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Sep 20, 2009; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings (23) reacts during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. The Cardinals won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Who to Watch in 2012: Part 1

Every year there are players who seem to really shine, and it also happens to be that they’re in their contract year. What ever the reason, be it job security, getting a much bigger pay check or something else, some players can really turn it on with one year left. Rashad Jennings and Derek Cox happen to be two players in their contract year.

As Maurice Jones-Drew continues to be absent from voluntary camp, Rashad Jennings has been given the reps with the starting squad. Without question, MJD is and will remain the starter of the Jaguars, but this still leaves Rashad Jennings in an interesting position as it is his contract year.

Rashad did not play in 2011 as he was injured and placed on I.R. like many Jaguars this past season. So looking back to his most recent season of 2010, Jennings proved he was a capable backup. Minor stats were recored until week 12, where the Jaguars played the Giants, gaining 53 yards on only 7 carries. His best game which showed his big play potential was week 14 against the Oakland Raiders. Rashad was spelling MJD and was able to take a handoff 74 yards to the house.

Now Jennings will be the second string running back this season, and his play could determine his next contract. If he is able to see enough carries in Mularkey’s new system and performs well, he could remain a back up or potentially seek a job from a new team, as he is an URFA and MJD is 27 and shows no signs of slowing down. If he does not perform well, his options would be more limited.

On the other side of the ball, Derek Cox also seems to be in an interesting position as he too is in a contract year, but also because the position is going through some changes. In perspective Cox had a great rookie campaign and finished strong in 2010, after being benched from poor play. 2011 was a so-so year as he only played six games before being placed on I.R.

Now for the roster. Rashean Mathis is coming off an ACL injury which is never easy, but apparently he is making a fast recovery. Drew Coleman was recently cut, and as Luke N. Sims wrote in his article, ”Drew Coleman Cutting – Providing Some Insight”, it may be because corner William Middleton is a more adept run blocker, which is required for nickel backs more so than corners playing on the outside. Aaron Ross was also signed from the Giants as well as cornerback Mike Harris being drafted in the sixth round.

Oct 31, 2010; Arlington, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox (21) breaks up a pass intended for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) during the first half at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

Cox has been up and down for the past three seasons. He reminds me of a player like Rex Grossman when with the Bears. When playing hot, they are Pro bowl type players, but when cold, you begin to question why they are even on the field. Mathis may not return in 2013, leaving Cox as the highest tenured corner who is also entering his prime. If Cox can stay healthy and make some plays for the Jags, he could command a considerable amount from the Jags or in Free Agency.

 

- Antonio Furgiuele

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Tags: Aaron Ross Breakout Year Derek Cox Drew Coleman; Jacksonville Jaguars Maurice Jones-drew Mike Harris Mike Mularkey Position Battles Rashad Jennings Rashean Mathis William Middleton

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