While the locker room at TIAA Bank Field was festive and players were happy to get off the practice field after the Jacksonville Jaguars first day of mandatory minicamp, there was a noticeable difference amongst the 99 cubicles that are occupied.
There is no Paul Posluszny. The is no Marcedes Lewis. The first retired from the game this offseason. The second was released after signing a contract extension in free agency. While the loss of Posluszny and Lewis will be felt off the field for the Jacksonville Jaguars, having been through the lean years in this city, their leadership role in the locker room will be felt as well. One of the many storylines of the 10-6 AFC South division champs was the first playoff appearance for Posluszny, who spent seven seasons in Jacksonville and before that in Buffalo.
Lewis was the last connection between the Jaguars and their last playoff visit in 2007. Now, both have been replaced on the roster, but not in the minds of those who played with them on the field and the coaches who worked with them yearly, and asked them to lead by example and their skills in TIAA Bank Field.
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Now, it falls on other veterans to lead the charge. Malik Jackson was one of the more outspoken players last season and could be asked to fill that role. Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone told the media last week he counts on the Pro Bowler to talk to the younger players on the team and in the locker room, to show them how it’s done and how to be a professional. Here are a few other players who may step into the void created by the loss of Posluszny and Lewis:
Telvin Smith accepted the role of leader on the defense once Posluszny announced his retirement. After receiving praise from Marrone and defensive coordinator Todd Wash during OTAs, will the fifth-year pro continue to lead by example off the field as well as on it?
Calais Campbell walked into camp last season and did everything that was asked of him. He was a vocal leader on the field last year and has spent time so far in OTAs talking to rookie first-round defensive lineman Taven Bryan.
Barry Church has been referred to as the voice of reason, the veteran of the secondary and someone Marrone has counted on to be a sounding board for him and the players that make up one of the better units in the league.
Marqise Lee received praise from receivers coach Keenan McCardell for his effort on the field. The fifth-year veteran was also called a leader and with the changes at wide receiver this year, McCardell and the coaching staff may ask him to be an even more vocal player on the practice field and on game day.
With a new contract and even bigger expectations, Blake Bortles will be asked to take on a bigger role within the organization. The Jaguars locker room has Bortles’ back weekly as the national media and players around the league and local fans took shots at the team’s signal-caller. The commitment the team made to Bortles (3-years and $54 million) should also come with more command of this team in the locker room as well as on the playing field.