Jacksonville Jaguars backups have a chance to make a real impact in the 2016 season, showing the strength of the team.
The significant roster turnover on the Jacksonville Jaguars has been written about here before, but for all the discussion around the additions via draft and free agency over the past couple of years, no more clearly could it be reflected than at Friday’s scrimmage under lights at Everbank.
One glance at the starters on defense for the Jaguars intra-club scrimmage and those who assembled for the second-string defense painted a picture of quality depth.
Starting on defense were a host of current and up-and-coming stars including Jared Odrick, Roy Miller, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler Jnr, Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, Dan Skuta, Jalen Ramsey, Prince Amakumara, Johnathon Cyprien and Tashaun Gipson. Five of these players new since the end of last season.
On the two deep was a host of players who were starters a year ago, future starters and excellent showings of depth. This included Sen’Derrick Marks, Myles Jack (who figures to earn first-team time this year), Aaron Colvin (a likely starter except for the looming 4 game suspension), Dwayne Gratz, James Sample, Sheldon Day, and Yannick Ngakoue. This didn’t even include injured Davon House, Josh Evans, former Colts first rounder Bjoern Werner or promising players like Michael Bennett and Nick Marshall.
"The caliber of players not starting is eye-opening and certainly a promising situation. The presence of the players means competition at every spot and this lifts a defense that was undoubtedly a weakness last year, to a potential strength."
The caliber of players not starting is eye-opening and certainly a promising situation. The presence of the players means competition at every spot and this lifts a defense that was undoubtedly a weakness last year, to a potential strength. We do touch wood for the health of this unit to maximize the strength of the personnel on this side of the ball to see its ultimate impact.
Perhaps, despite being the more dominant component of the team last season, it is the offense where the depth is not as prevalent. Particularly on the offensive line, until a full bill of health is received for offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum.
The running backs look as good as they have since the one-two punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, with TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory an impressive tandem, with Denard Robinson offering great, explosive changeup and quality throughout with Corey Grant, Joe Banyard and Jonas Gray. A good player looks likely to be cut from this roster, another strength indicator.
The return of Chad Henne to back up Blake Bortles was an underrated move, one that was even questioned by a few in Duval, but clearly, pivotal to the ongoing growth of Bortles In year two of Greg Olson’s offense.
At wideout the starting group of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, with Rashad Greene and Marqise Lee (if he can ever stay healthy) are impressive, with decent depth options Bryan Walters, Arrelious Benn and Tony Washington.
Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis are complementary starters at TE, with the young TEs Nic Jacobs, Neal Sterling, and Ben Koyack all vying for the chance to round out the group.
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Undoubtedly the offensive line has the potential to be better with the addition of Beachum, the return of Brandon Linder (albeit to center not guard) and the addition of backup center Mackenzy Bernadeau, but the value of the potential upgrade of Beachum (in competition with incumbent and on his last chance Luke joeckel) may be mitigated if the best option at left guard is indeed Joeckel. An injury along the offensive line would be a major concern for the Jaguars who still have not been able to build comfort at all starters or build a comfort with the depth chart.
Across the offense, there appears a greater drop-off from starter to backup, so it will be fingers crossed for this group as they enter the pre-season. How Head Coach Gus Bradley can build cohesion in this unit without risking an injury will be key for the Jaguars as they look to put the fanfare of a stellar off-season behind them and focus on making it all count this fall.
You can see a full archive of the scrimmage courtesy of jaguars.com here and see for yourself.