Grading Each Player of the Jacksonville Jaguars Projected Starting Lineup

Dan GriffinContributor IIIJune 10, 2014

Grading Each Player of the Jacksonville Jaguars Projected Starting Lineup

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Last year, the Jaguars went into the season with the weakest roster in the NFL, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.

    They have made a number of changes since then, especially after going 4-12 in 2013. With all these changes and the new season on the horizon, it's as good a time as any to look through the roster and grade out the projected starters. 

    To start with, I took most of the starters from CBSSports.com's projected depth chart. I made changes at certain positions based on my own research done over the past few weeks. Granted, the players I talk about in this list aren't guaranteed the starting role and could very well be backups by the start of the season.

    Below is the grading scale I used for grading each player, with an explanation of each grade behind it. 

    A=Will play at a very high level, All-Pro possibilities.

    B+=Will play at a high level, will warrant serious Pro Bowl consideration.

    B-=Will play at an above-average level, could get Pro Bowl consideration.

    C+=Will play at an average level, solid starter who is consistent.

    C-=Will play at below-average level, is a serviceable player but not a long-term solution.

    D=Will play at poor level, upgrade needed.

     

    With each player, I also included two other grades from two other sources. Here is an example of the format:

    PFF Grade: minus-21

    PFF Rank: 42/42

    B/R Grade: 79

    B/R Rank: 28/65

    One grade is from Pro Football Focus, which requires a subscription, and is based on a plus-minus system. The other is the grade Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller gave them when he and his team did their NFL1000 series and is out of a possible 100 points. In both cases, higher numbers mean better players.

    Along with these grades, I included where the player's grade ranks against other players. So in the above example, the player's PFF grade ranked him the 42nd-best quarterback out of 42 possible quarterbacks. His B/R grade ranked him the 28th-best quarterback out of 65 possible quarterbacks. In both cases, lower numbers mean better players. 

    These other rankings were included to give some context for how the player performed in the 2013 season.

Chad Henne, Quarterback

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    PFF Grade: minus-21

    PFF Rank: 42/42

    B/R Grade: 79

    B/R Rank: 28/65

     

    Chad Henne took over as the full-time starter in Week 6 last season after splitting starting time with Blaine Gabbert. Once he took over and was able to settle in, he led the Jaguars to a 4-6 record over the next 10 games. Despite his team's poor overall record, Henne posted a respectable 60.6 completion percentage and set a career high in quarterback rating. 

    Despite the drafting of Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, Henne is the starter going into the season. General manager David Caldwell wants Bortles to sit a year and learn, in order to avoid another Gabbert fiasco. 

    While Henne is a good backup, he is not going to be the quarterback to take the Jaguars to the playoffs. As Matt Miller writes in his grading of Henne, "There is obvious physical talent in Henne, but his mental grasp of the game has never been strong enough for him to sustain success as a starter."

    Not having a quarterback with a high football IQ means the Jaguars will struggle to find consistent success.

     

    Grade: C+

Toby Gerhart, Running Back

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    PFF Grade: plus-3.0

    PFF Rank: 38/141

    B/R Grade: 79

    B/R Rank: 28/90

     

    Toby Gerhart was the big free-agent signing of the Jaguars this past offseason. Gerhart was a former second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings but saw limited action playing behind Adrian Peterson. He brings his untapped potential to Jacksonville, looking to be the next great Jaguars running back. 

    Gerhart is a bruiser of a running back. He has enough power to easily blow through arm tackles and gain yards after contact. In limited time last season, he averaged an astounding 7.9 yards-per-carry and has a career 4.7 yards-per-carry average. 

    Gerhart figures to get a big number of carries this season given the youth of the receiver corps, which has two rookies projected rookie as starters. He has already been impressive in camp, with running backs coach Terry Richardson saying of him, "He's a horse. He's a big guy, and I talked to one of his former (position) coaches, and he was saying Toby had the strongest legs he's been around in terms of his leg drive and leg power. We're excited about that."

    This should be a big year for Gerhart.

