7 Jaguars Feeling the Most Pressure Heading into Camp
That competition will come to a head during training camp, where players will battle each other for a coveted spot of the final 53-man roster.
With those training camp battles comes pressure for the players to perform well. Impressive training camp performances could make the difference between being on the roster or being out of the league.
General manager David Caldwell did a lot to breed competition by acquiring young players who are hungry for a taste of the NFL. This will ensure fierce training camp battles between players who are desperate to live their dreams.
A lot of the positions on the Jaguars are wide open, and the players at those positions have to feel the pressure to up their games this offseason.
Here are the seven players who are feeling the most pressure heading into training camp.
This one should be obvious, shouldn't it?
Neither Blaine Gabbert nor Chad Henne have done much to inspire confidence in their abilities to lead the team.
Gabbert has yet to live up to being the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. He's struggled during his first two years in the league, as he has compiled a 4-19 record as a starter while completing just 53.8 percent of his passes for 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
He finished last season on injured reserve due to a forearm injury.
Henne started the final six games as Gabbert's replacement. He got off to a hot start against the Houston Texans, where he entered the game after Gabbert's injury. He threw for more than 350 yards and four downs in the game. He cooled off through the final six games of the year, throwing for six touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The lack of a clear-cut starting quarterback has forced the Jaguars to have a "wide-open" (per Alex Marvez of Fox Sports) competition at the position.
With a new regime controlling the roster, there are no favorites to win the job, according to offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch (via John Oehser of Jaguars.com). This ensures the best player will win the job, which might not be the case if the general manager and head coach have ties to bringing in the players.
This could be Henne's last chance to jump start his career. If he fails to win the starting job, there is a small chance he could be beat out for a roster spot by either Matt Scott or Jordan Rodgers, who the Jaguars signed as undrafted free agents.
While Henne's age is working against him, Gabbert's could be his saving grace. At 23, he's still one of the youngest players in the league and has the upside Henne lacks. Gabbert is trying to shake the "bust" label, and this could be his last opportunity to be Jacksonville's starting quarterback, which has to put even more pressure on the young quarterback.
Gabbert has been known to falter under pressure before—both literal and figurative—and he will have to overcome that to be the Jaguars starting quarterback.
The Jaguars' quarterback situation doesn't inspire much confidence, but at least fans know the best player will be on the field. If he doesn't perform, there's little doubt the coaching staff will have a short leash and replace him.
Jordan Shipley and Mohamed Massaquoi
Jacksonville's starting wide receivers were slated to be Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon until Blackmon received a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policies.
His absence gives other receivers a chance to step up to fill the void he left, and the two best candidates for that are Jordan Shipley and Mohamed Massaquoi. They receive the nod to fill in for Blackmon due to their experience edge over the rest of the receivers.
Shipley and Massaquoi have both had up-and-down careers, so this could be the opportunity they need to get their football lives back on track.
Shipley's career got off to a great start as he hauled in 52 receptions for 600 yards during his rookie year with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010. He tore his ACL and MCL during in Week 2 of his second year in the league, which caused him to miss the rest of the season.
He struggled to recover from the injury, which led to the Bengals cutting him. He failed to stick with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the Jaguars signed him late last season.
Shipley played well for Jacksonville during the final six weeks of the season as he caught 23 passes for 244 yards.
The starting job as Blackmon's replacement would be Shipley's if not for Massaquoi, who was signed as a free agent this offseason.
Like Shipley, Massaquoi had a productive rookie season, but his career hasn't progressed like his talent would indicate. Last year was his least productive season in the league. He finished with just 17 receptions for 245 yards before being placed on IR for an injured knee.
Both Shipley and Massaquoi will be trying to replicate their rookie success this season, but they'll be competing with each other for playing time. Whoever looks better in camp will be the leading candidate to be Blackmon's replacement for the first four games, while the other could struggle to see the field.
Long snapper isn't the most glamorous position, but it plays a vital role throughout the game.
Jacksonville's long snapper, Jeremy Cain, has done a good job since taking over the role in 2009, which led to him signing a three-year, $2.45 million deal in 2011.
But if Cain has played so well, then why would he be feeling pressure in training camp?
The reason is two-fold.
The first is that the Jaguars signed former Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker as an undrafted free agent. He is a talented player and was successful on 133 of 135 snap attempts in college. Tinker could easily challenge Cain for a roster spot.
The other reason is Cain's contract: He's currently slated to have the sixth-highest cap hit ($1,083,333) among long snappers, per Spotrac.com. The team could save a lot of money by going with Tinker.
He is going to have to prove he's significantly better than Tinker to convince the Jaguars he's worth the salary. If the competition is close, then the team will most likely go with the inexpensive rookie.
Jacksonville's safety unit left a lot to be desired heading into the draft. The group was largely devoid of talent and was extremely thin.
The Jaguars addressed the issue twice in the draft in second-round pick Johnathan Cyprien and sixth-round pick Josh Evans.
They also added several undrafted free agents to add even more competition.
The player feeling the most pressure to have an impressive camp has to be Chris Prosinski.
Although he does have the experience edge over most of the players he'll be competing for roster spots against, Prosinski struggles when he sees the field. He started seven games last season as he filled in for an injured Dwight Lowery, and he was often the target of opposing quarterbacks. He was routinely out of position and took horrible angles to get to the ball-carrier.
Prosinski will have to show he learned from his mistakes and have improved his game. His experience may give him an edge over the rookies, but he will have to have a good camp to ensure his roster spot.
Unlike the other positions, Maurice Jones-Drew is in no danger of losing his starting job. The reason he should be feeling pressure heading into camp is to prove he has fully recovered from last year.
Jones-Drew has a disastrous 2012. He failed to get a new contract following an extensive holdout and ended the season on IR after suffering a foot injury against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7.
He's going to have to prove that those issues are in the past to have a successful 2013.
He seems to already be on the right track to doing so.
Jones-Drew has already said (per NFL.com's Dan Hanzus) he doesn't plan to hold out this year, which is already an improvement over last season.
Even though he will be there, he may not be healthy enough to participate. He had surgery to repair his injured foot in late December, which could keep him out until late May or early June (via ESPN's Paul Kuharsky). Any kind of setback could cause him to miss more time.
The Jaguars are still optimistic (per Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union, membership required) he'll be ready in time for camp.
His health is going to go a long way in determining if he's going to get a new contract. GM Caldwell said (per John Oehser of Jaguars.com) he won't address the contract situation until Jones-Drew is healthy.
Jones-Drew's health will determine his long-term future in Jacksonville, and having a productive training camp will only help improve his chances of getting re-signed.
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