5 Players Who Might Land on Jacksonville Jaguars Practice Squad in 2014
An undrafted quarterback leads the quintet of players who will land on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad in 2014. He will inevitably be the man to miss out in a crowded battle at the position.
The young passer will be joined on the practice squad by a pair of hulking defensive linemen. The two road-graders will find it difficult to crack the game-day rotation at a position that has been amply restocked since last season.
There will also be room for two rookies at running back and tight end, both of whom will be squeezed by the additional numbers at their respective positions. Here are the five players you can expect to land on the Jags practice squad this season.
Stephen Morris, QB
The Jaguars willingly took a minimal risk to pluck Stephen Morris off the rookie free-agent market following the 2014 NFL draft. His arm strength and mobility are intriguing qualities for any coach.
However, despite his raw potential, he is joining a rotation that already features an established veteran starter, as well as the draft's third overall pick. Nobody is expecting Morris to come anywhere close to supplanting Chad Henne or Blake Bortles anytime soon.
Yet Jags head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell are clearly building for tomorrow at quarterback. Bortles is the signal-caller of the near future for this franchise, and Morris makes sense as his long-term deputy.
That's why the Jaguars will make sure he stays in town by quickly assigning him to the practice squad. ESPN.com reporter Michael DiRocco believes the team will bide its time with Morris, probably at the expense of Ricky Stanzi: "Stanzi likely isn't going to get much better and Morris theoretically has more potential to improve so he would be a better option to stash on the practice squad."
Depending on Henne's form this season—along with how he reacts to inevitably being made to stand aside for Bortles—Morris' stay on the practice squad could be a short one.
Abry Jones, DE
Abry Jones actually saw decent playing time on a rebuilding defensive line in 2013. He appeared in eight games, making nine tackles and registering half a sack. The former undrafted free agent is even a good scheme fit for Bradley's hybrid front system.
However, Jones is likely to find himself pushed off the main roster this year. That's because of the work that the team did to add key veterans at his position.
Bradley and Caldwell wasted little time targeting ex-Seattle Seahawks starter Red Bryant once free agency began. He is a fearsome behemoth who fits naturally as the 5-technique "Elephant" end on Jacksonville's multiple-front base defense.
Along with that position having a new owner, Jones will even find it difficult to acquire playing time by shifting inside. The 6'3", 312-pounder will watch former Pittsburgh Steelers end Ziggy Hood and stellar interior pass-rusher Sen'Derrick Marks vie for snaps as the team's 3-technique.
At nose tackle, Roy Miller will continue to get plenty of work, while the Jags also try and factor in rookie free agents DeAndre Coleman and Ricky Heimuli. Even in a scheme designed to show 3-4 looks with 4-3 personnel, the Jaguars are unlikely to carry enough hybrid defensive tackles to accommodate Jones.
Reggie Jordan, TE
Plucked off the undrafted market as a tight end but with ample experience at fullback, Reggie Jordan could secure a place on the practice squad with his versatility.
He has joined a position group where the first two spots are seemingly set with Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor. But the Jaguars clearly want plenty of competition for their veterans, as they signed Jordan, Marcel Jensen and D.J. Tialavea immediately following the draft.
While the latter two offer ample size, the 6'3", 240-pound Jordan has the move skills to be flexed out into multiple alignments. NFL.com draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki described the ex-Missouri Western standout's versatility and potential: "Developmental H-back with the raw tools to excite a TEs coach. Many of his flaws are correctable and could blossom with continued refinement."
Meanwhile, Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union noted how Jordan's skill as a receiver intrigued more than one team:
Now tight end Reggie Jordan is going to try to join their ranks with the Jaguars.
A three-year letterman at Missouri Western State, Jordan showed good hands as he caught 52 passes for 679 yards and 17 touchdowns in 37 games.
Jordan's ability to work at several positions should appeal to offensive coaches who tried to craft a more creative scheme in 2013. Coordinator Jedd Fisch consistently showed he wasn't scared to move his personnel around to create favorable matchups.
Since Bradley's arrival, the Jags have also shown a willingness to take risks on players who don't fit classic prototypes at any one position. Last year's draft yielded pint-sized playmakers Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson. Jordan fits a similar mold as a swing player who could see time at tight end, running back or flanker.
There are simply too many intriguing points about him for the Jaguars to easily cast him aside. They'll keep him around on the practice squad for at least season while they work out where he fits best.
Jordan Miller, DT
Jordan Miller is another backup interior D-lineman who saw playing time last season but is likely to call the practice squad home in 2014. He appeared in two games including one start in 2013, but like Jones, he faces increased competition at his position.
At 6'1" and 316 pounds, Miller is the most natural deputy to Roy Miller at nose tackle. However, his position will be put under threat by Heimuli and Coleman.
Of those two, the former has the best chance to see time at nose tackle. The ex-Oregon ace is a true bulky plugger in the middle who knows how to anchor a defensive front.
He played on a versatile, mixed-front scheme in college and should transition smoothly to Bradley's system in Jacksonville. That will leave Miller struggling to make the roster.
But since he is one of the few true 0-techniques on the team, putting Miller on the practice squad for emergencies only makes sense.
Beau Blankenship, RB
Beau Blankenship's hope of making the final roster will depend on how he capitalizes on any mistakes from Robinson and seventh-round pick Storm Johnson.
Those two running backs will likely be tasked with the kind of work that Blankenship will vie for. That work will include the return game, as well as catching passes and providing a change of pace out of the backfield.
Blankenship's chances can be boosted by ball-security issues that have plagued both of his competitors. Robinson had major problems holding onto the ball as a rookie in 2013, per The Associated Press via Fox News:
The former Michigan star struggled with ball security, putting it on the ground way more often than the Jaguars wanted in practice and games. Amid those concerns, Robinson spent much of his first season on the sideline. He finished with 20 carries for 66 yards, misfired on his only pass attempt and fumbled three times.
The Jaguars responded by narrowing Robinson's role to running back. Robinson responded by working on his pass-catching and ball-handling skills relentlessly during the offseason.
Meanwhile, Johnson's problems were quickly cited by Bradley following the draft, according to ESPN.com writer Michael DiRocco: "Moments after drafting him, coach Gus Bradley said Johnson really struggles in pass protection and he also has trouble holding onto the football."
Blankenship will have to work hard to prove himself to be a more reliable alternative. However, he faces a tough task.
Johnson is familiar with Bortles, having lined up alongside him in college. As for Robinson, he possesses a level of versatility and dynamic athleticism that Blankenship simply can't match.
Expect one of Robinson or Johnson to win the third-down running back job, while the other works as a returner. However, lingering concerns over the pair's penchant for mistakes will serve to keep Blankenship on the practice squad as insurance.
These five players may begin next season on the practice squad, but they have the potential to quickly change their fortunes. In particular, both Morris and Jordan can show coaches they belong in Jacksonville's offense in the future.