     

    Grade: B-

     

Will Ta'ufo'ou, Fullback

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    The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-4.9

    PFF Rank: 22/25

    B/R Grade: Not Ranked

    B/R Rank: Not Ranked

     

    Ta'ufo'ou started seven games last season and had a very minimal impact. He had one carry for one yard and 10 receptions for 40 yards. He did not do a good job of blocking either, carrying a PFF grade of minus-5.2.

    Ta'ufo'ou will likely retain his starting position by virtue of weak competition. Bradie Ewing started only two games for the Atlanta Falcons last season before being put on injured reserve. 

     

    Grade: D

Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: N/A

    PFF Rank: N/A

    B/R Grade: N/A

    B/R Rank: N/A

     

    Allen Robinson was the second of two second-round picks made by the Jaguars. He is a big-bodied receiver with good hands and an ability to run after the catch. He has all the tools necessary to be a No. 1 receiver for the Jaguars. 

    Robinson will give Jacksonville a dynamic pass-catching threat across from Cecil Shorts III. He is a quarterback-friendly receiver with a large catch radius, and his presence on the field will help open things up for Shorts, fellow rookie WR Marqise Lee as well as Gerhart. 

    He should have a solid rookie campaign, as long as he can come back quickly enough from his tweaked hamstring. If everything goes well, it is no stretch of the imagination to see him post similar numbers to what Justin Blackmon did in his rookie year (64 receptions, 865 yards). 

     

    Grade: B-

Cecil Shorts III, Wide Receiver

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: plus-3.2

    PFF Rank: 53/111

    B/R Grade: 83

    B/R Rank: 37/101

     

    Shorts has been a welcome surprise for the team after being a fourth-round pick in 2011. He has been very consistent the past two seasons, posting 121 receptions for 1,756 yards and 10 touchdowns, despite the offense being saddled with poor quarterback play.

    Shorts is a good complement to Robinson, fitting better as a team's No. 2 receiver. He has the skills to take advantage of opposing defenses rolling coverage to the other side, leaving him matched up one-on-one. His consistent play will be a good learning model for the young receivers on the team.

     

    Grade: C+

     

Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    PFF Grade: N/A

    PFF Rank: N/A

    B/R Grade: N/A

    B/R Rank: N/A

     

    Marqise Lee was the first of the Jaguars' two second-round picks. He was expected to be a first-round pick but slid on draft day, becoming an excellent value pick for the Jaguars. Lee is an electric receiver with great run-after-the-catch ability, and he possesses excellent return skills.

    Lee figures to be the team's slot receiver given his combination of size (6'0", 192 pounds), speed and agility. He will be a nightmare for teams to try and cover on underneath routes. If the Jaguars can find ways to get him into open space and let him run with the ball, he can do some real damage. 

    Lee could wind up with the most receptions on the team, since the Jaguar offense revolves around short-to-intermediate throws. Along with Robinson, Lee brings an explosive element to an offense that has been lacking one for years. 

     

    Grade: B-

     

Marcedes Lewis, Tight End

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    PFF Grade: minus-.06

    PFF Rank: 28/64

    B/R Grade: 72

    B/R Rank: 29/50

     

    While Cecil Shorts has adapted well to the issues at quarterback, the transition has not been as easy for Marcedes Lewis. His best year came in 2010 with David Garrard under center. He posted 700 yards on 58 receptions with 10 touchdowns.

    Since then, he has had only one season with more than 50 receptions or 500 yards. 

    Lewis, in his ninth year, still has the physical tools to be a legitimate threat. He is especially dangerous in the red zone given his 6'6" frame. He could see a number of touchdown throws come his way, much like in 2010. He should also benefit from a stronger supporting cast, allowing him to find more room in the middle of the field to operate.

     

    Grade: C+

Luke Joeckel, Left Tackle

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-6.1

    PFF Rank: 106/128

    B/R Grade: Not Ranked

    B/R Rank: Not Ranked

     

    Luke Joeckel had a lot of expectations last season after being the second pick in the 2013 draft. He played four games at right tackle before moving to the left side after Eugene Monroe was traded to the Baltimore Ravens. Midway through his first game at left tackle, he broke his ankle and was placed on injured reserve. 

