A look at position depth
The Jaguars have done their due diligence this off season, upgrading and updating the roster with free agency, the draft and making cuts after rookie mini camp. As the Jaguars continue to workout and practice this off season, there are still many holes to fill for the Jaguars to be successful in the future.
On the offensive side of the ball, it all depends on Gabbert and his receivers, especially Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson. This has been talked about numerous times during the off season, but there is a deeper aspect to the offenses success. In the 2011-2012 season, the Jaguars allowed 44 sacks last season, 40 of which were on rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. As stated in the Football Outsiders article, “ Under Pressure”, by J.J. Cooper, Guy Whimper was at fault for 12, which also led the league through week 15. However, the Jaguars have retained Whimper despite his statistically woes. He could remain a backup if Eben Britton returns to right tackle, but I don’t see his time in Jacksonville lasting too long if he’s the defense’s best player.
Another position worth mentioning is center. Brad Meester is now 35 years old, and center is a position that is second in value, in terms of what NFL teams covet, on the offensive line. Centers are more than guards who must snap the ball, as they adjust the line’s blocking assignments and must work in unison with the quarterback. John Estes has remained Meester’s back up for a number of years, but more attention seems to circle around UDFA Mike Brewster. Coming from Ohio State, and being the 5th rated center in this year’s draft, Brewster is rated as average according to ESPN scouting reports. If this is, and may well be Meesters last season as a starter, look for Brewster to supplant Estes as next years Jaguars starting center.
The defensive side of the ball has similar holes with the offensive line, but not for the same reasons. Terrance Knighton sustained an eye injury this off season so look for D’Anthony Smith to actually play since having been marred with season ending injuries since being drafted. Andre Branch was also drafted this year to upgrade the pass rush, but it remains to be seen if he will play left or right opposite Mincey. I can see Branch playing the right side due his highly praised “bending” ability, with Mincey holding down the left for being able to stop the run.
Linebacker has quality starters with Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith, as well as a returning Clint Session. Yet their only decent back up for the past few season has been Russell Allen for all three backers. While I don’t worry to much about injuries in the off season, I can’t help but attempt to make a preemptive strike at managing the injuries that may be; considering last years I.R. list as well as the significant injuries in the 2008-2009 season that left the Jaguars offensive line crippled. The good news is that Brandon Marshall was drafted out of Nevada to provide depth, but at least one more backer to compete for a back up slot should be added.
Finally, the cornerback position is one that will certainly receive attention next off season if certain conditions aren’t met. Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox are on a one year and the final year of their contracts respectively. Mathis is coming off a season ending ACL injury and will be 32 at the beginning of the season. Hopefully he will be able to compete at the same level. Aaron Ross was signed as a free agent, but he also let up six touchdowns and a 65.9% completion percentage in 2011, as stated on walterfootball.com. William Middleton could provide good depth as well as drafted corner Mike Harris. It remains to be seen who else makes the roster this season but another one or two corners, such as Kevin Rutland, could make the week one roster. If Rashean and Cox do not remain with the squad following this season, the squad could be in deep trouble.