The Jaguars kick off their 2017 organized team activities today, and although no “camp competitions” will be decided this earlier on in the Jaguars offseason training program, players will begin to battle for a starting position on the Jaguars depth chart.
What are some of the notable position battles for the Jaguars going into OTAs? There aren’t many, as high profile free agent signings: Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Barry Church — and first round draft pick Leonard Fournette, are looking to be sure-fire starters on this team going forward. However, four battles have my eye...
Cam Robinson vs. Branden Albert
The epic, long, and totally unprofessional hold-out enacted by offensive tackle Branden Albert looks to finally be coming to an end this week, as the team expects Albert to return to team activities.
The italicized words I used to start that sentence were sarcasm. Albert has been holding out because, considering his age (32) and injury history, he has been looking to have his contract reconstructed in the case of an injury that would guarantee him some cash. Alfie Crow has been saying this for a while: No one should be worried.
Now that Albert is likely to return, as Alfie has projected, it will be interesting to see who out of him and 2017 second round pick Cam Robinson gets first team snaps at left tackle, and eventually wins the job. I believe the job will end up being Robinson’s, as Robinson is younger, fresher, and was widely considered to be a first-round value, but regardless of who wins, it will be more interesting to see what happens to the loser: Will they play guard? Right tackle? Or simply be a depth player to start the 2017 season?
If I had to guess the “locks” to make the Jaguars 53-man roster at cornerback right now, I’d project them to be Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Aaron Colvin, and Jalen Myrick. That ain’t going to cut it.
Colvin and Myrick are mainly nickel cornerbacks, although Myrick will be given some chances to play outside in a rotation. However, there isn’t any other true depth behind starters Ramsey and Bouye. The Jaguars have added two undrafted free agent cornerbacks to compete for depth spots in Jeremy Cutrer and Ezra Robinson, as well as added free agents Brian Dixon and Tyler Patmon.
I can’t say I’ve dove deep into these players’ film except for Cutrer, who I really like and think has the best odds to make the roster of all of the Jaguars UDFAs, but it will be intriguing to see how many of these smaller names will make the most of their opportunities in OTAs and the Jaguars training camps this summer, as the Jaguars will have to hold onto at least one of two of these players or new signings for depth.
Dante Fowler Jr. vs. himself
Yannick Ngakoue is a clear cut starter over Fowler Jr. at weak-side defensive end at this point, and with Calais Campbell recently signing a four year, $60 million deal to be the Jaguars strong-side defensive end, Fowler Jr. is left in the weeds and must find a way to crawl himself out in order to provide something of value on this defense.
I personally believe that Fowler Jr. is playing out of position at defensive end, which is something I’m going to hit on in another article later this week. But no matter what I think, he’s currently stuck as a backup at WDE. Ngakoue is unlikely to be unseated as a starter, no matter how well Fowler Jr. may perform in camp. But, if Fowler Jr. does impress in camp and display progression with his pass rush moves this preseason after his extremely disappointing 2016 season, he could earn snaps across from Ngakoue in heavy pass rush sets where Calais Campbell moves to the interior defensive line or rotates out for Fowler Jr.
This “battle” isn’t Fowler Jr. vs. Ngakoue or Campbell because they are both simply better players who have won their jobs. Rather, this one if Fowler Jr. vs. himself: If he can take major steps in his game as a pass rusher this offseason and preseason, he can earn more and more snaps in 2017.
Tommy Bonahon vs. Marquez Williams
WE HAVE A FULLBACK BATTLE, BABY!
In all honesty, this battle should be rather uneventful. Bohanon was signed about a month after the free agency phase of the offseason came and went, so he clearly wasn’t a priority signing. Bohanon also spent the 2016 season as a free agent after being a final roster-cut for the Jets last September.
Williams was drafted by the Jaguars in the 7th round, and considering the team used draft capital on Williams, I automatically believe he will win the starting fullback job.
The return of the fullback in the Jaguars offense has been a fan-favorite move by the team this offseason, as new running back Leonard Fournette will have a true lead blocker in, most likely, Williams this season who literally eats defenders for breakfast:
What position battles are you most looking forward to as the Jaguars kick off their organized team activities today?