    Joeckel now is back and says the injury doesn't bother him anymore. This is a good thing as the Jaguars offensive line had a number of issues last season. In college, he was praised for his ability to shut down the best talent the SEC had to offer. He needs to translate that ability to the pros where he has to face the likes of J.J. Watt and Robert Mathis twice a year. 

     

    Grade: B+

Zane Beadles, Left Guard

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-5.7

    PFF Rank: 50/81

    B/R Grade: 58

    B/R Rank: 59/70

     

    Beadles hit the free-agent market and was considered one of the top guards available. However, a lot of this is relying on potential rather than results. Beadles is still young, just five years in the league, so he can still tap the potential he has.

    The Jaguars hope he hits it this season, as he is part of a remade offensive line that looks to improve upon its poor performance of last year. If he can't live up to it, he may find his time in Jacksonville shortened significantly.

    Grade: C+

Mike Brewster, Center

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    PFF Grade: minus-4.0

    PFF Rank: 97/144 (at guard)

    B/R Grade: Not Ranked

    B/R Rank: Not Ranked

     

    Mike Brewster has started 10 games in his two-year career so far but they have all been at guard. He was an All-American and All-Big Ten center during his time at Ohio State but wound up undrafted. He now is moving back to his natural center position, replacing 14-year starter Brad Meester, who retired at the end of the season.

    Brewster has some pretty big shoes to fill, but given his success at Ohio State, he has experience of meeting big expectations. His two years at guard should help him as he makes the switch back to center. 

    Grade: C-

Brandon Linder, Right Guard

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: N/A

    PFF Rank: N/A

    B/R Grade: N/A

    B/R Rank: N/A

     

    Brandon Linder was the team's third-round pick. He has great size for the position, coming in at 6'6" and 311 pounds. He has football intelligence as well, something Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com made note of in his draft profile:

    Big, experienced, highly competitive, short-area base blocker at his best in a phone booth. Lacks ideal power and athleticism, but has football intelligence, leadership traits and a bulldog’s mentality. Should earn a spot as an interior backup initially, but brings grit to the line and has the makeup to outplay his draft position.

    Linder should immediately fill in for last year's starter Uche Nwaneri, who was released in March. He will have a lot to learn and will have to do most of it on the fly.

     

    Grade: C-

Austin Pasztor, Right Tackle

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-7.3

    PFF Rank: 62/76

    B/R Grade: 58

    B/R Rank: 34/35

     

    Austin Pasztor was thrust into duty at the right tackle position after Joeckel made the switch to the left side. Pasztor had trouble managing the right tackle spot, especially in the run game, having a minus-13.8 grade. He has to show some progression, especially with a rookie playing next to him.

    Matt Miller had a rather damning breakdown of him, stating:

    The Jaguars should try to find an upgrade for the right tackle spot heading into next season. It’s that, or hope for a lot of development from Pasztor this offseason. But it’s hard to believe his functional strength and leverage issues can be corrected at this point.

     

    Grade: D

Jason Babin, Defensive End

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-4.3

    PFF Rank: 36/52

    B/R Grade: 78

    B/R Rank: 32/50

     

    Jason Babin is certainly not the player he was when he recorded 18 sacks in 2011 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but he can still get the job done. He led the Jaguars in sacks last season with 7.5. The 34-year-old defensive end will be looking to defy Father Time for at least another year. 

    Babin will team up with Chris Clemons to form a potentially potent pass-rush duo at end. Both players have had success in the league getting after the quarterback, but both are over 32 years old. Each will likely split a significant amount of snaps with Andre Branch, who emerged last year with six sacks. 

     

    Grade: C+

Red Bryant, Defensive Tackle

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: plus-7.5

    PFF Rank: 15/52

    B/R Grade: 79

    B/R Rank: 26/50 (at defensive end)

     

    Red Bryant came to Jacksonville in free agency and is reunited with head coach Gus Bradley who was his defensive coordinator in Seattle. Bryant is a gigantic human being, coming in at 6'4" and 323 pounds. He excelled as a run-stuffer but was lacking in the pass-rushing department. 

    Bryant played defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks but is a much better fit at defensive tackle, an area Jacksonville needed to upgrade. He will be a big addition to a team that was fourth worst in the league in defending the run last year. 

