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Jaguars go light at tight end, GM Dave Caldwell feels good about unit

The Jaguars opted to keep only three tight ends on the initial 53-man roster.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars-Training Camp Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars will be working through the season with only three tight ends this season, a change from years past and a recent fullback acquisition made it an easier decision.

On team’s initial 53-man roster, the Jaguars will field veteran tight end Tyler Eifert, who signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent, James O’Shaughnessy who is coming back from an ACL injury, and rookie Tyler Davis, who impressed coaches throughout training camp.

“But we also kept a fullback this year,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell told reporters when asked if the team was comfortable with just three tight ends given their injury history at the position, “which we haven’t done in the past, with Bruce Miller. So, you try to keep four between those two positions, the tight end and your fullback, and Bruce is going to help us on special teams.”

Last season, the Jaguars retained four tight ends, however, the team went without a fullback on the roster. Now, under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, a fullback will be returning to play some role on the offense. Miller, 33, could play the role of H-back with the team, a sort of hybrid between tight end and fullback, giving the team flexibility.

“If he’s a fullback, he’s got to be able to catch the football, he’s got to be able to play special teams, I’ve got to be able to get the snaps to put him on the roster, when talking about numbers and things of that nature,” said Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone when asked about Muller, speaking to reporters in August.

“Or whether it’s a tight end, if I put an extra tight end. Do I keep an extra tight end to fill that position or do I keep an extra fullback to keep that position?”

The role Miller plays will allow the team to have more flexibility on offense, able to do a lot more formation wise, Marrone says.

With the tight end unit, Caldwell feels comfortable with the players available, especially where O’Shaughnessy is at in his recovery, something the Jaguars GM says he didn’t exactly expect.

Tyler Eifert, obviously he’s a veteran, he’s a pro, he’s a former Pro Bowler, but really [he’s a] savvy route runner [that] catches the ball excellent . He’s a good blocker. ” Caldwell said when asked of his evaluation of the group.

“James [O’Shaughnessy] is a guy who’s been really surprising, not because he’s playing well, but because he’s coming off the ACL [injury]. He’s done such a tremendous job in rehab and has not had any setbacks and looks really good out there.”

O’Shaughnessy tore his ACL during the team’s week five matchup against the Carolina Panthers. He has since spoken to reporters about his rehab, which, during the coronavirus pandemic, was intriguing to say the least.

“James is a good blocker. He’s also a good pass catcher and good route runner. And then Tyler [Davis]’s a little bit of both. Tyler’s still learning to run some routes but he’s a good blocker. He’s a big guy. He’s competitive.”

The Jaguars hope Davis can round out a tight end group that’ll be used heavily in Gruden’s offense. As a top-tier athlete, Davis has the ability to become a big-time playmaker, especially in the middle of the field.

“So, we feel good about, probably more so than in years past, the group as a whole than what we’ve had really since we lost [former Jaguars TE] Mercedes [Lewis].”