Carrying four capable cornerbacks on the team roster is a luxury not usually associated with the Jaguars.
Since the Caldwell era commenced three short (long) years ago, a mixed bag of draft picks and more liquid assets have been allocated to the mission of building Gus Bradley’s secondary from the ground up.
Through this process, the Jaguars have seen several corners pass through their system. Alan Ball and Will Blackmon both contributed enough to hold starting spots for extended periods of time, but their utility has been absorbed and they are no longer part of the team’s plans moving forward. Both Ball and Blackmon were released this offseason.
Davon House arrived in Jacksonville in March as part of the Jaguars’ offseason shopping spree. House is getting paid to start, he’s a capable starter, and I’m struggling to think of a reality where he doesn’t start outside for the Jaguars.
Dwayne Gratz, Demetrius McCray, and Jeremy Harris enter 2015 as third-year defensive backs. Drafted in Caldwell’s foundation draft of 2013, all three cornerbacks have seen their fair share of highs and lows. Gratz has struggled playing consistently, and Harris has been relatively unproductive.
McCray, however, has visually improved with experience. Impressing fans and coaches alike with determined play against stronger receivers, McCray will look to re-establish himself as a starting outside corner alongside Davon House.
Aaron Colvin, a fan favorite last season, flashed his star potential after finally landing on the field half way through the season. Colvin’s notorious knee injury 10 months prior to making his debut made his immediate contribution that much more encouraging. Colvin played with intensity and passion during his limited 2014 action, battling against primary receivers and even returning a fumble for a game-shifting 53-yard touchdown in Week 13 against the New York Giants. As the team moves forward, Colvin will most likely be stationed at nickel corner. We could see him move outside at some point, as well.
Somewhere opposite to House, McCray, and Colvin, Harris and Gratz finds themselves on the outside looking in this season. Harris sits rather insecurely on the bubble as training camp approaches. He'll have to fight his way back on to the roster.
But if you think the Jaguars have completely shut the door on Gratz, you’re wrong.
That door is still cracked. Despite his bumpy performance over his extensive on-field time, Gratz is very capable of taking a starting cornerback spot if McCray slips up. A more probable scenario, perhaps, is Gratz seeing time in the nickel role.
The nickel corner is essentially a starter in today’s NFL. Lining up over slot would be a foreign position for Gratz, but not a monumental task. As Gratz works on the mental components to his game this offseason, the Jags carry the task of rotating defensive backs and implementing the most efficient group. What's the worst-case scenario? Gratz becomes sturdy depth. And depth is definitely something the Jaguars value.
I expect McCray, House, and Colvin to secure their roles in the secondary by the end of training camp. Add Gratz somewhere behind the group, and suddenly the Jaguars have four capable corners.
Chances are pretty decent that this group of four contains the formula for an long-term, established cornerback group moving forward.