     

    Grade: B-

Sen'Derrick Marks, Defensive Tackle

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    PFF Grade: plus-3.2

    PFF Rank: 37/69

    B/R Grade: 73

    B/R Rank: 41/50

     

    Marks was a bit of a surprise find last season. He came to Jacksonville after four mediocre years in Tennessee. He end up having the best year of his career, excelling at putting pressure on the quarterback. 

    Despite his overall low PFF score, Marks had a score of plus-12.2 when it came to rushing the quarterback, which ranks him ninth in the league. Marks had trouble against the run, but with Red Bryant now next to him, he will get fewer double-teams in the run game, which will allow him to take greater advantage of his explosiveness.

     

    Grade: C+

Chris Clemons, Defensive End

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-7.7

    PFF Rank: 43/52

    B/R Grade: 77

    B/R Rank: 35/50

     

    Like Bryant, Chris Clemons also came from Seattle to reunite with his former defensive coordinator. He had a down year last year, as he was slowed by an injury. However, he is looking to bounce back under the same coach he had when he produced 33.5 sacks in three years. 

    Clemons likely won't reach that same level of production, since he is a 32-year-old pass-rusher coming off an injury. Still, as I mentioned in the slide about Babin, he could potentially form a good pass rush but will likely see a more limited role thanks to Branch.

     

    Grade: C+

Geno Hayes, Outside Linebacker

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    PFF Grade: minus-7.0

    PFF Rank: 29/35

    B/R Grade: 61

    B/R Rank: 30/35

     

    Geno Hayes was new to the Jaguars last season, coming in from the Chicago Bears in free agency. He became a full-time starter but proved to be better as a situational player. He was very good in coverage, sporting a plus-6.8 PFF grade, but was absolutely horrendous against the run, finishing with a minus-13.3 grade. 

    Hayes was a big reason the Jaguars run defense did so poorly last season. He is just too small to be effective in setting the edge. He maintains his starting position by virtue of experience. 

    Grade: C-

Paul Posluszny, Middle Linebacker

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-11.6

    PFF Rank: 42/55

    B/R Grade: 64

    B/R Rank: 37/60

     

    Paul Posluszny has been a tackling machine since joining the Jaguars in 2011, including 162 tackles in 15 games last year. He also has been the leader in the middle of the defense and his play last year earned a Pro Bowl nomination. 

    Despite the recognition, Posluszny did have his struggles last season, as evidenced by his low PFF grade, especially against the run (minus-7.0). He should benefit from a beefed-up defensive front that will allow him to take advantage of his sideline-to-sideline speed.

    If the D-line can keep blockers occupied, Posluszny should have no problem improving upon his tackle numbers yet again. 

     

    Grade: C+

Dekoda Watson, Outside Linebacker

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    PFF Grade: plus-5.2

    PFF Rank: 13/94*

    B/R Grade: Not Ranked

    B/R Rank: Not Ranked

     

    Dekoda Watson was brought in during free agency. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker was brought in to play the new "OTTO" LB position in Gus Bradley's new scheme. This new linebacker role was described by ESPN's Michael DiRocco as:

    It's replacing the strongside linebacker and it features linebackers that are athletic enough to help in coverage as well as rush the passer. The starting point for where the otto lines up is close to the line of scrimmage but the Jaguars are going to experiment a bit and move the otto around.

    The Jaguars are placing a lot of hope in Watson, who is relatively unknown. He has played in 64 games in four years but started only six of them. He graded out positively in both coverage and in pass-rushing but excelled at neither. 

     

    Grade: C-

     

    *Watson's rank is out of all linebackers who played last year whereas Geno Hayes' rank is out of linebackers who played at least 25 percent of the team's snaps last season, hence the discrepancy in numbers. This is because Watson played under 25 percent of Tampa Bay's snaps in 2013.

Alan Ball, Corner

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: plus-7.5

    PFF Rank: 20/110

    B/R Grade: 78

    B/R Rank: 31/100

     

    Alan Ball was brought in as a free agent last year following a disappointing year with the Houston Texans. He is a tall, lanky corner who fits perfectly into Gus Bradley's defense. He has the length Bradley covets, as he's able to use his long arms to jam receivers and swat away passes in coverage.

