Predicting the Last 5 In, Last 5 out for Jackonville Jaguars 53-Man Roster
The Jacksonville Jaguars are on their first break of the summer now with team activities set to pick up again on July 24th. During this time, players will be honing their craft, and coaches will be breaking down the first look they got during training camp and OTAs. They have to start thinking about cutting the 90-man roster down to 53.
Since nearly 50 percent of the players on the field now will no longer be with the team in a little over a month's time, it is important that players on the bubble make a lasting impression. This is especially true for a number of Jaguars players who are still very young and don't have a lot of experience.
There will be a number of players who are able to perform just well enough to get their name put on the final roster. At the same time, there will also be a number of players who will make their case right down to the wire but fall just short of making the roster. It is just the business of the league. So, let's take a look at who some of these bubble players are.
In: Marcel Jensen, Tight End
Marcel Jensen is one of three undrafted rookie free-agent tight ends who the Jaguars picked up after the draft. Jensen's NFL career got off to a rough start following an injury the required surgery in April. Despite this, he still performed at the combine and impressed enough to have the Jaguars take a chance on him.
Jensen has the size needed for the position, coming in at 6'6" and 259 pounds. He did have some success in college catching the ball, recording 46 catches for 692 yards and seven touchdowns in his two years as a starter.
The Jaguars knew he was a bit raw. However, they could see the potential, and it is already starting to show. Head coach Gus Bradley said of Jensen, via John Oehser of Jaguars.com, "We knew he had athleticism to be able to catch the ball...Some of the skills we saw on tape are what we are starting to see now."
Given how he has performed so far, he should be the third tight end to make the final roster, after Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor. As stated above, he is still raw and likely won't see much action unless pushed into it by injury, but he has shown enough potential to warrant a spot on the roster.
Out: Reggie Jordan, Tight End
Reggie Jordan is in the same boat as Marcel Jensen. Jordan was also an undrafted free-agent rookie tight end attempting to make his impact felt. Jordan had a highlight reel of a career, having 17 of his 52 receptions go for touchdowns.
He does possess top-end speed when running down the seam, which accounted for a number of his touchdowns. His size, 6'3", marks him as more of a "move" tight end, like the role Clay Harbor fills currently.
Also like Jensen, Jordan is very raw and is not ready for serious NFL action. The Jaguars are unlikely to keep two raw, inexperienced players on the final roster at the same position. This is bad news for Jordan as he hasn't made quite the impression Jensen has. Still, he should find himself on the practice squad as his potential is just too good to pass up.
In: Ricky Stanzi, Quarterback
Ricky Stanzi spent the first two years of his career in Kansas City but found himself in Jacksonville after they claimed him off of waivers. Stanzi lost out to Chase Daniel for the second-string position behind Alex Smith. According to Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union, Stanzi's lack of regular season experience is what doomed him.
This is a trait that still haunts Stanzi as he still has yet to play a snap in the NFL. However, he may just sneak into the final roster. Starting quarterback Chad Henne has had his issues with injuries in the past. If he would get injured again, it would allow the Jaguars to use Stanzi instead of Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars made it very clear that they want Bortles to sit his first year and learn the position. They don't want a repeat of what happened with Blaine Gabbert, who was pushed into the starting lineup too early and cracked under the pressure. By keeping Stanzi, they can use him in an emergency instead of Bortles. This works out better anyways considering that Stanzi is the second-most experienced quarterback on their roster.
Out: Stephen Morris, Quarterback
At about this time last year, University of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was making waves at the Manning Passing Academy. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks even went so far as to say he "might be the most talented quarterback in college football," and said he looks like a franchise quarterback.
Even NFL.com's draft guru Mike Mayock was impressed by Morris, saying, "I thought he threw a beautiful football. He's got a big arm. He won the 'Air It Out' challenge, which they do on the final night there, which is a test of accuracy. Stephen Morris has got great mechanics."
Fast forward one year and Morris has failed to live up to that hype. He struggled in his senior season after sustaining an ankle injury that he never let fully heal. This injury impacted his play by limiting the scrambling ability he showed in his junior year while also affecting his footwork, which caused his accuracy to drop and interceptions to go up.
Another thing that may have caused him to struggle was the departure of his offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. Morris produced an impressive stat line under Fisch's tutelage, compiling over 3300 yards with 21 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
The Jaguars won't take four quarterbacks on their final roster, but Morris should be put on their practice squad. He is reunited with Fisch in Jacksonville and will look to learn the finer points of the position. If he continues to develop and finds the form he had last year at the Manning Passing Academy, he could crack the roster next year.
In: Allen Hurns, Wide Receiver
Allen Hurns is in a similar situation as Stephen Morris. Hurns is another former Hurricane who is now reunited with his former offensive coordinator. The main difference is that Hurns should be able to make the final roster.
Hurns had a breakout year last year, totaling 62 receptions for 1,162 yards and six touchdowns. He possesses a good build for a receiver, coming in at 6'3" and 195 pounds. Despite his stats and size, he wound up as an undrafted rookie.
