June 12, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars fullback Greg Jones (33) runs during minicamp at Florida Blue Health

Training Camp Battles I Can’t Wait To See…


I’ve written about a wide array of subjects surrounding the Jags the last few weeks ranging from UDFAs to Gene Smith’s vision to my origins as a Jags fan. Considering there’s much much more I could dive into, MJD’s contract situation being front and center, I believe that I’m going to get back to football this week.

Training camp starts THIS WEEK. That was fast wasn’t it? This is what separates the men from the mice in this intense Jacksonville heat. Everyone picks an underdog to pull for, and the foundation for this season’s team will begin to be put in place this week. Excited yet?

The obvious part of training camp is training camp battles. The fusion of incumbent starters, back-ups, role players, recently acquired free agents, and rookies all come together to duke it out for a position on the roster. The obvious battles (ie. wide receiver) will be heavily watched.  I’m taking the time this week to single out three battles that I just can’t wait to see.

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Fullback: Greg Jones vs. Naufahu Tahi vs. Brock Bolen

Don’t be deceived. This will still be a run heavy offense, or at least I hope it is. Greg Jones is a staple on this football team and the community. He’s been with the team since 2004 and has blocked for both Fred Taylor and MJD…that’s some pretty nice company. Brock Bolen has been solid as a key reserve and special teamer, and during the offseason Tahi joined the team. Tahi has been with the Vikings since 2006 meaning he has some pretty good company as well having blocked for Adrian Peterson. The acquisiton of Tahi shows me that the front office could in fact be exploring a less expensive option. Or who knows? Maybe Bolen shows more in camp than both of them. This team isn’t afraid to carry two fullbacks meaning come the season opener one will no longer be sporting the black and teal.

 

Cornerback: The Field

The top three spots are locked up. Cox, Ross, and Mathis will be seeing the field a lot in 2012, but do we want a repeat of 2011 when both starting corners go down and the other guys backing those spots aren’t ready?

This team has some pretty good young corners who simply just need more experience.

- I’ve been a of Kevin Rutland ever since he made the team as a UDFA last season. I liked what I saw from him in spot duty. He even recorded an interception.

- Ashton Youboty is a seasoned veteran who spent five years in Buffalo. I like his experience, but I think he’s gotten as good as he’s going to get.

- William Middleton is kind of our jack-of-all-trades cornerback. He can play the nickel and plays on all four special teams units. That could play in his favor when the final cuts roll around.

Mandatory Credit: Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

- Mike Harris has quite the uphill climb to unseat one of these guys, but if he has a higher ceiling look for him to really push Rutland.

After those four corners in particular we have a couple of UDFAs in Antwan Blake and Antonio Dennard and recently acquired Reggie Corner from Buffalo. Next man up.

Defensive Line: D-Line rotation

Ok, much like the secondary we know who our starters are. Mincey, Alualu, Knighton, and Branch (hopefully). But what about the overall rotation?

- How healthy are D’Anthony Smith and Austen Lane? Is the clock ticking with these guys?

- Will we see more in Aaron Morgan’s development?

- John Chick sure did look very good at times last year…I’d definitely like to see more of him in the mix.

- Anyone else look into Jeris Pendleton’s story? How can you NOT pull for this football player?

Anyone out there think Branch will start? I do.

I’d like to spark some debate. What battles are you looking forward to, and you can’t say wide receiver! Anyone out there going to the scrimmage next week? I’ll be on vacation and will be attending practices when I can. Anyways, let’s get it goin’ fellas! Anyone on the roster who you hope is gone in 2012??? Anyone you think will surprise us??? Surprise cuts??? Post in the comments section!

-David R. Johns

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Tags: Aaron Ross Adrian Peterson Andre Branch Ashton Youboty Brock Bolen Derek Cox Fred Taylor Greg Jones Jacksonville Jaguars Jeremy Mincey Jeris Pendleton John Chick Kevin Rutland Mike Harris Naufahu Tahi Rashean Mathis Terrance Knighton Tyson Alualu William Middleton

  • JaiWaddell

    I want to see if Right Tackle will be up for grabs. I’d like to see Bradfield given a shot at it, who looked good at the end of the year, or if Britton will just be planted in for his contract year

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

     @JaiWaddell I’d like to not see Guy Whimper in that mix….potential surprise cut?  *crosses fingers*
     

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

    Rod Issac will be worth watching.  If he doesn’t make himself relevant he’ll be gone either this summer or next.

  • Megajag

    The DE group interests me the most.  Besides Mincey what do we REALLY have?  Also, was last year just a fluke for him or is he the real deal and on the rise?  I have Mincey, Branch, Lane, Morgan and Chick (if healthy) on the final 53 with Ryan Davis on the practice squad.  I really like that guy!  Interested to see if I’m right on or if Selvie or Adams steps up their game.  I am believing that if healthy, the combination of Branch and Mincey paired with Chick and Morgan could really prove to be the dynamic pass rush we’ve been looking for.

