It may still seem like the football season is forever away, but the Jacksonville Jaguars start training camp on Thursday, July 27.
One training camp storyline that is always interesting to follow: which players are fighting just to make the roster? These guys are referred to as “bubble” players, and have to pour everything they have into making the final 53-man roster.
Every year, there are always a few surprises regarding who makes the team and who gets cut. Listed below are five players, in no particular order, who I will be paying close attention to throughout the duration of camp and the preseason.
Amba Etta-Tawo, WR
After a monster senior season, Etta-Tawo was signed by the Jags as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse. He’ll have to battle his way onto the final roster. I think it will come down to whether or not he is able to beat out Rashad Greene for the final spot on the depth chart at wide receiver.
Etta-Tawo may have a slight disadvantage there because, even though Greene has not shown a lot of promise as a wide out, he brings an added element as a punt returner. Similarly Arrelious Benn will likely make the team because of his special teams prowess.
In order to stick around, Etta-Tawo will have to beat out Benn, or more likely, Greene to make the squad. Mike Kaye of First Coast News did list Etta-Tawo as one of the undrafted free agents who have the best chance of making the 53-man roster.
Neal Sterling, TE
Sterling, a seventh-round draft pick in 2015, has made the roster the previous two years. However, the Jaguars plan to incorporate the fullback position this season, which means tight end is a likely roster spot to nix in order to make room.
It is still possible the Jaguars will keep four tight ends on the roster, and it would not be a huge surprise if so. But if not, then a battle between Sterling and Ben Koyack will ensue. I think Marcedes and Lewis and Mychael Rivera are just about locks to make the team.
Sterling made the transition from wide receiver to tight end, and his receiving skills are clearly there, but he may need to improve as a blocker. Koyack has a mix of both, but isn’t great at either aspect. I expect both to fare better than Alex Ellis or Caleb Blueitt, though.
Tommy Bohanon, FB
Speaking of the fullback position. This will be a one-on-one battle between Bohanon and rookie Marquez Williams. The winner will start and the loser will find himself cut. The fullback position is a dying breed in the NFL. I see no real scenario where the Jaguars will keep two on the active roster.
I could have easily listed Williams here. Bohanon has the experience, has blocked for Chris Ivory in the past and knows what he needs to do to make the team. However, Williams was drafted in the seventh round, is a devastating blocker and knows his opportunities outside of Jacksonville are limited.
I feel as though a team does not use a draft pick on a fullback unless it intends to use him. With a stronger emphasis on the running game expected, the fullback will see the field a decent amount. Believe it or not, fullback will be amongst the most heated position battles this summer.
Luke Bowanko, OL
Bowanko is another interesting name to be on the bubble, as he has been on the roster for the previous three seasons, and started 14 games as a rookie in 2014. But with Brandon Linder likely to start at center and Tyler Shatley getting a lot of work in at center throughout the offseason, there may not be an opening for Bowanko.
It is possible that Linder starts at right guard, which may increase Bowanko’s chances of making the roster as a backup center. Either way, Bowanko is going to have to earn a spot this season. If he thinks he is a lock to make the roster and doesn’t compete at a high level throughout the preseason, he may find himself cut.
The offensive line is still a question mark in Jacksonville. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Right now, Bowanko is fighting for a backup role in a crowded group of offensive linemen.
Chris Reed, OL
Reed is a guard who actually started four games for the Jaguars last year, and appeared in 10 games total. But, again, there is a lot of bodies vying for limited positions on the offensive line, and at guard in particular.
The Jags signed Earl Watford in the offseason, and once again have been experimenting with Linder at right guard throughout the offseason. AJ Cann, Patrick Omameh and possibly even Cam Robinson will be fighting for a starting position on the interior of the line, and at the very least will make the team.
Reed will need to battle players like Jerimiah Poutasi, Nila Kasitati and perhaps even undrafted free agent Avery Gennesy to earn a roster spot. He proved he was capable of doing so during the 2016 season, after being signed as an undrafted free agent and making the practice squad in 2015. Still, it won’t be an easy task.
These are just five players who may find themselves right on the cusp of making the final 53-man roster in early September.
With the 75-man roster cut down now jettisoned, these certainly won’t be the only five players on the roster bubble. Let us know in the comments which positional battles and which bubble players you are most interested in watching throughout training camp and the preseason.