Every year, teams around the league ask themselves, “who have we drafted and what can we expect from them?” This year is no exception. With the draft coming before Pro and Undrafted free agency, teams and fans of teams are spending their time dissecting draftees more than they normally would. As soon as they tire themselves out with the draft, the typical fan dives straight into the free agency gossip and tries to guess who their respective teams will take. While the Jaguars have stated that they are going to spend on 2-4 free agents this year, there is an aspect of roster growth that is always overlooked … Jars on the shelf and IR guys. Gene Smith hasn’t overlooked this, most of the players that went onto IR last year were rookies or first year players. Let’s see who the Jaguars have that should be available this fall.
John Estes, Brad Vierling, Terrence Wheatley, D’Anthony Smith, Terrell Whitehead, Kyle Bosworth, Jacob Cutrera, Luke McCown, Nate Hughes, Eben Britton, Aaron Kampman, Kevin Haslam, Scotty McGee, Jarrett Dillard. What do they all have in common? That’s right, they all landed on the IR list as some point last season. What people fail to remember is that these players are basically like draft picks and free agents signings in the own right. The Jaguars played most of the season without these guys, if not the whole season. What do they offer for the potential 2011 season? Let’s find out.
The list has 7 players from both the offensive and defense, strangely enough, the players are also located in areas of need on the team. Let’s break down the players that are set to return and potentially make the roster.
Here is a look back on some of the IR players coming out of college (including Britton, Kampman and McCown). I used NFLdraftscout and BigCatCountry for their scouting reports. Take a look back and re-imagine what a year of NFL training will do to these guys…
Luke McCown – A 29 year old QB who may have been on the verge of beating David Garrard out of the starting position going into the Chargers game, only to be devastated by a knee injury in the same game. He offers a younger, cheaper alternative with starting experience at the QB position. If the Jags stick with Garrard this season, they will carry 3 quarterbacks into the season. Garrard will mostly likely be cut or shipped off if Gabbert proves that he can play in the first two seasons, with McCown holding down the backup job throughout. He is the #2 in Jacksonville, whether Gabbert or Garrard is starting.
Brad Vierling –Brad Vierling was signed by the Jaguars early in the season and was ultimately cut and placed on the practice squad. Vierling offers decent athleticism, strength and size at the center position. He was originally a UDFA that was signed by the Steelers in 2010. Vierling was a 2-year captain and was named the MVP of the Vandy OL his senior year. Graduate with a degree in Human and Organizational Development.
John Estes – Estes is a player the Jaguars coaching staff is high on. He started 54 games for the Warriors and only allowed 8.5 sacks. Estes biggest knock was not a lack of skill, but rather a lack of size. With a whole year and then some of conditioning in an NFL program, Estes just might have fixed those deficiencies. If that is the case, Monroe, Rackley, Estes, Nwaneri, Britton could be the starting OL before the season is out. He is a 3 time All-WAC player and is a college graduate in communications.
Eben Britton – We all know who Eben is. The guy with the golden quote. He was lost for the season to a shoulder injury. It was later revealed that he had dealt with the injury for a long time and he finally had surgery to fix his shoulder from popping in and out of its socket. He is the Jaguars starting right tackle and with him back and even more healthy than before, the Jaguars passing and running games should improve.
Kevin Haslam – Haslam could be the Jaguars future swing backup at either tackle position. Haslam is raw but more than makes up for that in sheer size and athleticism. With another year in the Jaguars training system, Haslam should continue to improve his technique so that it matches his size.
Jarrett Dillard – Click on the Dillard link. Do it. I command thee. That video made me enamored with Dillard after we drafted him. Very few people have ever had the college production and sheer route running, leaping and catching ability that Dillard possesses. Dillard will be the number three man, provided he can finally stay healthy. If he becomes healthy, he could potentially turn out to be great.
Nate Hughes – Hughes was on the verge of finally establishing himself on the roster when he was felled by an injury. This is Hughes’ last chance to make this team before the Jags move on. Hughes offers above average ability in height, speed, etc, but does nothing that really sets him apart. Hughes probably won’t make the roster next year.
Aaron Kampman – Do I really have to tell you about him? He will be the sack leader, barring any explosive growth by the Jaguars young DE’s. Click on his link to get his pre-draft rankings.
D’Anthony Smith – D’Anthony Smith is a 3rd round DT that is built in the mold of Tyson Alualu. Relentless, stout, athletic and a hard worker, Smith impressed before he blew his achilles. Word is that he will be ready to fully participate in summer practices (if there is a season). Tyson, D’Anthony and Terrence could form the nucleus of the Jaguars defense for the next 10 years. Here’s to hoping that D’Anthony is fully recovered.
Jacob Cutrera – Fits in the mold of Russell Allen, a decent athlete that has a great motor. Cutrera made the roster as a ST player but seems to have the athletic ability to potentially develop into a solid backup or even starter. Cutrera has good size and speed and can grow into his body. Probably fits as an OLB.
Kyle Bosworth – Bosworth has more college starting experience than Cutrera but may offer less upside, although his measurables are pretty good. He has decent straight line speed and strength. He probably stays a backup, but could transition into the starting group at MLB.
Terrell Whitehead – Whitehead was placed on IR before the season. Whitehead has good size and decent speed for the safety position. He had consistent production throughout his college career and is definitely in a position to try to win a job. Whitehead has decent ball skills and football IQ. He lacks strength and size, but that’s nothing a year in an NFL program can’t fix. He has a great chance to make the roster.
Terrence Wheatley – Wheatley was drafted by the NE Patriots in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. He was limited in NE with injuries in each of his seasons with them. He was cut and later signed by the Jaguars, only to be place on IR. Wheatley possesses great speed and good ball skills, but lacks size, although he is bigger than Scott Starks, who the Jaguars let go in the prior offseason. Wheatley, if healthy, could earn the starting nickle or dime job, as he faces competition from Middleton, Brackenridge, Jones, et al.
Scotty McGee – McGee was drafted as a return-man, plain and simple. He is an average corner with below average size. He possesses great elusiveness and deceptive speed. If he can stay healthy and if the rule changes don’t effect the return game too much, then he could make the team as a ST ace.