According to Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com, the issues Hurns had were:
"Narrow-framed and non-physical. Struggles to separate against tight man coverage. Lacks polish and precision in his routes. Average burst out of his breaks. Is not a burner -- limited long speed. Soft blocker."
Hurns hasn't let this get in his way though. When the Jaguars receivers were hit by the injury bug in training camp, Hurns stepped in and made his presence felt. Starting quarterback Chad Henne was impressed by Hurns, stating, "Allen Hurns had a heck of a camp. I'm excited to see what he does in training camp once we get the pads on. He's a big, strong receiver and understands the offense .... Just a really reliable guy."
Given his size and how he stepped up in place of the injured receivers ahead of him, Hurns looks to have made a serious bid for the final roster that should result in him making the final cut. With a bit more refinement, he could be an intriguing option for the team in the future.
Out: Tandon Doss, Wide Receiver
Tandon Doss looks to be the receiver in the most trouble due to injury. He was one of many receivers who got bitten by the injury bug during training camp, but unlike his fellow injured players, it may just cost him his roster spot.
Doss was signed to a two-year deal after spending three years with the Baltimore Ravens. He had a very minimal impact in Baltimore, compiling just 428 yards on 26 receptions and one touchdown.
He found himself in Jacksonville, which, at the time of his signing, was a team desperately in need of receivers. However, after the draft, the Jaguars receiving corps went from a weakness to a strength, thanks to Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson.
Doss has missed most of OTAs and training camp with a calf injury that allowed players like Hurns to step up and catch the coaching staff's eye. The one thing he could be banking on is his prowess in the return game. He averaged 15.6 yards-per-punt-return last season, but the Jaguars already have Ace Sanders for return duty. Sanders is also someone the Jaguars expect to make strides and contribute in the receiving game.
All signs seem to be pointing to Doss' departure from the team, despite being more experienced than most of the receivers on the team.
In: Josh Evans, Safety
Last season, the Jaguars expected to start a rookie safety when they drafted John Cyprien in the second round. What they didn't foresee was Josh Evans, a sixth-round pick, starting 11 games next to Cyprien in relief of the injured Dwight Lowery. Evans played well enough given the fact he was a surprise starter but, as expected, had some serious rookie growing pains.
Despite this, the coaching staff was excited to see what he could bring in his second year. According to The Florida Times Union, (h/t Rotoworld.com), the Jaguars are happy with Evans as an option for them and envision him as the starter for the 2014 season.
However, Evans has had a rough start to the 2014 season by missing all OTAs and training camp because he is still recovering from surgery on his foot. In his absence, Winston Guy has stepped up and has taken all the first-team reps.
As of now, Guy has the advantage over Evans, but Evans has a lot of starting experience from last year to build upon. It will be a tight battle, but Evans should be able to make the final roster and compete for the starting spot with Guy.
Out: Mike Harris, Cornerback
If Mike Harris were to be cut, it would come as a bit of a shock—although more surprising cuts have already been made (just ask Jason Babin). Harris is the third-most experienced corner on the Jaguars roster, having played in 31 games.
Despite his experience, Harris finds himself on the outside looking in because he doesn't fit the mold of what Gus Bradley is looking for in corners. As Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com writes,
Harris, who was a sixth-round pick by Gene Smith in 2012, doesn't exactly fit the prototype of what Coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks: long and physical. Harris is 5-feet-10, which isn't small, but he is the shortest cornerback on the roster. He doesn't have particularly long arms, either (32 1/4 inches). While not getting bogged down too much in measurable, consider this: There are guys who play bigger than their size, but Harris isn't one of them.
Things look even more bleak for Harris considering that the coaching staff has a lot of expectations for last year's seventh-round pick Demetrius McCray, according to Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union. With these factors going against him, it will be tough for Harris to make the final cut.
In: J.T. Thomas, Linebacker
This is J.T. Thomas' first offseason with the Jaguars as he was claimed off waivers last September. Even though he was a solid contributor for them last season, he faces a lot of competition to remain on the roster.
Thomas only started the final two games of the season, but he did play in 15 games during the year. His contributions were most felt on special teams, where he recorded six special teams tackles and blocked a punt in the season opener.
His special teams prowess will likely be what keeps him on the team. As Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com talks about, Thomas is not getting a lot of opportunity to show his worth so he must play big when he does get that chance.
Out: John Lotulelei, Linebacker
John Lotulelei is much like Thomas in that he is being drowned out by the depth of the linebacker position. The two linebackers are likely vying for just one spot and, as Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union mentions, that spot may not even exist.
Given how much depth the Jaguars want on their defensive line, O'Halloran says it will limit how many linebackers they take. Most likely, they will only have three starters and three backups, and most of these spots have already been figured out.
Lotulelei has been taking reps with the second-team defense, but there are better special teams players on the roster so, between him and Thomas, he is the least likely to make the final cut.