Jaguars CB Gregory Junior has embraced the opportunity in Year 2

• Gregory Junior was a non-factor for the Jaguars last year

• He's now ready to make noise in 2023

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Gregory Junior (34) runs the ball during an organized team activity.
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Gregory Junior (34) runs the ball during an organized team activity. / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

All-Pro defensive end Micah Parson recently made a great point. He said that teams often put too many expectations on first-year players and he's right. Some can contribute right off the bat but others need time to adjust to the pros or hone their skills before they can be called upon. Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Gregory Junior is one such example.

Junior had the distinction of being the first player from Oauchita Batpist to ever be drafted last year. However, he didn't make the 53-man roster and spent most of his rookie campaign in the practice squad. He did appear in one game towards the end of the season and played 18 defensive snaps. Heading into the 2023 season, it looks like he will get much more playing time.

Back in training camp, Doug Pederson singled Junior out as a player that stood out. And during the preseason, the sophomore cornerback showed the praise was warranted. In two games, he's recovered a fumble, forced another one and logged an interception. That kind of production will be welcome on a team that has preached the importance of takeaways this upcoming season.

During his latest exchange with the local media, Pederson once again recognized Junior's improved play.

"He's embraced his opportunity. He knew coming in here he was in a little bit of a battle there at the nickel spot, and he's done a nice job," Pederson told the media Monday. "And he did a nice job the other day in the game as well, so he just continues to improve."

"He's got another big week coming up against Miami. I like where he's at right now. He and Tre Herndon have a nice thing going. I like the fact that he's embraced his opportunity. And that's what young guys need to do and they need to see that, so been really pleased with that," Pederson said.

Gregory Junior rounds out the Jaguars cornerback group

Although the Jags have a pair of boundary corners in Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams, there were questions about the nickel position early in the offseason. However, the team's brass opted not to pursue anyone in free agency or early in the draft. This is probably in part because they expected players such as Junior to make a leap in Year 2.

Keep in mind that Junior was a sixth-round pick, so Jacksonville didn't set the bar particularly high in 2022. However, he's exceeded expectations. Not only has he secured a roster spot but he's also poised to make an impact in Year 2. As Doug Pederson noted, the sophomore is competing with incumbent Tre Herndon for the nickel job.

But even if Junior doesn't outright seize the job, he should still get a fair share of snaps on both defense and special teams next season. Simply, he's earned playing time.

The Jaguars have done a good job of restocking their cornerback group over the last two years and they've mostly done without invest lots of resources in the position. Greg Junior's development is a reason why.

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