You did it.
You worked your ass off through grueling Florida summer heat. You studied your playbook to the point of foreign language fluency. You made the flash plays to grab the attention of coaches. You developed a camaraderie with your peers in the locker room.
You’re a Jaguar.
You call your parents to tell them you made the 53-man roster. Tears of joy are streaming down your face, mixing with the salty sweat of accomplishment. Every ounce of energy and commitment you’ve ever invested, all those extra hours you spent in the weight room and analyzing tendencies on film, have led to this moment.
You wake up the next morning and make breakfast. You never noticed how good those eggs taste nestled in between a bed of spinach and toast. You walk through the gates of TIAA Bank Field, mentally prepared to go to war for this season with your brothers in arms.
Coach wants to see you.
Just like that, you’re gone. Your roster spot was given, and I mean given away to someone else the team just claimed on waivers. As quickly as yesterday’s news catapulted you to euphoria, the rug was just as hastily jerked out from under you.
It’s cruel, but that’s the NFL.
On several occasions this preseason, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has lamented the bottom-tier depth on this football team, and it’s fairly safe to assume that the team will be heavily invested in the waiver process following final cuts to churn out the dregs of the roster.
I’ve watched every preseason game (ed. note: oh my God) so far and made notes about players that have stood out as potential bubble players that the Jaguars should consider to upgrade at a few positions. Although I have candidates for all positions that have stood out (and a surprise backup veteran QB isn’t out of the question), realistically, I think the Jaguars will be primarily focused on bolstering the running back and tight end rooms.
Wendell Smallwood/Josh Adams/Donnel Pumphery/Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles
I’m grouping all four of these guys together because quite frankly the Philadelphia Eagles stable is so deep that any of these four would be an upgrade for the RB4 spot, and there’s a good chance that three or even all four will be available.
Smallwood has been the cockroach of the group the past few years, consistently finding a way to hang on since getting drafted out of West Virginia in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, but his time might be up donning the Kelly green.
Adams is probably the most talented runner out of the group and fits their mold of bigger, more physical runners, but his inadequacies as a blocker and receiver could turn the Jaguars off. One of the most productive runners in college football at San Diego State, the Eagles burned a fourth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Pumphery in hopes of finding their Darren Sproles heir apparent, but Pumphery just hasn’t been able to stay available or consistently productive.
Scott is the dark horse, as he probably had the best in-person showing last Thursday running for 43 yards on 7 carries in front of Dave Caldwell’s eyes. He was a player I was very high on in the scouting process and his ability to contribute on special teams may earn him a call.
Christian Wade, Buffalo Bills
You’ve probably heard about the rugby playing phenomenon that housed his first NFL carry this preseason, looking like the Flash as he just separated past everybody in the open field. Wade has the big play ability and game breaking speed that the current corps is missing with the departure of Corey Grant, and the word is that the Bills are leaning towards keeping LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Devin Singletary, and either T.J. Yeldon or Senorise Perry. Being new to football, Wade is a work in progress, but his ceiling and potential is absolutely worth stashing as a RB4 on this Jaguars squad.
Brian Hill, Atlanta Falcons
The Jaguars seem to be all in on the great state of Wyoming, and despite a slow start since being drafted by the Falcons in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and also spending some time on the Cincinnati Bengals roster, Hill has really seemed to turn a figurative corner as a runner. The problem in Atlanta is they recently invested draft picks on Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison to back up Devonta Freeman, and Kenjon Barner has been the primary kick returner on special teams throughout preseason. Additionally, don’t discount the relationship that Dave Caldwell has with Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.
Ryan Nall, Chicago Bears
Nall was a nasty runner at Oregon State and the former high school basketball player has been equally impressive in the pros breaking off a handful of big runs in preseason action thus far. The Bears just spent two draft picks on David Montgomery out of Iowa State and Kerrith Whyte Jr. from Florida Atlantic (who both look very good), and with Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis in the mix, Nall is likely a guy the Bears try to sneak onto their practice squad this season.
Karan Higdon/Damarea Crockett, Houston Texans
Both guys were undrafted free agents and have had some promising moments so far in the preseason. With Lamar Miller and recently-acquired Duke Johnson Jr. in the mix for the Texans and 2018 holdover Buddy Howell showing up, one of these two players will likely be on the outside looking in.
Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots
With how valuable he is on special teams and his ability to tote the rock when called upon, I am on the fence if Bolden would be available. But can the Patriots really keep five running backs with James White, Sony Michel, Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead all in the mix? Maybe Burkhead gets shown the door in preference of Bolden, but Bolden would be the ideal RB4 here in Jacksonville with his ability to contribute in the third phase.
Devine Ozigbo, New Orleans Saints
Ozigbo was a player I became enamored with while scouting live at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg. In fact, Vikings GM Rick Spielman spent so much time talking with Ozigbo that I thought he was destined to end up in Minnesota by the end of the draft’s third day. Instead, Ozigbo ended up signing as an undrafted free agent for one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses and could be the odd man out behind Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington and Jacquizz Rodgers.
Alex Barnes, Tennessee Titans
Barnes was one of my biggest crushes in the entire NFL draft this year and I was secretly hoping he would end up plying his trade in Duval County this year. So of course, he ends up in Tennessee with the Titans. A true three-down back who can catch passes out of the backfield and pick up blitzers in pass protection, Barnes has James Conner written all over him in regards to his style of play.
A physical freak and dedicated gym rat, the kinesiology major was able to average 5.3 yards per carry for Kansas State despite running into eight and nine man boxes every play. Buried behind Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen, and Jeremy McNichols, the Titans’ loss can be the Jaguars’ gain, and snatching a guy with starting potential from a division rival is twice as nice.
Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins
Most are familiar with Perine from his Oklahoma Sooners days where he seemingly ran for 200+ yards every single outing, but Perine’s career in the pros has been quiet as a house mouse. Perine could reinvigorate himself with a change of scenery out of a Washington franchise that seems to be rife with turmoil, and he’s the type of prospect worth taking a flier on as your RB4.
Hale Hentges/Ross Travis/Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts
We know the Colts are loaded at the top of the tight end depth chart with Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, but it’s the guys after those two that have stood out in the preseason.
Hentges is probably the type of prospect the Jaguars would crave in that TE4/hybrid FB role that Michael Colubiale likely had snatched up were it not for an injury that landed him on injured reserve. He was overlooked by Irv Smith Jr. at Alabama but has been a model of consistency and could end up a better pro than college player. Ross is a former basketball player with freaky athleticism in the mold of Josh Oliver and struggled with injuries in 2018, but he’s back to full health now.
Mo Alie-Cox is similar to Ross and a bit of a project still, but he has a high ceiling as an athlete.
Jason Croom, Buffalo Bills
With the Bills making free agent financial investments in Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith and drafting both Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney, Croom is fighting an uphill battle in Buffalo to make the roster. Life comes at you fast, as Croom was the starting tight end in Buffalo for a good portion of the season last year, but simply can’t seem to stay at full health. Croom is an upgrade over anyone on the Jaguars roster beyond Josh Oliver, Geoff Swaim and James O’Shaughnessy.
Clive Walford/Dwayne Allen, Miami Dolphins
The Jaguars travel down to Hard Rock Stadium this week, and rest assured eyes will be transfixed on the logjam that is the Miami Dolphins tight end depth chart. Veteran Dwayne Allen comes from the Patriots system, so you would seemingly think that he has the advantage under Brian Flores and Chad O’Shea for the fourth tight end spot behind Mike Gesicki, Nick O’Leary, and Durham Smythe, but the body may be giving up on the eight-year veteran.
Walford is a player the Jaguars have had opportunities to sign as a free agent, but with all the injuries to hit the position as of late, Walford may start looking like the prettiest girl at the dance.
Tanner Hudson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Jaguars brought in a tight end from Bucs earlier this offseason in Donnie Ernsberger, but Ernsberger is just not good enough of an athlete to make this final roster. Perhaps overlooked playing at Southern Arkansas, the former Mulerider is a project player who is having a good enough preseason to potential stick on the Bucs final roster. If he doesn’t, /waving hand emoji.
Will Tye, Philadelphia Eagles
A multi-week injury to Richard Rodgers and the emergence of Joshua Perkins may have positively affected Tye’s prospects of making the team, but the Stony Brook product has been someone that NJ.com and former First Coast News writer Mike Kaye recommended to me based on his strong offseason performance thus far. Similar to the Eagles running backs listed above, the ability for Jaguars scouts and GM Dave Caldwell to watch Tye in person helps his case.
So what do you think Jaguars fans? Will any of the names on the list above crush someone’s soul after being told they made the final roster? Are there any other positions that you think the Jaguars may target outside of running back and tight end?
Let us know in the comments below!