The Jacksonville Jaguars have to get down to a 53-man roster by this Saturday at 4pm EST — meaning that approximately 1,184 players will be headed to the unemployment line.
When you pause and think it, that’s absolutely staggering. Through adversity comes opportunity, however, and a myriad of personnel decision-makers will be gleaning the waiver wire to try and improve the back ends of their roster.
Players with less than four years of experience in the NFL are subject to waivers, and the NFL defines an accrued season as one in which a player appeared on the active 53-man roster for at least six games. I’ve watched every single snap from every single preseason game through the first three weeks and have assembled a short list of potential players who the Jaguars could target in the first 24 hours of cuts.
In my opinion, there are really three positions on this roster that could stand to be substantially upgraded with outside help – developmental quarterback, depth running back, and depth linebacker. Here are some names, in order of personal preference, in the event they are released:
Alex McGough (Seahawks)
Josh Dobbs (Steelers)
Kurt Benkert (Falcons)
Chase Litton (Chiefs)
The Jaguars spent a sixth round pick on Tanner Lee and will most likely roll with him on the practice squad for this season. When you also consider the sturdiness of Blake Bortles and the strong play of back up Cody Kessler this preseason, it’s even more of a stretch to think they burn a roster spot on a third signal caller. If the Jags did want to invest in a bona fide developmental quarterback, the four players listed above are the only guys that I would consider burning a roster spot this season for.
A rookie out of Florida International, McGough is a tailor-made fit for this offense. Courageous and sneaky athletic, McGough’s strong pocket presence and small sample size of jaw-dropping throws in his three preseason outings for the Seahawks have caught the attention of many around the league. The recent acquisition of Brett Hundley may insinuate that Seattle could try to sneak McGough through to the practice squad, but it’s very unlikely that they risk exposing him due to his encouraging play.
Similarly to McGough, Dobbs and Benkert are good fits for this offense thanks to their mobility when the play breaks down and accuracy on high-completion tosses. Litton is a taller pocket passer who doesn’t have the same wiggle as the other guys on the list but has shown impressive accuracy in limited action for the Chiefs. I also had Packers rookie free agent Tim Boyle on this list, but Green Bay beat reporters have already stated that the team will be keeping Boyle on the roster owing to the departure of Hundley.
Josh Adams (Eagles)
Darrel Williams (Chiefs)
Roc Thomas (Vikings)
Chris Warren III (Raiders)
Justin Jackson (Chargers)
De’Angelo Henderson (Broncos)
Justin Davis (Rams)
Akrum Wadley (Titans)
Mike Gillislee (Patriots)
Tra Carson (Bengals)
Kapri Bibbs (Redskins)
The top five names are rookies, and that’s the route I would go to fill that fourth running back role due to high-ceiling potential and low financial investment.
Josh Adams from Notre Dame may have played himself onto the roster with some impressive runs despite being shut out by the Browns in week three. Leonard Fournette’s former LSU teammate Darrel Williams is the Chris Ivory-mold power runner who would be good insurance as a short yardage back and would no doubt delight Leo. Thomas has shown he can be a dangerous pass catching threat out of the backfield and could provide some insurance for Corey Grant, who is entering a contract year.
Injuries have kept Chargers late seventh round pick from Northwestern Justin Jackson off the field and in jeopardy of losing his spot to undrafted Detrez Newsome, who has impressed. Jon Gruden and the Raiders have raved about the 6’2” 246 pound Warren, but he may get caught up in a numbers game in Oakland.
The Broncos have already publicly put De’Angelo Henderson on the trade block due to the emergence of rookies Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, and Justin Davis may be in roster trouble due to the strong play of John Kelly in Los Angeles. Former Gator Mike Gillislee may be a veteran name to consider if/when he gets released from New England, but won’t come as cheap as some of the other guys on the list.
Ben Niemann (Chiefs)
Stephone Anthony (Dolphins)
Jason Cabinda (Raiders)
Hardy Nickerson Jr. (Bengals)
Andre Smith (Panthers)
Tegray Scales (Rams)
Elijah Lee (49ers)
Many who were following the 2018 draft recognize the name of University of Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell, but his Hawkeyes teammate Ben Niemann has been one of the Chief’s most impressive defenders this preseason. The Chiefs have some capital invested in the linebacker position, so they may have to chose between undrafted Niemann and 100th overall pick Dorian O’Daniel, who has been dealing with a thumb injury in camp and just hasn’t seen enough of the field.
Speaking of Clemson players, Stephone Anthony has disappointed since being selected in the second round by the Saints in 2015, but his 9.92 relative athletic score (RAS) may be too alluring to pass up as a depth middle or weak side linebacker. Undrafted out of Penn State, Cabinda may get caught in a numbers game behind Marquel Lee, who has played very well in preseason. Cabinda is a natural leader and would be a missile on special teams in addition to providing middle linebacker depth.
Two names with Jacksonville ties are Hardy Nickerson Jr. and Andre Smith. The son of former Jaguars linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Hardy Jr. attended the University of Illinois and would (perhaps) re-join former teammates Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips on the team. A former standout at Trinity Christian High School, Andre Smith was selected by the Panthers in the seventh round of this year’s draft but has been buried on the depth chart after an injury-plagued season at North Carolina. If healthy, Smith fits the athletic and leadership profile this team covets from its linebackers and could also be an ace on special teams.
Scales is an rookie free agent from Indiana who many draft pundits had a draftable grade on and could play both strong side and middle linebacker in the Jaguars scheme. Weak side linebacker Elijah Lee is an ascending player who has been playing under former Jaguars linebacker coach Robert Saleh in San Francisco.
Last season, Dave Caldwell claimed five players after final cuts (tight end James O’Shaugnessy, offensive lineman William Poehls, defensive tackle Eli Ankou, linebacker Donald Payne, cornerback Lafayette Pitts).
How many claims do you forecast for the Jaguars in 2018? Who would you be interested in bringing in?