Now that we've taken a look at the kicker and punter positions for the Jacksonville Jaguars, covering special teams (Sorry Carson Tinker), we can start to move into the meat of the interesting camp battles that will be taking place, starting with the defensive side of the ball.
One of the positions that was upgraded in free agency was the defensive backfield, specifically safety, with the addition of veteran Tashaun Gipson. The signing of Gipson will hopefully fill that free safety void that the Jaguars defense has had since the regime of Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell took over. Actually, the probably could have stuck with Dwight Lowery another season or so, but we won't get into that. We'll get into what Gipson means as a starter and for how the rest of the depth chart shakes out.
Returning player(s): Johnathan Cyprien, Josh Evans, James Sample, Craig Loston, Earl Wolff
New player(s): Tashaun Gipson (FA), Jarrod Wilson (R)
Outgoing player(s): Sergio Brown
Bubble player(s): Josh Evans, Jarrod Wilson, Earl Wolff, Craig Loston
As shown, really the only new players are Gipson and UDFA Jarrod Wilson and the rest of the safety group is who they've had in the past. Gipson should be written in as the starting free safety, but the other safety position is going to be the one that will be fun to watch and will be the one up for grabs. The addition of Gipson though, can change the dynamic of how that player plays the position, because they can now use the free safety how they intended all along in the defensive scheme.
The main battle for the other safety spot will be between incumbent starter Johnathan Cyprien and second-year safety James Sample. Sample was drafted with the idea of being a combo safety, having the ability to play both spots, but with the addition of Gipson and the struggles of Cyprien over his first three seasons, I would presume that Sample will be shifted to focus on competing with Cyprien for the starting job.
I tend to think that Sample would have to significantly outplay Cyprien to win the job, as the team has been very defensive and complimentary of Cyprien in the public eye, offering up excuses for why his play hasn't been up to par early in his career. There is probably some credence to Cyprien being asked to do more than they would like out of his position within the scheme because of the deficiencies of the other safety spot, but that's no excuse for him often taking poor pursuit angles and missing tackles. Perhaps with a more defined and likely limited role in his position, those things will be less prevalent, but that still remains to be seen.
I think Gipson, Cyprien and Sample are proverbial locks on the roster with the final safety spot being a battle between the rest, I would guess that Josh Evans has a leg up on everyone else, given that he can play both safety positions and all things being considered, he hasn't really been THAT bad when he's on the field. Craig Loston has done some nice things on special teams, but his play on the field is still a big question mark. Earl Wolff will need to show a lot in training camp and the preseason if he hopes to stick, including versatility and special teams play.
As for the rookie Wilson, it's going to be an uphill battle. He might be a fit for someone on the practice squad, but it seems like the team has a glut of players who fill the box safety role, which is what I'm guessing the team sees Wilson as.