Doug Pederson shares encouraging update on pair of Jaguars 2023 draftees

Jacksonville Jaguars guard Brandon Scherff (68) pressures guard Cooper Hodges (75) Monday, Aug. 14,
Jacksonville Jaguars guard Brandon Scherff (68) pressures guard Cooper Hodges (75) Monday, Aug. 14, / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

The Jacksonville Jaguars didn't get much production from their 2023 rookie class, but that could change next season. A pair of late-round picks that suffered injuries last year but are back at full strength and ready to contribute in offseason activities.

Head coach Doug Pederson recently shared updates on sophomores Cooper Hodges and Ventrell Miller, both of whom had their rookie campaigns wiped out by injuries.

Both guys are doing extremely well," Pederson said during the team's pre-draft press conference. "Both have been here rehabbing and did a nice job during the season to get themselves in a position to perform this spring. They're here in the building. They'll be able to get on the grass with us in Phase Two and during OTAs and Phase Three."

"It'll be a big opportunity for both those guys because I thought you guys were really trending in the right direction for us to potentially help. We'll see where they are, but they're there. They're healthy. They're ready to get back on the grass and see where we can plug them in and contribute and again, as we talked about, give us the depth that we're looking for both of those positions," Pederson said.

Hodges, a sixth-round pick, seemed like a good bet to make the original 53-man roster before suffering a season-ending patella injury. He showed progress during training camp and became a fan favorite for his Tugboat Tumble routine. If he's fully recovered, he should have a strong chance to seize a backup job.

Miller, for his part, missed the 2023 season with a torn ACL. He was a rising star at Florida but suffered a foot injury that hurt his draft stock. He underwent surgery last offseason and ended up sliding to the fourth round. During the preseason, he suffered the knee injury. He may have a steeper hill to climb than Hodges, as he'll be at the cellar of the depth chart to start training camp.

The jury is still out on the Jaguars' 2023 NFL Draft class

The Jaguars entered last year's draft with nine picks but ended up making 13 selections after a series of trades. So far, though, only offensive tackle Anton Harrison and defensive back Antonio Johnson have had an impact. Granted, wide receiver Parker Washington filled in for Christian Kirk when he suffered a core injury near the end of 2023 but he should return to the sideline next season.

Tight end Brenton Strange and Tank Bigsby, both Day 2 picks, got minimal playing time in 2023. They're expected to get a bigger role but there's no guarantee they'll make the leap.

The rest of the Jaguars' class wasn't much better. Players such as defensive end Tyler Lacy and outside linebacker Yasir Abdullah hardly saw the field. On the other hand, some players take time to develop, and you cannot really assess a draft class until two or three years after the fact. That said, Jacksonville surely expected their 2023 draftees to contribute more. Otherwise, they wouldn't have leaned so heavily in the draft to bolster their roster last year.

The Jacksonville Jaguars made enough upgrades in the offseason to compete for the AFC South title in 2024. Then again, their odds will go up if a handful of sophomores step up next season.

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