  • Davjay1983

     @Megajag
     Megajag, you are absolutely right. I’m wondering about that group as well. I have high hopes though and have often been accused of being way too “glass is half full.” I’m thinking that Mincey improves, Branch adds an element of speed to our pass rush that has been lacking, Lane stays healthy and becomes a solid rotational player, Morgan flops, Chick surprises everyone, and Davis begins developing on a pro level on the PS. Selvie and Adams get cut.

  • Davjay1983

     @LukeNSims
     There’s a reason I didn’t include Issac in the conversation…I simply don’t think we’ve seen enough from him to justify him sticking.

  • Davjay1983

     @JaiWaddell
     Bradfield could push Britton for a spot. Maybe not right off the bat, but if Britton doesn’t improve upon his healthy return and if Bradfield keeps turning heads it could happen. I’m also interested to see who wins the back-up center spot. If not he definitely sticks around as a swing tackle. I’m also interested to see who wins the back-up center spot. Estes or Brewster? I’m really pulling for Brewster. I think he has a higher ceiling coming from a program like Ohio State.

  • Chipshot

    The real training camp battle that may not be as obvious could be off the field?  Near the end of the Wayne Weaver ownership era, player personnel responsibility was placed in the hands of Gene Smith.  Jack Del Rio had to coach the players he was given & had minimal influence in the decision making process regarding the roster.  Now the real question surfaces to the forefront.  Gene Smith & Mike Mularkey both start this season with new 3 year contracts.  First, let’s look at this from the GM’s perspective.  Many have questioned the past drafts.  If Gabbert does not develop this year & Blackmon does not have the season that is anticipated, the heat will be turned up full throttle on Gene Smith.  If I were in the GM’s shoes I would want to keep all the veteran players that may only have 1-2 active seasons remaining in the league to give me a better chance to win now!  If I were the head coach on a 3 year plan, I would want to develop the younger players to ensure that the team had improved during year 2-3 of my contract.  Steady players from the past that will probably not be here in 3 years will likely include players such as Mathis, MJD, Meester, Mercedes Lewis, & Greg Jones to name a few. Unless Mularkey believes this team can contend for the Super Bowl this season does he rebuild & go with the younger players?  Does Gene Smith want to keep the veterans & attempt to win now to relieve the pressure he is enduring?
    Who wins this training camp battle?

  • Davjay1983

     @Chipshot
     Chipshot has posted! Wow. I didn’t even think about that. Maybe there’s a middle ground? Either way, I do believe Gene IS in the hot seat. He’s one of the only guys left from the old regime.

  • Davjay1983

     @LukeNSims
     Triple like.

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

     @Chipshot Nice insight!  My money is on Mularkey’s will winning.  He and Smith may slowly converge when making personnel decisions and I think they will value each other’s input.  I think Mularkey comes out on top though because most of those older players are still Shack Harris players not Gene Smith players.  Smith’s players are only three years in the league, he’s got time to grow with a new contract.  Even if MJD and Lewis leave, they were Harris picks….
     
    Smith hasn’t been overly loyal to players he didn’t pick (thus far).  I’d watch for him to get close with Mularkey and be part of the “new wave” again.

  • NickelandDime

    I would hope that Tahi can beat out Greg Jones for the starting fullback position. I know its sac-religious to say that in Jax. I know that Greg Jones is loved by many. But the fact of the matter is, Greg Jones is old, beat up, and overpaid. Its ridiculous. I’m not saying Tahi is BETTER than Jones, or that Jones is BETTER than Tahi. I’m simply saying that I hope Tahi is given a fair shot to win the starting FB gig.

  • Chipshot

     @LukeNSims 
    Mularkey will get his 3 yrs.  If Kahn gives Gene his 3 yrs. with Mularkey they can get on the same page & move forward in a common direction.  If they turn up the heat on Gene his actions will be predicated on job security.

  • Chipshot

     @Davjay1983  @LukeNSims 
    Whimper is to slow on his feet, I agree.

  • Chipshot

     @NickelandDime 
    Greg Jones has undergone 3 knee surgeries, 2 while still at FSU.  He was one of Jacks “boys” he may not make the team.

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

     @NickelandDime I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jones cut and have the Jags go with Bolen and Tahi.  Jones is still a ripped beast (featured photo shows it) but his time is running in Jacksonville.  They have the cap space to keep him though….it’s just a matter of whether they want him taking up one of the two fullback spots.

  • Big_Mack001

    I am not watching too closely to the individual positions,(maybe I should) but this team has seen too many rookies in recent years, and not enough vets. The majority of vets that we have had are not incredibly valuable for mentoring purposes. Outside of MJD, Greg Jones and the recently acquired Naufahu Tahi, there is not a lot of great talent and knowledge of the game to be passed on. (I also liked what I saw last year from Paul Posluszny, hopefully he is healthy. And I think Laurent Robinson will prove to be valuable). I have been a bit of a Gene smith hater but in truth Shack really put this team in a big hole. It will take 3-4 years of developing these rookies into valuable vets before we can even think of being “out of the woods” and reversing the reputation we have around the league.