With training camp just three weeks away, the makeup of the Jaguars’ roster for the 2023 season is about to take shape. This time of year always brings its share of storylines, with unlikely protagonists forcing their way into the reckoning as teams look for surprise value at the bottom of the depth chart.
With an unusually large draft class of 13 rookies, the Jaguars were more restrained with their UDFA signings - picking up just ten more names after draft weekend. One has since been cut and another one added after rookie minicamp.
Overlooked through 259 selections, which of these UDFA’s have a chance to not only make the roster but make an impact in 2023?
Elijah Cooks, WR, San Jose State
Size, production, and experience; those are the three things that Elijah Cooks brings to Duval County. At 6’4”, Cooks immediately became the tallest receiver on the Jaguars roster when he signed his UDFA deal. In college, he used this size to be a reliable possession receiver on the boundary, first at Nevada and then at San Jose State.
Cooks’ collegiate career spanned six seasons and 51 games. Registering more than 2,500 yards and 28 touchdowns, it’s easy to see why Trent Baalke added him to the offseason mix. At the Hula Bowl, Cooks demonstrated how he utilizes his size and wingspan to be a true weapon outside of the numbers:
The Jaguars have put a lot of resources into their receiving corps. And in Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, the top of the depth chart looks as healthy as it has in a long time. The story behind that is a little different; Tim Jones has established himself as the best of the rest, and improvement from Kevin Austin and Seth Williams will be expected. But there is definitely an opportunity for Cooks to offer a different element to this offense.
Samuel Jackson, OT, UCF
The four-game suspension of Cam Robinson and the departure of Jawaan Taylor in free agency have meant some turnover on the offensive line. Anton Harrison was drafted in the first round and looks set for an immediate starting role at right tackle. And Walker Little looks to replace Robinson on the blind side, at least for the interim.
Depth on the o-line is certainly a concern. The Jaguars spent a seventh-round pick on Appalachian State’s Cooper Hodges, who played on the outside for the Mountaineers but saw reps at guard in minicamp. And veterans Coy Cronk and Josh Wells hardly move the needle should the backups be called upon.
Step forward, Samuel Jackson. It’s a familiar name, but not because of this 325lb Floridian. The home-state product spent his entire six-year college career at UCF, playing 66 games. Jackson displayed his versatility at Orlando, playing both tackle and guard (primarily on the left side), and he was named a First-team All-AAC for 2022 by Pro Football Focus. That’s not a bad resume to lean on, and he’s certainly one to watch as training camp progresses.
Latavious Brini, S, Arkansas
Invited to rookie minicamp unsigned, Latavious Brini impressed the coaching staff so much that he left with a contract. Another Florida native, Brini spent five years at Georgia, winning a National Championship in 2021. The safety then transferred to Arkansas for his final year, and across the last two seasons registered 93 tackles (55 solo) and 6.5 TFL’s.
Something of a disruptor, Brini’s nickname is ‘the vulture’, and his tape is littered with opportunistic plays. None more so than the opening game of that championship-winning season, when the Bulldogs set the tone against Clemson:
Brini has versatility on the back end but is probably best suited to a strong safety or ‘Star’ role. With Rayshawn Jenkins firmly entrenched as the starter, is there an opportunity for Brini to challenge the depth chart? Andrew Wingard looks to be the backup but saw a much-reduced role last season. If Brini can be an asset on special teams, there is a very definite path to a roster spot.