Training Camp Battles I Can’t Wait To See…
By David Johns
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.
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.
– 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