The Jacksonville Jaguars just finished OTAs and mandatory mini camp and that means another milestone of the offseason has come and gone and another 53-man roster prediction is queued up!
Now, full disclosure — the only reason I’m doing this is because I saw Mike Kaye of First Coast News do one and I had a few (but not many) differences of opinion.
Why so little disagreement? Because the roster is good. It’s damn good. At the top, there is no debate about most of these position groups. This is a roster that should be in every preseason conversation about who will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
How could the 53-man roster look going into Week 1 of the regular season?
Quarterbacks (2): Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler
The Jaguars have only three quarterbacks on the roster and there’s no way all three take up a roster spot. There are competitive position groups (*cough* defensive line *cough*) that bring more to the table than Tanner Lee.
Running back/fullback (4): Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, Tommy Bohanon
The Jaguars didn’t add a running back in the NFL Draft and did very little in undrafted free agency. This is a position group that is set, everyone has their roles, and the coaches and front office wanted to put extra attention elsewhere. I’m fine with that.
Wide receiver (6): Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, DJ Chark, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Allen Lazard
Here’s the first real difference from Kaye’s predictions — Kaye says the Jaguars and specifically receivers coach Keenan McCardell covet Rashad Greene’s ability to play outside and inside. While that may be all well and good, this receiving corps is missing big body receivers in a big way. D.J. Chark (6’ 3”) and Donte Moncrief (6’ 2”) are the tallest receivers of the starting five, but only Moncrief provides a large frame. Allen Lazard, however, brings a 6’ 5” and 223 pound frame. He’s a big bodied receiver and will excel.
Tight end (4): Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Niles Paul, James O’Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack
Austin Seferian-Jenkins was the talk of OTAs and mini camp and Blake Bortles threw in his praise frequently. I think that James O’Shaughnessy is a guy who will make the 53-man roster but frequently miss the 45-man active day roster week in and week out. Ben Koyack helps as a versatile H-back and allows the team to only keep four running backs.
Offensive line (9): Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, Will Richardson, A.J. Cann, Jermey Parnell, Tyler Shatley, Josh Wells, Chris Reed
Kaye believes Wells and Reed don’t make it in favor of Josh Walker and Will Poehls. I beg to differ. Wells is a swing tackle and Reed can play several positions. Doug Marrone will want versatile guys as his backups.
Defensive line (10): Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Taven Bryan, Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones, Dawuane Smoot, Eli Ankou, Mike Bennett
With only three true running backs on the 53-man roster, the Jaguars can field 10 defensive linemen — stacking up at their best position group (and probably the most talented defensive line group in the league). Kaye believes Mike Bennett is given the pink slip in favor of Lerentee McCray, who is a great special teams player. I don’t think so. I think rookie linebacker Leon Jacobs makes McCray expendable.
Linebackers (5): Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Blair Brown, Leon Jacobs, Donald Payne
This team needs a SAM linebacker in a bad way. The battle between Blair Brown and Leon Jacobs will be fun and I think Donald Payne getting more and more praise from the coaching staff isn’t a coincidence.
Cornerbacks (6): A.J. Bouye, Jalen Ramsey, D.J. Hayden, Quenton Meeks, Jalen Myrick, Tyler Patmon
Quenton Meeks is a good player who had a lot of buzz after the NFL Draft was over — but as Kaye noted Meeks didn’t really stand out in OTAs or mini camp. I still believes he makes the roster.
Safeties (4): Tashaun Gipson, Barry Church, Cody Davis, Ronnie Harrison
Ronnie Harrison is a safety in waiting for 2019, but he’ll get reps this year. Cody Davis has tremendous special teams value. Kaye has Don Carey making the team as a fifth safety, what with his versatility and ability to play cornerback, but I think Patmon is the better player and unlike Carey has stood out in OTAs and mini camp and received praise from Doug Marrone during post-practice press conferences.
Special teams (3): Carson Tinker, Josh Lambo, Logan Cooke
Brad Nortman was average at best last year and the Jaguars used a seventh round pick on his replacement in Logan Cooke. Like Kaye, I think Cooke wins the spot but also like Kaye I believe they bring in a camp leg to make Cooke earn it.