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2014 Team Report: Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterbacks

Starter: Blake Bortles
Backup(s): Chad Henne, Stephen Morris

Starting QB: Now that the Blaine Gabbert experiment in Jacksonville is official over, the team can move forward at the quarterback position with their third overall pick in Blake Bortles. The Jaguars surprised a lot of people with the early selection of Bortles but it is safe to say that they had their sights on him all off season and did their homework and got the guy that they wanted. Bortles has all the measurables of a starting NFL quarterback coming in at 6'5", 232 lbs, and will have the ability to stand tall in the pocket and brush off defenders and deliver the ball downfield. It will be a tough task for him to start right out of the gate but he should have plenty of opportunities to beat out Chad Henne for the starting job to begin the season. Over the past two seasons at the University of Central Florida, Bortles has thrown for a total of 50 touchdowns and has rushed for another 14. Look for head coach Gus Bradley to ease Bortles into the starting role, and even then to have a very conservative game to game approach.

Backup QB: Before the NFL Draft this year, Chad Henne looked to have the starting quarterback position wrapped up, but after the early selection of Blake Bortles at the third overall selection things are much different now. Henne will surely get a fair shot in training camp to win the starting job, but it is going to be a true competition between him and Bortles all the way until the end. The Jaguars had a lack of offensive weapons last year and Henne still put together a somewhat respectable season as he threw for 3,241 yards and 13 touchdowns. He may have an opportunity to start the season as the starter but if the Jaguars don't show improvement over the first few weeks it would be Bortles who would get the call to action. Ricky Stanzi and undrafted rookie Stephen Morris (reunited with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch) will all compete for the teams third quarterback position.

Running Backs

Starter: Denard Robinson, Toby Gerhart
Backup(s): Bernard Pierce, Storm Johnson
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: There is a changing of the guard in Jacksonville at the running back position. With the face of the franchise in Maurice Jones-Drew moving to Oakland the Jaguars are in a position that they have not seen for the past 8 years. Toby Gerhart was signed in the off season to be Jones-Drew's replacement and he brings a rough and tough, straight forward running style to the team, and will likely see a lot of work on a team that is looking to stay competitive. Gerhart spent the past 4 seasons in Minnesota as Adrian Peterson's backup and in those 4 seasons put up a total of 276 carries, 1,305 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, to go along with 77 receptions, 600 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. He should be fresh and ready for a full workload on this young Jaguars offense.

Backup RBs: Jordan Todman looks to be Gerhart's backup and played in all 16 games for the Jaguars in 2013. In week 15 against Buffalo he saw his busiest workload on the season and rushed 25 times for 109 yards and picked up 44 more yards receiving with 4 catches. Todman is more of a backup RB role player and doesn't have much upside or big play ability. A name to pay closer attention to might be the Jaguars 7th round selection this year, Storm Johnson. Johnson has the ability to be a starting running back and carry a bigger workload. He was a teammate of QB Blake Bortles last year at Central Florida and averaged 5.3 yards a carry for 1,139 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Another player to keep an eye on in the offense is RB/WR Denard Robinson. He didn't get many looks last season but may have more opportunity this year with another year under his belt in learning the offense.

Fullback: The FB position will be third year back Will Ta'ufo'ou's to hold on to as he held the position in 2013. Bradie Ewing also brings some experience to the position and was waived by the Falcons in March 2014 and then claimed by the Jaguars.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns
Backups: Justin Blackmon (S), Ace Sanders, Arrelious Benn, Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter, Bryan Walters, Tony Washington, Damian Copeland

Starting WRs: Cecil Shorts is now the go to guy on the Jaguars offense and really is one of the veteran players and is still only entering his 4th NFL season. Just like 2012, Shorts missed a few games in 2013 as well due to injury and that is really the only negative that can be said about him at this point. Shorts has already had an early set back to start out the 2014 season as he has sustained a Grade 2 hamstring strain in Jaguars practice (July 25th). Injury concerns have already been a big part of Shorts career and this will be another injury that could likely affect Shorts leading up the start of the season. In the last two seasons he has played a total of 27 games, scoring 10 touchdowns and has averaged 65 yards receiving a game. He saw 123 targets last season in those 13 games and ended up catching 66 of them. With the Jaguars looking to be more stable on offense with a combination of Henne/Bortles and Gerhart at running back, Shorts should be able to start putting up more consistent numbers on a week to week basis. The battle for the WR2 spot is still up for grabs and looks to be a fight between newly drafted rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Lee is currently lining up in Blackmon's old Z receiver spot and Robinson is currently lining up as the backup to Shorts at the X receiver spot.