    Ball had a very good year last season, intercepting two balls and recording 14 passes defensed. He allowed only 54 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed, as well. All in all, he was a welcome surprise and at times an impact player for Jacksonville last year and looks to have a similar role again this year. 

     

    Grade: B-

Johnathan Cyprien, Strong Safety

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    PFF Grade: minus-17.5

    PFF Rank: 84/86

    B/R Grade: 64

    B/R Rank: 58/75

     

    Johnathan Cyprien, a second-round pick a year ago, had some rookie growing pains. He had a tough time in coverage, getting a minus-14.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. Cyprien did get better as the season went on, picking up three positive grades over the last eight games (compared to seven straight negative grades to start the season). 

    Cyprien was highly touted coming out of college and he now has another offseason to build on his physical skills. If he can work on his awareness and tackling technique, he can round into one of the best safeties in the league. 

     

    Grade: B-

Josh Evans, Free Safety

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: minus-10.8

    PFF Rank: 78/86

    B/R Grade: Not ranked

    B/R Rank: Not Ranked

     

    Like Cyprien, Josh Evans was another rookie safety who spent much of the season as a starter. Evans was drafted in the sixth round last year and started 11 games. Also like Cyprien, Evans needs to work on his coverage skills, receiving a minus-7.9 grade from Pro Football Focus in pass defense.

    The Jaguars are happy with Evans and expect him to be a starter for them in 2014, according to The Florida Times Union, (h/t Rotoworld.com). If Evans and Cyprien take major steps this offseason, they could sport one of the better, young safety tandems in the league.

     

    Grade: C+

     

Dwayne Gratz, Corner

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: plus-3.3

    PFF Rank: 38/100

    B/R Grade: 71

    B/R Rank: 50/100

     

    Dwayne Gratz was a third-round pick last year and found himself starting eight games in his rookie year. He played better than expected and is projected to start ahead of veteran Will Blackmon. He had two interceptions last year and played very well against the run.

    Gratz did a good job up on the line of scrimmage against receivers. He does have some room to improve though, as Matt Miller mentions:

    As an eight-game starter, he was asked to play on the boundary, which is where his aggressive style of play paid off. Gratz is tough at the line of scrimmage and does well to jam, flip his hips and run downfield. He must improve his awareness, especially in a trail position, before he can be counted on as a top-tier cover man.

    He knows what he has to work on in training camp and should improve his awareness. If all goes well, he could have a breakout year. 

     

    Grade: C+

Josh Scobee, Kicker

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: plus-25.0

    PFF Rank: 14/52

    B/R Grade: 88

    B/R Rank: 14/32

     

    Josh Scobee has been one of the most reliable kickers in the league over the past three years. He hit 92 percent of his kicks last year, going 23-of-25. The two missed kicks were a result of one being blocked, and the other miss was from 60 yards out.

    If the Jaguars get inside the 40-yard line, they can count on Scobee to give them three points.

     

    Grade: B+

Bryan Anger, Punter

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    USA TODAY Sports

    PFF Grade: plus-8.2

    PFF Rank: 19/41

    B/R Grade: 87

    B/R Rank: 11/32

     

    Bryan Anger stirred up some anger from Jags fans when Jacksonville made him their third-round pick in 2012. Since then, he has proven his doubters wrong. He has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, recording a 5.60-second maximum hang time (T-1st in league). 

    He still has a bit of work to do to fine-tune the finesse aspects of the game. Nearly 50 percent of his punts were returned, although returners averaged only seven yards. Anger, however, did rank seventh in the league with 33 punts inside the 20-yard line.

    The potential is there, and he looks ready to use it.

     

    Grade: B+

Overall

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Overall this is a very solid roster. Nineteen of the 23 players listed graded out as C+ or better. This team doesn't yet have a superstar, but it is full of young, talented players, some with tremendous upside.

    This team is in much better shape than it was at this time last year. They are only a few players away from being a perennial playoff contender, as long as these players reach their potential. Until then, the Jaguars will be in the middle of the pack in the AFC South but will find it hard to climb beyond third place this year.

    This is a team that is definitely on the rise, though, and should be watched carefully.