There are only a handful of players who are locks to be opening day starters each season, which means there are several players each year on the edge of the roster. As Jack Del Rio showed us in 2007, you can’t assume a particular player is safe if he doesn’t have explicit backing from the front office and coaching staff.
Ryan O’Halloran made waves last week when he mentioned 2nd-year wide receiver Ace Sanders as a guy who potentially could be released before the regular season.
Not surprisingly, Jaguars fans reacted negatively via Twitter on Friday when I suggested on “Jaguars Today” on 1010XL that receiver Ace Sanders would be on the roster bubble this preseason. It wouldn’t be a shock because 5-foot-7 players who don’t make guys miss don’t have a ton of value. That said, if he improves his punt return stats in August, he deserves to make the 53-man roster.
The initial reaction is that he’s crazy – Ace Sanders played very well last year in a less-than-ideal situation as a 4th round rookie. He accumulated 484 yards receiving on 51 receptions with 291 of those yards coming after the catch. Yes he’s only 5’7″ and doesn’t have elite top-end speed, but Sanders has enough wiggle and route-running ability to presumably play in the slot.
Still, let’s take a look at the depth chart at wide receiver. Right now there are 3 complete locks to make the roster – Cecil Shorts III, Marqise Lee, and Allen Robinson. Here are the rest of the guys currently vying for a spot:
- Mike Brown
- Chad Bumphis
- Damian Copeland
- Tandon Doss
- Allen Hurns
- Kevin Smith
- Kerry Taylor
- Lamaar Thomas
- Brandon Wimberly
- Ace Sanders
That’s a lot of guys fighting for 2 or 3 spots on the team. Sanders is easily the shortest guy in the group, but he has the advantage of experience in the system and the ability to return punts and kicks. His biggest competition probably comes from guys like Kerry Taylor and Allen Hurns who have experience with some of the coaching staff. Mike Brown is also starting to feel like a guy who earned his keep last year and can probably provide most if not more than Sanders can.
It’s not a ridiculous proposition, but barring 2 or 3 of the new guys lighting it up in training camp, Sanders should be one of the top 4 receivers heading into the regular season.
- Daniel Lago