Backup WRs: It is a shame how the teams 2012 5th overall pick Justin Blackmon has turned out so far. He showed glimpses of star talent in his rookie season and since then his off field struggles have put his NFL career in jeopardy. The Jaguars are no longer counting on his services going forward and have already given his locker away and also drafted two WR's early in the Draft to help fill the void. With the Jaguars moving on from Blackmon they are going to rely heavily on their two 2nd round draft picks in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. What they are doing is bringing in as much talent on offense that they can and hoping the young WR's can develop on the same time line as their rookie QB, Bortles. Another surprise last year was Mike Brown who put up a quiet 32 receptions, 446 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in 11 total games. He will be competing hard in camp to solidify the 2nd or 3rd WR spot on the team. Brown was an undrafted free agent last year that made it on the field with his hard work and from there his talent started to show. Now with both Blackmon and Sanders suspended the door is wide open for Brown to make an immediate impact as a number 2 WR in this offense. Tandon Doss comes over from the Ravens and as a depth WR on the team as well and will likely be fighting for playing time with some of the other depth WR's. Ace Sanders had a quietly good rookie season playing out of the slot last year, picking up 51 receptions for 484 yards and a touchdown. He is extremely quick and has strong hands making him an ideal threat at the slot receiver position. Unfortunately Sanders is facing a 4-game ban for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and has taken a leave from the team.

Tight Ends

Starters: Julius Thomas
Backups: Marcedes Lewis, Clay Harbor, Nic Jacobs, Marcel Jensen

Marcedes Lewis is now entering his 9th NFL Season, and is the real veteran of this Jaguars offense. He brings some key leadership to the team and has always been a decent option in the redzone. As far as being a fantasy relevant TE, Lewis is not going to fit the bill with that. His role for the team is in that 3 to 4 catch a game type and he is always there to help out the quarterback when in trouble. With the Jaguars having a few more options on offense to start the season, Lewis could also see an increase in production as the field will be more open and he will see a reduction in coverage. He could be a great safety net if rookie QB Blake Bortles gets the start, as he could target his big 6'6" frame. Clay Harbor was a nice TE2 for the Jaguars in 2013 and was rewarded with a 2 year $3 million contract. He broke his leg at the end of the season but should be ready for OTA's.

Place Kicker

Josh Scobee: All three starting specialists are back again this year – Josh Scobee at kicker in his 11th year, Bryan Anger at holder and punter in his third year, and long snapper Carson Tinker in his second year. Scobee is a talented kicker in a bad situation. He hit 92.0%, 89.3% and 92.0% on field goals the past three years and still has one of the stronger legs in the league, however the Jaguars ranked dead last in attempted kicking points each of those three years – a level of futility unmatched by any team the last three decades.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Ace Sanders, Denard Robinson, Bryan Walters

The past two seasons the Jaguars had one of the league's better kickoff returners in Jordan Todman. After Jacksonville failed to offer the restricted free agent a tender, Todman signed in Carolina. Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson are two likely candidates to take over kickoff returns in 2015. Sanders is a better fit as a punt returner but has been given limited opportunities in the past. Robinson handled most of the rushing duties last season, but other additions to the roster may lessen his role on offense. General manager David Caldwell has mentioned Robinson will see work as a kick returner.

Punt Returners: Ace Sanders, Bryan Walters, Tandon Doss

While Jordan Todman excelled as a kick returner last year, Ace Sanders was mediocre as the punt returner for a second season. Sanders upped his average to 7.1 yards per return, but still hasn't broken the kind of long returns the team expected when they drafted him. Tandon Doss is an intriguing option, having excelled on punts in Baltimore while backing up Jacoby Jones, but was lost for most of 2014 with an injury. Jacksonville brought in another option when they signed receiver Bryan Walters. Walters handled 27 punt returns for Seattle last year, though his 7.7 yard average is little better than that of Sanders.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Luke Joeckel, LG Zane Beadles, C Mike Brewster, RG Brandon Linder [R], RT Austin Pasztor
Key Backups: T Cameron Bradfield, T Demarcus Love, G Jacques McClendon, C Luke Bowanko

The Jaguars are one of the youngest lines in the league and among the lowest ranked lines in our preseason rankings. Still, the Jaguars have been actively trying to improve the unit. Over the winter, they made an offer to Browns All-Pro center Alex Mack (which the Browns matched) and that move would have improved their ranking greatly. Unfortunately that move didn’t work out, but the Jags spent big money this offseason to bring in left guard Zane Beadles. Beadles is only 27 but immediately becomes the Jaguars most experienced lineman and will be looked at to be a leader for this young group. Beadles is a capable zone blocker and should be good to go at left guard. Left tackle Luke Joeckel was lost for most of his rookie season with an ankle fracture, and looks to come in guns blazing and live up to his extremely high draft status. Joeckel is a natural left tackle and should be at least a good player for years to come. At right tackle, the team is very high on Austin Pasztor, who started most of the season as a second year player. The center position remains a problem as Mike Brewster’s only competition is coming from a sixth round pick in Luke Bowanko. Brewster will probably hold on to this job but it’s clear the Jaguars want to upgrade. At right guard, the Jaguars’ third round pick Brandon Linder is likely to start as the team has moved on from Will Rackley. Linder is an interesting prospect but these types of mid round selections can be unreliable as instant starters. The depth is not great as players like Cameron Bradfield, Demarcus Love and Jacques McClendon are the types that fans probably hope never see the field. Overall this line is low in the rankings because of uncertainty at the center and right guard position, but should these situations turn around, the unit could see a rapid rise up into more respectable territory as the year progresses.

