On paper, given the quality of players the Jacksonville Jaguars are cutting this pre-season, what stands out is a greatly improved roster.
There are players who started in 2016 for the Jacksonville Jaguars who were cut in roster trim downs to reach the final 53 man list. These weren’t cap-saving moves, they were legitimate cuts of guys who weren’t good enough to make the team this season.
Whilst these cuts raised some eyebrows from some of the Jaguars fan base – purely on name awareness basis – this is a significantly positive reflection on the state of the roster.
So who were these players, and what brought us to this position?
Linebacker was a position that got a boost from the draft with the arrival of the versatile and mega-talented Myles Jack. This in itself was bound to prompt some shift at either MLB or WLB and this is exactly as it played out. They impressive play of Hayes Pullard in camp and the preseason helped cement his spot on the two-deep and this spelled trouble for the longevity of two players in those positions a year ago: Thurston Armbrister and Jordan Tripp.
Following the cutdowns, linebacker was left with just 5 players – Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Paul Posluszny, Hayes Pullard, and Dan Skuta. This appeared thin and with the jettisoning of Ryan Davis, who had been working at the Otto linebacker spot this season, even more stark. The post-cut acquisition of Arthur Brown, released in final cuts by the Baltimore Ravens, certainly solidified the depth and saw the arrival of a player with some upside, noted by some as having been on the Jaguars radar for some time.
Whether it was always the intention of the Jaguars to scour the waiver wire for a sixth or not Is up for debate. Given the highly specialised nature of the Otto position it seemed interesting, but perhaps with the versatility of Jack and the likelihood of being in sub-personnel packages for a large percentage of times, this was the intent.
A simple comparison of the 2015/2016 depth chart at the position gives a clear edge to this year’s group, on the back of the addition of Jack and the strong play of Hayes Pullard. Notable in this position group was the later signing of Tripp (Seahawks) and Armbrister (Lions) to other teams, a further reflection of roster quality.
For all the ‘surprise’ that perhaps these cuts may have generated, there is no doubt that what has prompted it is a greatly improved roster.
Safety was another position where the Jaguars released a player who had been a semi-regular starter in Josh Evans. Starting his career at free safety, Evans made the shift to strong safety where he backed up Johnathan Cyprien and started a number of games through the depleted depth chart.
Such is the drop in favour of Evans, that even with presumed second-choice option at strong safety James Sample on injured reserve, the Jaguars preferred to keep undrafted rookie Jarrod Wilson (Michigan) instead. The Free Safety depth chart saw a simple switch with Tashaun Gipson in for the previously released Sergio Brown, with Peyton Thompson in reserve.
Just like the linebacker position, the Jaguars acquired a player through waivers at safety with Marqueston Huff (Titans) brought in to solidify the position and add special teams value. Whether or not Evans is picked up by another club, remains to be seen.
No position has been more significantly improved this off-season than cornerback. As a result, it is another position where a one-time starter was a casualty, although in this case former Auburn QB turned CB Nick Marshall earned his start as a learning curve and a case of let’s see what he can do in 2015. Previous contributor Demetrius McCray was released in the early cutdowns in one of the first shocks of the roster shaping.
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The arrival of Jalen Ramsey as the number five overall pick and the free agent signing of Prince Amukamara brought two starters to the Jacksonville Jaguars defense, who along with Davon House and Aaron Colvin (suspended to open the season), provide an excellent group.
Former second rounder and one-time starter Dwayne Gratz likely benefited from the fact that Marshall was still eligible for the practice squad and Josh Johnson held onto the final cornerback spot with some solid play in pre-season. Marshall was re-signed to the Jaguars practice squad upon clearing waivers.
For all the ‘surprise’ that perhaps these cuts may have generated, there is no doubt that what has prompted it is a greatly improved roster. Competition at all positions sees the cream rise to the top, and when decent quality players are cut, it reflects a position of promise and optimism that talent won’t the reason for any failures this season. In fact it is hoped that this new talent level, particularly on defense, finally has the Jaguars ready to compete. It’s time to find out!