussin is certainly the most balanced player of the three in the mold of Marcedes Lewis although he is an undrafted rookie with has the least experience of the three by far.
There are two words that describe the situation in the middle of the Jaguars offensive line and the first is "cluster." You can be creative with the second. The major players for spots in the interior are Vince Manuwai, Justin Smiley, Uche Nwaneri, Brad Meester, Kynan Forney, Kevin Haslam and Cecil Newton. John Estes, Andrew Crummey and Paul McQuistan may have a chance to shake things up although things are certainly shook up as is.