In great anticipation of the 2009 season, let's take a look at the current Jacksonville Jaguars team with the understanding that roster changes can and most likely will happen before the start of the season.
The positions most in question: Wide Receiver, Tight End, Defensive Line, and Linebackers. The Jaguars had a solid 2009 draft, and went conservative in free agency. How will it all shake out? Let's see....
Entering his third season as the Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback, David Garrard has something to prove. Garrard arrived to OTAs slimmer having lost 20 pounds.
Personally, I find this to be a good sign of Garrard's commitment to the team and his career.
The remaining three QBs, Cleo Lemon, Todd Bouman, and Paul Smith, will jockey for roster spots. Many feel Lemon was signed last season with too big a price tag, and if Bouman can prove himself to be a solid back-up to Garrard, we may see Lemon's departure from the team.
Prediction: Lemon is released, and Bouman becomes the back-up while rookie Paul Smith remains as the third string QB.
Many hearts were broken when Fred Taylor was released; however, those same fans feel comfortable with Maurice Jones-Drew becoming the feature running back.
Greg Jones will blow holes open for him at the fullback position.
However, everyone knows the NFL has become a running back by committee league, so who will be waiting in the wings to fill in when the opportunity arises?
Alvin Pearman, Chauncey Washington, and Rashad Jennings will fight for playing time, along with fullbacks Montel Owens, and rookies Kyle Bell and Brock Bolen.
Prediction: Jones-Drew obviously makes the cut and starts. However, Jones-Drew was the kick-returner in past seasons, and I see that coming to an end.
Alvin Pearman is a decent back-up RB, and has returned kicks. Pearman will most likely become the go to guy for KR and/or PR, along with Dennis Northcutt.
Unfortunately, Greg Jones has been hit by the injury bug, and his knees are always a concern.
Montel Owens will have to watch his back as rookies Bell and Bolen fight for their NFL lives. I see two of those three making the final cut.
The tight-end position remains a question mark for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So far, Marcedes Lewis has been a disappointment, and could become another in a long line of first round busts for the Jaguars this decade.
Richard Angulo, Greg Estandia, Charles Davis, and rookies Tyler Lorenzen and Zach Miller wait in the wings, along with long-snapper Joe Zelenka. I doubt the team needs all of these tight-ends.
Who will make the final cut?
Prediction: Del Rio has already released past first round draft picks (Leftwich, Williams, and Jones); what's stopping him from saying goodbye to Lewis? Don't be surprised if he is handed his walking papers.
The others will fight for positions, and it is too early to tell who is standing out in camp. I see this position being a hard-fought battle all the way up to the final cut.
Good-bye Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, and hello Torry Holt and rookies Jarrett Dillard, Maurice Dupree, Jason English, Todd Peterson, Mike Thomas, and Tiquan Underwood.
Obviously all of the above, sans Torry Holt, will not make the final roster, but how long will it take for Garrard to establish rapport with those that do make it?
Dennis Northcutt, Mike Walker, and Troy Williamson remain, but again I doubt all will make the final roster.
The Jaguars already made positive moves in getting rid of Williams and Jones, now they must keep those that will contribute and produce on the field. Stay tuned.
Prediction: Torry Holt and Dennis Northcutt are veterans that are respected, so I see them remaining. Williamson has been a monumental bust his entire career, and I see him being cut.
Walker has upside, but injuries have held him back. This may be his last chance to show what he can do.
The rookies definitely have a good chance of making the roster, and most will. Underwood must turn many heads in order to make it.
Dillard will make it—he is THAT good.
Week 1 of the 2008 season brought the Jacksonville Jaguars to their knees. Injuries that week all but eliminated the Jaguars from the playoffs.
Decimated, the offensive line became the biggest liability for the team, and it caused a domino effect that led to the quarterback and running back production demise.
Fast forward to 2009, and immediately the Jaguars went out and picked up Tra Thomas off free agency. The former Philadelphia Eagles veteran is a welcomed addition to the team, and will bring immediate experience and leadership.
The Jaguars also leveraged their 2009 first and second round draft picks and selected Eugene Robinson and Eben Britton, respectively.
This easily could become the team's biggest improvement this season.
Brad Meester remains at Center, while rookie Cecil Newton out of Tennessee State fights for the job. Drew Miller is also a backup C, but more utilized at the Guard position.
Vince Manuwai and Tony Pashos should start at Guard, but don't be surprised if Pashos is released.
Uche Nwaneri, Dennis Norman, and Cameron Stephenson will fight for roster spots.
Prediction: Thomas will start at Left Tackle, and eventually Britton will replace him when he retires. Robinson will start at Right Tackle. Pashos will be given his outright release.
Unfortunately, the defensive line continues to be a source of concern for the Jacksonville Jaguars. John Henderson is still a force in the middle; however, Rob Meier proved not to be a full-time replacement for Marcus Stroud.
Terrance Knighton was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft to partner with John Henderson at DT, while rookies Nader Abdallah and George Hypolite, along with Atiyyah Ellison and Derek Landri fight for roster spots.
Defensive ends Reggie Hayward and Derrick Harvey will continue to start while Quentin Groves, Mkristo Bruce, Jeremy Mincey, and rookie Jeremy Navarre fight for second and third string duties.
Production from the DE position must also improve; the Jaguars only had 29 sacks in 2008.
Prediction: Big John remains, while Meier and Knighton rotate opposite Henderson. Eventually Knighton will become the full-time starter.
Derrick Harvey will start one one End, while Groves battles Hayward for the other. Mincey will back up Harvey. The others will fight for spots on the final roster.
Mike Peterson opened his mouth once too many times, and is now history. He was the face of the Jaguars Linebacker corp, so now what?
Daryl Smith and Clint Ingram return, and it has not been announced who will replace Mike Peterson. The others you may or may not have heard of are Russell Allen (R), Justin Durant, Brian Iwuh, Lamar Myles, Tim Shaw, Johnny Williams (R), and Thomas Williams. This position is also a team question mark.
Prediction: The Jaguars continue to struggle at linebacker. Smith and Ingram remain, and hopefully a rookie will stand up and be noticed. Otherwise, it could be a nightmare in 2009.
Reggie Nelson is heading into his third year, and it is not without controversy. Is he going to be cursed by being a former first round draft pick, too?
Nelson looked lost more than once last season, and the naysayers are out in force. The Jaguars picked up Sean Considine in the offseason, and rookies Michael Desormeaux and Kevin Patterson round out the remaining safeties on the roster.
Rashean Mathis remains one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and the Jaguars went out and drafted Derek Cox out of William & Mary to possibly play opposite of Mathis.
Cox, not unlike Mathis, is from a small school who may have flown under the radar of several teams during the 2009 draft.
Others will be there for nickel and dime packages: Scott Starks, Brian Witherspoon, William James, Tyron Brackenridge, and rookies Weldon Brown and Pete Ittersagen.
Prediction: Mathis and Cox will be the corners, while Nelson and Considine start at Safety.
The others will battle hard, and most likely Starks and Witherspoon will remain on the team. A few rookies should also make it.