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5 observations from Jaguars initial 53-man roster, Urban Meyer presser

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Today, the Jaguars crafted its initial 53-man roster, waiving a total of 18 players, releasing six. The team also placed safety Josh Jones on the reserve/injured list, while placing rookie linebacker Dylan Moses on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer met with the media shortly following the 4:00 p.m. ET deadline to address the roster, and where the team goes from here on out.

On a grim day in the NFL, Meyer mentioned that there were no “bad guys” on the roster, making it a tough decision to let players leave.

“It was awful, to an extent,” Meyer said when asked about how difficult of a day was. “Like I said, if it was a bad guy - we don’t have bad guys here. I mean, this has been an incredible experience for me and I told her told every one of the guys as I met with, since day one our staff’s been here, you guys have been awesome. It was so much better than I ever expected.”

Meyer made sure to mention that the team expects to bring back certain players that are not picked up via the waiver wire to place them on the team’s 16-man practice squad roster, an expansion that was put in place after the new NFL/NFLPA was signed last year.

The league also allows for up to six veterans with an unlimited number of accrued seasons to be on the practice squad.

Meyer provided some insight into what went into various decisions the team made and where it will go moving forward.

Here are 5 observations from today’s press conference:

Team to be active with waiver wire, wants some players to return

It’s clear the team has yet to ultimately finish its opening-day 53-man roster. There are several position groups that hold more players than what ought to be expected two weeks from today, with everything fluid, Meyer mentioned.

One of those groups could be along the defensive line, with Jacksonville keeping 14 of its defensive linemen, waiving only Doug Costin from the most recent roster update. The team also retained five safeties and five linebackers, more players than at first expected.

“We just felt we had a group of safeties, linebackers and d-linemen that we felt very strong about, but it’s still very fluid,” Meyer said. We’re still very active. We’re number one on that claim, which is going to take place tomorrow, so that’s why.”

The Jaguars will be able to get first dibs on the waiver wire, be allowed to claim any player that has been waived by the 31 teams in the NFL, and receive essentially whatever player they’d like. That will, of course, change how the team’s overall makeup is, creating a better outlook as the days go on.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Jaguars will also hope it can return some of its players that were waived or released back to the practice squad. Meyer cited the league’s 16-man practice squad as a tool the team will use to bring back certain players.

“I think we had to trim by 27, but 16 of them are going to come back tomorrow at one o’clock, and we’re still working through that as we speak,” said Meyer. “That was a little bit more easier to deal with than just see you later, so we have a good chunk of guys we plan on, if they don’t get claimed, coming back.”

The Jaguars waived several receivers that potentially could have made the roster such as Collin Johnson, Jeff Cotton Jr., 2021 sixth-round selection Jalen Camp, among others. The team also released a couple of veterans such as Phillip Dorsett and safety Jarrod Wilson, both of which Meyer said could return.

Meyer also made mention of tight ends Tyler Davis and Ben Ellefson, both of which the team will try to keep on the practice squad. The Jaguars kept just three tight ends on the roster, James O’Shaughnessy, Chris Manhertz and Luke Farrell.

Vaccination status played some role on cut-down day

Much has been made this offseason and into the preseason regarding the vaccination status of players, including whether or not teams will consider their status when it comes to making decisions of their opening-day roster.

Meyer stated during his press conference that it does get brought into consideration, of course, along with the performance the player showed on the field.

“Everyone was considered. That was part of the production, let’s start talking about this, and then also is he vaccinated or not,” said Meyer. “Can I say that that was a decision maker? It was certainly in consideration.”

The comments sparked controversy among media circles, as well as the NFL Players Association which states that it will open up an investigation into his comments. The NFL and NFLPA agreed in June that the league will not penalize players for not being vaccinated.

While his comments did hold some merit and are likely true for the Jaguars along with every other team in the NFL, it has been seen as more of an unspoken truth, rather than something that ought to be said out loud.

Special teams an emphasis

The Jaguars placed a heavy emphasis on special teams this year, particularly at the safety position, retaining Andrew Wingard, Daniel Thomas and Rudy Ford were some moves the team made to ensure it was strong as a unit on special teams.

Ford, the team’s third safety on dime packages during training camp and the preseason, is seen as one of, if not the best, gunner that Meyer’s coached.

“Some guys at my old schools are going to get very upset with me when I say that, but he’s as good as I’ve ever seen,” Meyer noted. “He’s legit fast. We on purpose didn’t, I don’t think the last game, let him go do it. But at kickoff, he’s just so far out in front of everyone else, really good player.”

The Jaguars also retained two linebackers, Dakota Allen and Chappelle Russell that have excelled on special teams throughout the preseason. While not all players retained will still be there in the coming days, this was clearly an emphasis the Jaguars placed on its team.

Defensive line group could be trimmed

The Jaguars exited Tuesday with a staggering 14 players on its defensive line. The only defensive lineman that was waived was second-year player Doug Costin, who Meyer admitted was a good player, the team simply didn’t have the numbers to retain him.

“We have little capital with the d-line. We feel good about the depth of our d-line and there’s some good players,” Meyer mentioned. “[DT Doug] Costin’s a good player. We’re trying to find ways to make this thing work to keep a guy like that but not sure you can.”

Teams do not typically carry 14 defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, and there certainly will not be 14 active on gameday when the roster has to be set at 46 players activated. Look for the Jaguars to use some of the depth it retained to find other pieces on the waiver wire.

Skill positions will be upgraded over the coming days

As mentioned previously, the Jaguars are not done with its 53-man roster yet. Jacksonville retained just three running backs, three tight ends and five receivers, three of which are currently coming back from injury.

The receiver and running backs room, in particular, were two that Meyer said were going to be a priority to upgrade over the coming days. He mentioned two players, Dorsett and Devin Smith as players that didn’t make it, but were risky to keep due to past and present injuries.

“We have [Phillip] Dorsett [II] as dinged right now. We brought in Devin Smith, and he goes out there and makes a catch that I told him I haven’t seen our guys make, but he’s also had two ACL’s,” Meyer said.

“He’s an older player, but he gives you the top end. He can knock the top off the coverage. That’s my biggest concern, and also [having] three running backs with [Travis] Etienne [Jr.] being out. That’s 24/7 conversation as we continue.”

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Meyer stated during the press conference that speed was part of what he wants the offensive identity to be. When asked if he was satisfied with the current speed of the receiver room, Meyer said frankly, “no,” and also mentioned Dorsett as being a player the team would like to bring back.

“He’s still in the picture,” Meyer said. “We’re thinking of ways. He’s dinged right now. He has a hamstring and he’s had a little bit of an issue since he’s been here with that. We want to keep him if there’s a way to keep him.”

Dorsett is a vested veteran and will not have to be subject to waivers, any team in the NFL is free to sign him, including the Jaguars if they wish to bring him back and he agrees. He also could be added to the practice squad.

The tight end room was a group Jacksonville wanted to address this season but were only able to add Manhertz and a sixth-round rookie in Farrell. Now, they’ll try to bring in someone else to fill that last spot.

“[James] O’Shaughnessy’s our best receiver right now. Luke [Farrell]’s coming on. I like that position,” he said. “I love who they are, but we still need to get one more at some point.”

Final notes:

  • Meyer stated that all receivers who are currently banged up, DJ Chark Jr., Marvin Jones Jr. and Tavon Austin will all be ready to play by Week 1 against the Houston Texans.
  • Tre Herndon and Tyson Campbell will compete for the starting nickel spot, according to Meyer.
  • The Jaguars will bring on a kicker-punter combo to the practice squad as insurance