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ESPN predicts Jaguars’ final 53-man roster

Michael DiRocco makes his 53 man roster projection for the Jaguars, with a number of interesting decisions

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars Minicamp Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

With veterans scheduled to report to training camp on Tuesday, the Jaguars’ preseason has officially begun. And over the next few weeks, 32 franchises across the league will begin to shape their roster ahead of Week 1.

A lot can happen in the next 47 days, but that hasn’t stopped ESPN’s Michael DiRocco from predicting the final 53-man roster when Jacksonville heads to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Colts on September 10. Let’s look at some takeaways:

Snoop Conner is the odd man out in the backfield

The Jaguars carrying four running backs should come as no surprise. They only used four different ball carriers all of last year, and one of them (James Robinson) was traded midseason. Having the versatile Jamal Agnew allows them to use a roster spot elsewhere.

The additions of D’Ernest Johnson and Tank Bigsby have made Snoop Conner surplus to requirements; last year’s 5th round pick never really lived up to the high hopes the front office had for him, logging just 39 snaps in 2022.

A surprise at receiver

The addition of Calvin Ridley makes the Jaguars receiving corps one of the best in the AFC, if not the league. Trent Baalke worked hard this offseason to add some depth to a stellar starting trio, with three rookies battling for a roster spot. The big surprise here is that according to ESPN one of them - 6th round pick Parker Washington - will beat out Tim Jones for a place on the final 53.

Jones played 148 snaps last season, with only one regular season game where he didn’t see the field. An undrafted free agent in 2021, Jones seemed to offer promise despite logging just three receptions for thirty yards.

It appears that DiRocco is banking on Washington’s surprising aerial prowess and physicality after the catch to shine through in training camp. The former Penn State star plays taller than his 5’10” frame suggests, and recorded 1920 yards and 12 touchdowns in his Nittany Lions’ career.

Jaguars carry four tight ends

Doug Pederson likes to use 2TE sets. He has done ever since his days as the Eagles head coach, where the ‘Philly Special’ was forever etched into our footballing minds. So perhaps it’s shrewd of ESPN to suggest four roster spots will be dedicated to the position.

The biggest benefactor of this extra spot? Gerrit Prince. After making the practice squad last year, Prince has turned heads this offseason with the growth he has shown in OTAs and earns a roster spot in this projection. Expect rookie Brenton Strange to support Evan Engram, with Luke Farrell and Prince backing them up.

Claybrooks clings on to roster spot

The recent news regarding Chris Claybrooks’ arrest for domestic battery and false imprisonment is concerning. The former Memphis cornerback has spent his first three years in Jacksonville after being selected in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. And it’s fair to wonder if he will be on the team for a fourth year; this latest indiscretion isn’t Claybrooks’ first arrest, after being booked on charges of domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism in Nashville earlier this offseason.

DiRocco does not allude to Claybrooks’ off-field issues but includes him in the final 53, likely at the expense of Montaric Brown, who doesn’t make the cut. Both Claybrooks and Brown were involved sparingly last year, with just 63 and 47 snaps respectively. Regardless of Claybrooks’ legal concerns, expect the Jaguars to continue to explore options to bolster their secondary before Week 1.

You can never have too many linebackers

Trent Baalke’s infatuation with linebackers continues. According to DiRocco, the Jaguars will carry NINE linebackers on their 53-man roster - and it might be 10 depending on how you view De’Shaan Dixon’s most natural position.

This offseason, Jacksonville selected both Yasir Abdullah and Ventrell Miller in the draft, taking the pair on day three. Add these to the three linebackers drafted in 2022 (Travon Walker, Devin Lloyd, Chad Muma), and that’s a fairly sizeable investment at the position.

It’s fair to take into account the 3-4 hybrid scheme the Jaguars run under Mike Caldwell, and almost half of the names on ESPN’s list will be de facto pass rushers rather than off-ball linebackers. Nevertheless, having both K’Lavon Chaisson and Shaq Quarterman cling to a roster spot was worthy of note.