As the Jaguars vs Steelers game opens the preseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars, there are a handful of guys to keep an eye on. We’ve covered 10 players worth watching already, but it isn’t just veterans that we should keep an eye on.
The Jaguars are an incredibly young team and they are constantly finding rookie players who can fill integral roles and, sometimes, starting roles. 2015 should be no exception to that recent trend.
While big name rookies like Dante Fowler Jr. (out for the season with a torn ACL) and T.J. Yeldon (out for the game with a sprained finger) will be missing the game against the Steelers, there are other rookies who will be making an impact and striving to secure spots on this team. The other rookies to miss the game are James Sample (broken forearm) and Neal Sterling (hamstring).
So we’ll see just a few rookies from the 2015 class take the field. That doesn’t belittle their impact, so keep an eye on them. I’ve listed them in the order that I’ll be keeping track of them.
Feb. 10, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Bennett during training at EXOS gym in preparation for the NFL combine and draft. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
1) Michael Bennett, Defensive Tackle, Sixth-Round Pick, Jacksonville Jaguars
Michael Bennett is a beast of a defensive tackle. The Jacksonville Jaguars were fortunate to pick him up for nearly nothing in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has impressed so far and it is still a head scratcher why he fell so far down the draft.
Everything about Bennett screams that he is an NFL-ready defensive tackle. He is settling into a rotational role with the Jaguars and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’ll be playing behind some incredibly stout defenders throughout the year, so taking advantage of his snaps in the preseason to impress the coaches and become a more well-known name across the league will be critical for him.
It sounds like the Jaguars are going to find a role for Bennett to be successful in, giving him an opportunity to be an early impact player when he is on the field. He’s “thriving” against established veterans during practice, so expect him to put together some solid work against the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line in this preseason game.
Michael Bennett is one of the more exciting rookies on the roster and I think he’ll be able to show that during the game tonight. Keep an eye on him and see if he can successfully penetrate the interior of the offensive line. Will he be able to capitalize on mistakes made by second and third string guys? Will he be able to consistently collapse the pocket? How stout will he be in run defense? Bennett took some snaps off in college, will he bring it on every down during the game?
Next: Will the guard position battle keep us interested?