The Jaguars preseason opener is now just 16 days away. For some players this means the beginning of the end of the NFL dream, for others it means continuing an NFL career. The Jaguars have all of their draft picks signed, and by claiming rookie free safety Ray Polk out of the University of Colorado the Jags now once again carry a full 90 man roster heading into training camp.
The Jaguars 2013 training camp is scheduled to start with veteran players arriving on Thursday in order for them to attend the first practice of the year which is set to start at 9:55 a.m. Friday morning.
This offseason so far Gus Bradley has preached about making sure that at every position players are competing for a spot on the final roster at the end of camp. Although some players right now are thought to be a “sure thing” as starters. Still there is the fact that 90 men will enter camp and only 53 will make the final roster. This means obviously that guys need to literally “go big or go home” because if a player is cut for some their NFL career is over.
In camp anything can happen and that is why I am going to give you 5 predictions of events that I think could happen by the time Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
1. The Jags Defense will be better in 2013:
After finishing 2012 with the 30th ranked defense its hard to think things could be worse. The Jags struggled against the run and they struggled against the pass. This year is a new year with new faces all over the roster and coaching staff. For one Bradley is a defensive minded coach who loves having a strong, physical secondary, and so during the offseason physical defensive backs were added to the roster in hopes to find a good combination of defensive backs. Also when the opposing team is facing what would be considered a passing down Bradley like to put a pure pass rusher out onto the field known as the ‘Leo’. Enter Jason Babin, a player who was added last season off waivers is not exactly known for stopping the run as a defensive end, and he is expected to rotate with 2nd year Andre Branch another pass rushing end at the ‘Leo’ position. Finally to help stop the run defensive tackle Roy Miller was signed to come in and take up space and eat up blockers in the middle.
2. We will see a lot of Rookies:
In his first year as GM David Caldwell went out and found a bunch of talented rookies who could potentially compete their way onto the field this season. Whether it was from the draft or rookie free agency, I think some we will be talking about this group of rookies some years from now still. Personally I am most excited to see how Safety Johnathan Cyprien plays, because he looks like he could be something special.
3. Mistakes will be made:
Even the most experienced players and team still make mistakes, nobody’s perfect. As for the Jaguars, they will be entering the 2013 campaign with one of the youngest and most inexperienced rosters in the NFL. So even though it may be tough to watch at times, mistakes must be made by the young players at times to keep the learning and developing process heading in the right direction.
4. Gabbert will beat out Henne:
Statistically Gabbert was the better quarterback in 2012, and as I’ve said before is only 23 years old. That means statistically whether you like it or not Gabbert has proved himself better than Henne AND Gabbert still has room for growth as an NFL quarterback. Now i’m not trying to hate on Henne there are few better options in the league as serviceable backups in the league than him. However I think Henne is done progressing, he is what he is. Gabbert on the other hand at times even without Maurice Jones-Drew to take pressure off of him was able to move the offense. That being said Gabbert has to work on his pocket presence, deep pass accuracy, and lastly he needs to spread out the defense with some deeper passes.
5. Henne is among final cuts:
Again i’m not anti-Henne at all, and I know this might seem pretty crazy to some of you, but let me explain my thought. Henne is 28 years old and done developing as an NFL player. The Jaguars currently have 4 quarterbacks on their roster (Gabbert, Henne, Mike Kafka, and Matt Scott). Henne was brought in by the old GM and is making more money than Kafka and Scott. Kafka last season saw some playing time as the third string for the Eagles and is still young enough to be developing his game. Lastly Scott was one of the most highly rated undrafted quarterbacks who some thought could be taken as early as day 2. So what i’m getting at is to save some money and if Gabbert is at some point injured or plays poorly enough to be replaced Caldwell might look to see what he has in his other two young quarterbacks by cutting Henne out of the picture.
As I said before in training camp anything can happen. This is a time for GM’s and Coaches to assess what kind of players they have and where there are holes that still require some fixing.