Team Defense

Gus Bradley continues to stamp his image on the defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars. That image comes with a Seattle theme as both of their top two free agent additions this year are ex-Seahawks players. Defensive Ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant will provide the defensive front with some consistency, stability and experience to aid in the development of the younger players behind them. While the unit looks a lot better than last year's on paper, it still has a long way to go if it wants to even be league average.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Chris Clemons, DE Tyson Alualu, DT Roy Miller, DT Jared Odrick
Backups: DT Evander Hood, DT Abry Jones, DE Andre Branch, DE Ryan Davis, DE Chris Smith, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, DT Michael Bennett

Starting DL: Sen'Derrick Marks' torn ACL injury from the end of last season is likely to keep him on the PUP list to start the season. Marks' spot will be filled by priority free agent signing Jared Odrick. Odrick is a very talented football player who can be the Jaguars' penetrating interior presence. He was only let go from the Miami Dolphins because the Dolphins were able to sign Ndamukong Suh. Roy Miller should be the starter until Marks returns from injury, at which point the Jaguars will need to determine if they want to start both penetrating defensive tackles together. On the outside, Dante Fowler was expected to play a major role but he tore his ACL during his first practice in rookie minicamp. Fowler's injury should push Chris Clemons into a much greater role, while Tyson Alualu is expected to assume Red Bryant's role on the other side.

Backup DL: If Dante Fowler hadn't suffered that ACL injury, the Jaguars' rotation would be much improved on the defensive line. However, without him, the unit looks light for pass rushing threats from the outside. Clemons is obviously still there, but Ryan Davis is now his primary backup and nickel option. Davis played very little last year but did show flashes of his talent. On the interior, Evander Hood will be fighting for his spot in the rotation as rookie Michael Bennett offers a major talent upside against him. Bennett fell in the draft because of his consistency in college, but his talent is such that he could easily assume the third defensive tackle spot in the rotation.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Paul Posluszny, OLB Dan Skuta, OLB Telvin Smith
Backups: LB John Lotulelei, LB Jeremiah George, LB LaRoy Reynolds

Starting LBs: Paul Posluszny should continue to be a very productive IDP producer, even if his value to his defense in Jacksonville isn't as high as his reputation often suggests. Second year player Telvin Smith should steal some of Posluszny's production away from him, as the undersized but very athletic and intense outside linebacker is expected to move into a starting role. Smith has outstanding range and should be a three down backer after an impressive rookie season. Dan Skuta was signed to a significant deal in free agency, so he should be the other starter at the linebacker spot, but he should only play in base lineups.

Backup LBs: Linebacker depth is lacking for the Jaguars at this point and there is a level of ambiguity with the players they are taking to camp. Telvin Smith was the standout from this group last year, but he now has his spot in the starting lineup. That leaves John Lotulelei, Jeremiah George and LaRoy Reynolds to fight for snaps in training camp. The departed J.T. Thomas' snaps need to be assumed, but they are most likely to be spread between the starters than given to backup role players.

Defensive Backs

Starters: S James Sample, CB Dwayne Gratz, FS Jonathan Cyprien, CB Davon House
Backups: S Josh Evans, CB Aaron Colvin, S Tommie Campbell, CB Demetrius McCray

Starting DBs: Demetrius McCray and Dwayne Gratz were the starters for the Jaguars last season, but they will face much more competition for their spots this season. Gratz should continue to be a valuable starter, but there will be a three way battle for the remaining two spots atop the depth chart. McCray will need to fend off both Aaron Colvin and Davon House for playing time. Colvin missed most of his rookie season last year because of injury, while House was a priority free agent signing in the off-season. Jonathan Cyprien's career hasn't lived up to expectations at this point, but he should hold onto his starting spot. James Sample's arrival will instead effect Josh Evans' playing time. Sample isn't a true free safety like Earl Thomas, so he and Cyprien will likely share roles within the defense.

Backup DBs: Cornerback depth appears to be strong for the Jaguars this season. Whoever doesn't win a spot amongst the top three cornerbacks could still see time on the field in sub packages because the Jaguars lack safety depth. Josh Evans will be the third safety unless Sample struggles to transition to the professional game. If Sample struggles, Evans will step in as a starter again.

Last modified: 2015-05-10 20:55:56