With the 2014 NFL Draft in our rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead and see what the Jacksonville Jaguars’ roster might look like come week 1 of the regular season. With 9 draft picks and several free-agent acquisitions this offseason, the active roster in 2014 will likely look very different from what we saw in 2013.
Today we take a look at one of the strongest returning units – cornerback.
When he took over after the 2012 season, general manager David Caldwell clearly had a plan for addressing the defensive secondary. Veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox were not retained, and the Jaguars replaced them with free agents and draft picks. The group eventually developed into one of the best on the team.
Here’s the breakdown of the cornerbacks from 2013:
Alan Ball came in as a free-agent and played well above expectations. On the field for almost every defensive snap, Ball ended the season with the highest grade from Pro Football Focus on the entire defense. His starting spot is all but guaranteed going into next season. Will Blackmon came and in played well despite having to move around all over the field. Ideally a slot corner, Blackmon had to cover receivers on the outside when Gratz was sidelined. Gratz played outstanding for a 3rd round rookie, and his length and physicality fit perfectly in Gus Bradley’s scheme. Harris played well when he was called upon as well.
Here’s how I see the group going into this season:
Keeping 7 cornerbacks seems like one too many – especially with rookie Aaron Colvin waiting in the wings when he’s healthy – but I think the coaching staff wants to see these young guys in action and figure out if any of them can be long term pieces. Ball and Gratz will start on the outside while Harris and Blackmon cover on the inside, but the rest of the guys are going to be rotated in and out in subpackages. McCray showed some promise in his limited snaps last season, but Harris and undrafted free agent Rashaad Reynolds still need to show what they can do.
Cornerback is one of the few positions on this roster loaded with young, raw talent, and it’ll be interesting to see how the group performs this year.