What was billed as one of the key position battles in Jacksonville Jaguars training camp has fizzed out, not as a result of the strong play of Johnathan Cyprien, but as a result of James Sample’s injuries.
Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Johnathan Cyprien has been one of the more scrutinized players this past offseason. His performance in the first three years of his career offering promise, but ultimately under-delivering on this promise.
With the roster overhaul in progress, the status of Cyprien as the presumptive starter had been challenged. The likely contender at that spot – second year player James Sample.
What was billed as one of the key position battles this training camp has fizzed out, not as a result of the strong play of Cyprien, but as a result of Sample’s injuries.
The problem for Sample, as at this point, and indeed for the Jaguars defensive staff in making this sort of decision, is the limited volume of work that Sample has been able to get in since his arrival in Jacksonville. Sample finished his rookie year on IR after only participating in four games, following a rookie offseason which was limited by a broken arm.
Sample was inactive vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but did see action in the first preseason game against the New York Jets, where he collected 3 tackles playing with the second string. During this time Cyprien has had some ups and downs, but without more strong opportunities to compete, Sample appears unlikely to genuinely challenge this training camp for the starting spot.
Cyprien is in his contract year, so will be looking to give his best showing, and with a greater supporting cast and being used differently in defensive coordinator Todd Wash’s scheme, there are no more excuses.
The problem for Sample, as at this point, and indeed for the Jaguars defensive staff in making this sort of decision, is the limited volume of work that Sample has been able to get in since his arrival in Jacksonville.
[Ed Note: There are those terrifying scheme moments when we see #37 lined up one on one with a tight end]
Sample, injury-plagued through his pro-career so far, had shown continued promise during this offseason and mini camp, but undoubtedly needs reps and a clean bill of health to either make a move to genuinely compete this preseason and even ultimately long-term.
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The demotion of one-time starter Josh Evans to the 3
string has lit a fire in his game, so the Jaguars have three decent players at the position. But, based on potential and projections, this could have been Sample’s time to assume control and cement a position. Instead, Cyprien holds the spot, somewhat by default.
Sample is expected to return to practice this week with hopes of taking the field for much-needed reps against the Atlanta Falcons. Will it be enough to push him ahead of Cyprien? Perhaps not, but the Jaguars, and Sample, want him healthy and ready to seize the opportunity should it present itself. One gets the feeling the Jaguars staff would like this to happen, but we are a way off seeing it come to fruition without more consistent health for Sample.