The Jacksonville Jaguars voted on their captains this week, with the usual subjects getting the nod. One player who raised an eyebrow getting the special teams nod however was pass rusher Lerentee McCray. McCray has bounced back and forth between linebacker, defensive end and back and forth again, but he’s also held a roster spot primarily because of his special teams play. In fact, that was one of the main reasons McCray was re-signed by the Jaguars.
He’s seemed to take a big step forward in his development this offseason, even at 28 years old.
“He’s done a good job,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said on Wednesday. “At first, we were thinking, ‘OK, let’s take this player. Let’s acquire him, he has played [special] teams. Let’s see if he is good enough to play.’ Really, honestly, when we took him. All of a sudden, he is playing and he is playing well. He made a lot of tackles, he had a good leadership role and then all of a sudden, I think that he picked it up and he has shown us that he can go in there [and play defense].”
With the absence of Dante Fowler Jr. for most of the offseason and training camp, McCray has stepped into the role of being Yannick Ngakoue’s primary backup as the weakside end and has done a really nice job. McCray has made the most of his opportunity with the extra snaps, making some plays in the preseason working with the starting unit.
“He has always believed that he can go in there and play defensively. I think that he has done a nice job of becoming a very good all-around football player for us,” Marrone continued about McCray’s development. “Obviously, he has become a leader for the special teams [unit] with them voting him captain. I am excited for him because he does put in a lot of work in both [special teams and defense]. It is hard. He is a [leader] by example because sometimes the younger players just want to concentrate on whatever phase they are in. [They think], ‘I am a special teams player, I am not a linebacker. I don’t have to worry about linebacker.’ Or [they think], ‘I am a linebacker, I don’t have to worry about special teams.’ I think with Lerentee, which I have always appreciated, is that he is able to put the time in on both. Leadership is important in that locker room, however they feel. We had ‘Poz’ [Paul Posluszny] in there for a long period of time, who did a great job. They voted for Telvin Smith [Sr.] and I think he has obviously stepped up to his role. Calais [Campbell] is there, but I think we have a couple other guys, too, that are doing a nice job there. Leadership and from the team standpoint, I am happy where Lerentee is.”
McCray played in 13 games last season for the Jaguars, predominantly as a special teamer, but he did pick up 1.5 sacks and some pressures in limited play. He didn’t have any sacks in the preseason, but he did flash a few times rushing off the edge and the first team unit didn’t really seem to skip a beat.
He’s likely to get quite a bit of playing time in Week 1 against the New York Giants and even more while Fowler is working his way back into game shape, so it will be fun to see if McCray can continue his development as more than just a special teams ace.